Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016 Quote-able Quotes

Soon we will be saying goodbye to 2016 and hello 2017. Before that happens, I would love to highlights the quote-able quotes from my interviews in theSun for the year 2016. 


1) Bront Palarae, actor 




“You should not get too happy with your highs and you should not get too down with your lows. The feelings of rejection and dejection are part and parcel of the job. When I first joined the entertainment industry, everyone kept telling me that it is a dog-eat dog world, and that I should not trust anyone; that genuine friendships do not exist here and people are eager to backstab you. Well, I have made some great friends in the entertainment industry. Nothing works without trust." 

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2)Julian Jayaseela, author  cum film producer 



“My family was so poor that we could not afford a television. So my eight siblings and I spent most of our time reading. We got excited about books. On hindsight, I must be thankful that there was no television in my house. Perhaps I would not have become an ardent reader.”

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3) Syamsul Yusof, film director 


"When I started my career, I had actors who disrespected me on the set. I had critics who doubted me. But if you want to be successful in your field, you have to develop a thick skin, and learn to ignore your critics.If you are in the film business, you will always have to face the critics. Even great films like Avatar have critics. You cannot impress everyone.”
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4)U- Wei, film director 

"I cannot give up because filmmaking is the only thing I know how to do. But there are times I’ve asked myself: ‘Why am I doing this? Am I a machoistic?’ Before I became a filmmaker, I only thought women bleed. Now I know I am wrong. Filmmakers bleed, too." 

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5) Eka Kurniawan, author   


“Consciously or unconsciously, a writer always has messages in the stories. But the writer must understand that readers may interpret these message differently [from the original intent]. The readers may not see things the same way [as the writer]. The writer has no control over how his readers would interpret his stories. But I strong believes a story should not become a sermon.Once a story becomes a sermon, the story is no longer interesting."

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7) Wan Hanafi Su, actor  



“Most producers are only interested in making commercial movies because they want to make profits. Money should not be their only aim to make movies. Don’t they want to make a film where people will remember them many years later?” 

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8)Iedil Putra, actor  


"Sometimes the industry can kill your spirit, and there are times I feel jaded being a Malaysian actor. It is difficult to get good scripts and good roles. Sometimes, you have to accept roles that you are not happy with because you have to put food on the table. In some productions, I am given a script just a day before the shoot. Sometimes, the script gets written on the set just hours before shooting begins. How do you expect an actor to get into his character just hours before the shoot? But I am passionate about what I do, and you don’t give up on what you are passionate about. You just stick with it.” 
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9)  Fahmi Mustaffa, author 


“We live in an absurd world, where we are [always] looking for answers. We are always curious to know if there is a higher power up there, watching [us]. I find most of us worship religion, and not God. Personally, I believe nothing should come between you and God, not even religion.” 

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10) Norhayati Kaprawi, documentary maker cum activist.


 “The interpretation of Islam should not be monopolised by the conservatives only. Islam is close to my heart. I do not believe Islam is oppressive. I do not believe Islam is violent. That is what I want to show in my documentaries.” 
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11) Shaheizy Sam actor 


“I never thought I would last [this] long in the movie industry. Producers are always looking out for tall, fair and handsome actors. I do not fulfil those requirements. But thanks to [shorter actors like] Al Pacino and Tom Cruise, I learned that height has nothing to do with acting ability. They are successful actors. I need to be like them and be extremely good in what I am doing.” 
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12) Saharil Hasrin Sanin author 


“I am jealous of authors who can sit and write for hours, transferring their thoughts on to the computer.I can’t do what they do. I go to the gym quite frequently and let me tell you, for me, working out the muscles is less tiring than working out the mind. ” 
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13) Harith Iskander, comedian.  

“It was in 2010 when my father passed away in February and three weeks later, my mother passed away in March. My father was 76 and my mother was 82. They had lived their lives to the fullest. When they died, the reason for me to live disappeared. Thank God, my wife entered the picture in the same year and [gave] me a reason to carry on with my life.”

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14) Mahadi J. Murat, film director 

"Filmmakers must not be restricted to just making certain types of films. They have a responsibility to provide alternative movies from [the] mainstream. There is a [substantial percentage] of audiences who are looking for different genres, and filmmakers must fulfil this need. How many times have we met movie fans who said that they do not watch Malay movies because they do not like the [content]? We need to change that. We can only do that if we tackle different themes. Besides, the audience’s mood is difficult to predict. Look at The Journey (2014), which is about an apek tua (old Chinese man) who is busy preparing for his daughter’s wedding. Where’s the commercial appeal of this storyline?But interestingly enough, [it] became a box-office hit and touched many hearts. "

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15) Syafiq Yusof, film maker 

“We are always under the impression that if you do good things, then good things will come your way. But sometimes, life does not work that way. Maybe, there is no fairness in the world. You can go [mad] thinking about [that]. Maybe the good things ... will be given to you when you are in heaven.” 
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16) Nadiya Nissa, actress 


Some production managers will call you and just ask you if you are free on certain dates to act in their projects. Then, they will ask you about your [fees]. But they will not tell you about the script and your role. The script will be given to you just three days before the shoot. In some cases, you only get the script on the set. These people just want you to come on the set, and [say] the dialogue. They do not care if you fit in the role or not. They do not care if you can give a good performance or not.It just goes to show the industry does not respect actors. This can be very demoralising. You begin to question why should you put your heart and soul in your role, when such attitudes exist. All I can do for now is to develop a thick skin, ignore such attitudes and only hope the industry will change for the better."
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17) Zikri Rahman, activist 


“We all have a certain negative mindset about migrant workers. We tend to associate them with crimes. We always hear complaints from Malaysians that they are smelly. [But] most of us do not understand the conditions they are living in. Sometimes, 20 migrant workers are living in one apartment ... [where] they have to share three  bathrooms.Sometimes, two of the bathrooms are not in  working condition [and they end up having] to share one bathroom. [How can we expect them to maintain hygiene] living in such pathetic conditions?Almost every day, we hear stories about migrants  dying in construction sites. They [are dying] while helping us build our city.”

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Monday, December 26, 2016

AMRI ROHAYAT

Yesterday I visited Amri Rohayat in his house with Faisal Mustaffa ( thank you for driving me there faisal) and this visit had trigged me to search for an article I had written on him way back on 2009. I am reproducing the article I had written on him in today blogspot.



















Headline : Writing To Tell A Story  

Storyteller and publisher Amri Rohayat is interested in adding new colour to the Malay Literary scene. He wants to bring in contemporary voices and vibrant Ideas. The 40- year- old talks to Bissme S about the local literary scene, the usage of Bahasa Malaysia and racism 


*What is the philosophy behind your imprint, Stormkitchen? 

A stormkitchen is this cheap cooker you use on camping trips. It is simple and utilitarian. That is the underlying philosophy: to make writing fun. Even frivolous. My belief and experience is that young Malays are repressed. Our society behaves like it does not welcome young ideas … That these youngsters have no value. Fair enough. But we still need to give the young an outlet to express themselves safely before it gets too late. Otherwise it will be like a pressure cooker without a safety valve. But there are not many places where they can be creative and expressive. I wanted to give them one such platform. If they go to mainstream publications, they are unlikely to get published.

*Why do you think the mainstream publications wouldn’t publish their fiction? 

Maybe it is simply the job of the mainstream anywhere to not tolerate alternative viewpoints. Or maybe it is simply because often there are no messages in these “karya picisan” (unimportant works). When I first started out I was often asked: “What is the message of the story? What is the moral?” But heck, not every story needs to have a moral purpose.

*Some people believe writers should change the world by having oral messages in their works. Don’t you agree with that? 

Yes. A writer needs to be aware that whatever he writes will have an influence on at least someone. If words have no weight then people would not have burnt books or prosecuted writers throughout history. But honestly, a writer of fiction should write for no reason other than to tell a story. It is not for the writer to guide society. In the realm of fiction, the story should operate on its own moral terms. That is what separates it from reality. I do believe that writers have a responsibility, but that responsibility is simply that they should be true to themselves. Anyone who writes deliberately with a subtext in mind is being manipulative, if not naive. Today you cannot dictate what the subtext is going to be anymore. 

*Is it true that the National Library refused to launch one of your books, Aweks KL? 

Yes. They said the book was not suitable for their target audience. I have no problems with that. If you go to somebody’s house, it is his rules. So when somebody comes to my house, I expect the same: they will have to follow my rules. But that is not what is happening today. People come to my house and keep wanting to impose their rules on me. (We laugh)  

*Is it true that a writer refused to let his work be featured in Aweks KL? 

Yes. I liked his poems and wanted to feature them. At first he was okay with it. But then he saw the cover. He said it was repulsive and demeaning to women. He asked me to consider changing the cover. I said I would think about it. So I thought about it and I stuck with the cover. He decided to pull out, which was a surprise. He saw an image of debauchery. I saw a reflection of something happening among us. A seedy secret that no one wants to discuss or acknowledge, about how women are viewed and treated. 

*What is the biggest challenge you faced in running your publishing house? 

First of all, this is not a proper publishing house. Stormkitchen is not even a registered company. It is not a business. I don’t intend to make money out of it. It is just a hobby, something I do when I have the cash to spare. Elarti is supposed to be a quarterly magazine. But I have to make it an annual for a couple of reasons. The first is financial: the money comes out of my pocket. The second is practical: we just don’t get enough quality contributions. And my bar is not set very high, so that ought to give you something to think about. Or maybe I am just not reaching the right kind of crowd. Most contributors are still sticking to convention. It goes back to how we have been raised. I think it is also a cultural thing. Traditionally, the Malays are not outspoken. Even when we criticise, we are very polite. We do not say things directly to your face. For example, if you asked us to do something, we always say “Insya Allah” even when we already know we are not going to do it. It is one of the things I admire about this culture, but these days it is not always the right solution.

*Some people say the works you publish are not high literature? 

Some have also said Histeria (his first movie script) is trashy, shallow and has no meaning. They are right. I was told to write a B-Grade  movie and that is exactly what I did … the kind of Sunday matinee I used to enjoy watching when I was 10 or 11. You get engrossed for an hour or two and then it is over and you simply get back to your life. People really should have better things to do than to centre their lives on movies, celebrities and literature. Right now I am  interested in digging up new voices and pushing them into the public consciousness. So that people can see what others are thinking about. I would rather have literature manifest by accident. You fire up an active cauldron where a lot of things are simmering, and then, some day, maybe, the best works rise up to the top. Forget about creating anything or leaving a mark to soothe your insecure feelings of mortality. You should do what you feel needs to be done and let everything else take care of itself. 
Good works will eventually get noticed on their own merit. Or not. But if you just do what you believe in, then it does not really matter. 


*Speaking of Histeria, you added a touch of lesbianism in the movie and it attracted a certain amount of controversy. Did you put the scene just to be controversial? 

No. It was supposed to be a reflection of the culture in a girls boarding school. That’s it. Some people have said the film is generally illogical. If you left out lesbianism in a story about an all-girls boarding school, now that to me would be illogical. 
I was not making a judgment call either. I did not put it in there to either praise or condemn the behavior. It is what it is. I just wanted to document things as I found them. Plus, I thought shooting that scene would be hot. It almost did not get made. And I was not there when it was shot, sadly.  

*If you are not making money from Stormkitchen, why are you doing this? 

It is corporate social responsibility on a personal level. I freelance by doing copywriting, graphic design and corporate videos. All very commercial. So this is my way to atone for my sins of making money through shallow means (We laugh). Seriously though, there should be more to life than just making a living. I know a lot of people say that, but it’s not reflected in how they live and behave. When you talk about nation-building these days, a lot of the focus is on the economics. The government should also stress the intangibles: culture, civilisation and giving space for people to be creative.

*What is your view on culture? 

Culture has become stagnant and stereotypical here. For a culture to survive, you need to keep changing. You need to keep adapting. But for some reason it all stopped evolving in the 80’s. We keep repeating the same old themes. We keep writing the same old way. It has also become insular and inward-looking. This is not how it used to be. I can still remember when art and literature were still an integral part of  society. I would go to a relative’s house in Ulu Atok or wherever, and they’d have paintings done by a member of the family on display. There would be tattered and yellowing books of poetry lying around. If you look at it from a bigger perspective, Malay culture has been adapting and evolving throughout its life. When we were Buddhist and Hindu, you saw a lot of Buddhist and Hindu elements in our culture. When we became Muslims, you saw a lot of Islamic influences. But now it has stopped, as if someone had said, “Okay, the culture is already perfect now so let’s put it in a tin.” Worse, wholesale parts of the culture are being either Americanised or Arabified.

*So you believe a culture should not stop evolving? \

Of course! If you want to be a great culture, you have to borrow. Otherwise it becomes incestuous. Eventually the culture will become genetically defective. Again, I do not like it either, but it is something you can’t run away from. 
The Greeks borrowed heavily from the Egyptians and Persians, the Persians from the Indians and so on. There has always been cross-pollination.
There should be no shame in it; it is how great civilisations are born. But now they say, we should not borrow from the West. But culture tends to follow the predominant civilisation. And the West is this epoch’s predominant civilisation. So how do you resist the osmosis? Yet, we have to be smart about it. What we need to do is borrow, not ape. The Japanese absorb a lot of Western culture and they turn these influences into something very Japanese. Same thing happens in Indonesia. But the problem here is, we merely like to ape. We do not take an idea, internalise it and come out with our own take. For example, some people are saying US has a black president, then we must have one too. But who understands what the blacks in America had to go through to get where they are? Every country should have its own natural evolution. 

*You said you don’t get stories out of the box. Why do you think this happens? 

Limited reach, mainly. I have not been promoting the publications 
as much as I should. But on a wider scale I think it has something do with the government’s clamp down on student activism in universities since the 1970’s. It has a downstream effect. Once you clamp down activism in campus, people become docile. You get followers who cannot think. Eventually everything slows down or stops.

*You think the government made a mistake by not allowing politics among university students? 

They thought it was necessary and I agree with their reasoning. I do not think the government is deliberately evil, despite what some people say. They just did what they thought had to be done. I have no idea why, but it seems to me that with most Malay boys, they will find any excuse not to study. If you allowed them to indulge in politicking, then that is all they are going to do. 
Some Malay students in the 1970’s were squandering the opportunities being handed to them on a golden platter. They had the hopes of an entire people on their shoulders, and all they used it for was their own selfish gains, masked in a cloak of “berjuang untuk rakyat” (fighting for the people). 
If you want to dedicate your sole focus into fighting for that ideal, fine, but don’t whine when the government tries to take away your scholarships and insist that it is “your right”.

*What other government policies do you feel have failed? 

I do not think the government planned for failure. Not at first, at any rate. The problem as I see it is that they like to implement a policy in reaction to a problem. Once they think they have plugged that leak, they think that’s it, job done, and they move on to other leaks. They forget to keep monitoring the previous policy, so that it may be amended or adapted as the situation changes. So in time the policy gets calcified, and it becomes the way things are done. This constant monitoring mechanism must be consciously written into the original plan. Surely you have to realise that all policies have side effects. But when you fail to monitor, you won’t know what the side effects are. So when those side effects come up, you think it is a new problem, which you can solve with another, unrelated policy.
For instance, Britain took 200 years to go from an agrarian society to an industrialised one. We did it in 20 years! The government’s plan for rapid industrialisation may have achieved the target to create a sizable urban Malay population. But I also believe that the disastrous fallout from this accelerated process has not been addressed even now. 
What happened was you got a new generation of Malays who became rootless. They no longer had a strong sense of identity. It gets worse over the generations. And now you have all these weird social ills, which everyone thinks is just a new phenomena.

*What is the biggest change  you would like to see taking place in the literary scene? 

I would like to see more non-Malays reading and writing Malay proficiently. Making it their own. It is about building a common national identity. I hear people talk about Malaysian Malaysia all the time. And then they won’t even wear a songkok, as if it is somehow beneath them. Recently, I read a piece where the columnist suggested that since some politicians can’t speak Malay properly in Parliament, why don’t they make MPs speak in English. “After all, this is Malaysia,” he says. If this is Malaysia, then people should be speaking Bahasa Malaysia. I swear, smart people are sometimes so smart that they become stupid.

*What do you think about racism in Malaysia? 

To hear people talk today, it is as if only one side has that bias. My ex-boss, who was a white American, lamented once that in the US, a white man cannot even use the “N” word without expecting some kind of backlash, but the blacks can create entire comedy performances based on ridiculing white people. These days, in some crowds, I know exactly how he feels. 
A racist does not just make derogatory remarks. At heart he would be someone who not only wants his own race to win all the time, but also actively stops another race from succeeding or wants to keep them subjugated. You can find those people in any race. 

*Do you think the Malays still need the NEP? 

Yes. As a businessman, I say it is still a useful counterbalance. All this talk about competing on price and merit is fine if we had a level playing field. I remain to be convinced that we do. When you can guarantee that a Malay, a Chinese or an Indian who goes to the same supplier will get the same prices or deals, only then should the NEP be abolished. In terms of education, I think a review should already be made in the urban areas, where there are large populations of affluent Malays. Especially when those parents had already benefited from the NEP themselves, even though I know some have not even bothered to pay back their study loans. I have met some of these loan defaulters who are anti-NEP. Go figure. It goes back to the entitlement mentality again. 

*Do you think the NEP has any weaknesses? 

Any system has a weakness. It was there to provide us with a leg up but it has become a life-long crutch. I had one middle-aged guy say to me: “I am not going to be a beggar in my own land.” 
The irony was he did not see that he was already begging, with his dependence on the subsidies being given to him for his farms. I think the NEP needs to be modified. You give assistance to a certain point. You don’t keep supporting them if they keep failing. You need to keep weeding out the hopeless cases. When you know that every time you fail there will be something for you to fall back on, it creates a weak society. 

*As a writer do you believe in total freedom of speech? 

I don’t. I think people who advocate it don’t really know what they are asking. I have a feeling that at the end of the day, they won’t like what they’ll get. If you examine it, I think you will quickly find that actually they don’t support freedom of speech, either. They would just like to be the ones to control what gets to be said and what does not, that’s all. I also think that somehow they do not see freedom of speech as being inseparably intertwined with action. They seem to think that they can get away with saying anything they like. They don’t see words as a form of action itself. I find this odd. The American serial killer Charles Manson uses this defence frequently. He says all he did was talk. His young disciples had gone on their murder spree of their own accord. He never held a gun to their heads. All of which is true, of course. So if you believe in the freedom for someone to say whatever they wish, then you must campaign for Charles Manson to be set free.

*What is the biggest misconception that people have about you?

They think I am a liberal. I am not a liberal. Not a conservative either. I am as liberal as the Quran permits me, and as conservative as it requires me to be. I err and transgress from time to time. But I try to stay on that path. I try to stick to the principles. 
So when I see racism on the other side I have to call it for what it is, not make up excuses like “They are still young” or whatever. 
So I get in trouble with both sides every now and then. I used to critique the conservatives more, but now that the liberals are winning the battle, I find myself commenting on them more often these days, because I find them to be just as corrupt.

*Who are the people who influenced you? 

The five women who raised me. My mother, grandmother, my aunt (my mother’s elder sister), my mum’s cousin, and one maid who stayed with us for a while. I saw the world through their eyes. The men in my life were largely absent. So I grew up empathising more with the female agenda. 

*You like to go against the current. Why don’t you go with the flow? 

I don’t intentionally want to be rebellious. I think God, for some reason, made it so that there will be people who are always fighting the current. I did try to be mainstream; follow the script, toe the line. But I didn’t get satisfaction or peace of mind. Every two years I would “awaken” and need to find something new to do.











Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Muhammad Fatrim

 Headline : A Hunger For Revenge
By Bissme S

A young woman’s quest for revenge forms the backdrop of author Muhammad Fatrim’s new Malay fiction novel. Revenge begins when businessman Datuk Zakaria and new wife Zahara kick out first wife Khadijah and daughter Ariana Citra from their house. Ariana and her mother are forced into a life of hardship, and the young girl swears revenge against the two. Many years later, a grown-up Ariana, now calling herself Dewi Uqasha, sets in motion her plan for revenge. She gets close to Zakaria and Zahara, who do not recognise her, and are totally clueless about her intention to destroy their lives. Revenge is Fatrim’s seventh novel, and this thriller will be on sale at the Pesta Buku 1 Malaysia at the Putra World Trade Centre from today to Dec 18.
The subject matter makes one wonder about the author’s relationship with his own father. But in an interview with theSun, the Sabah native assures that the story is pure fiction and has nothing to do with his late father, who was a teacher. 
“I was only 11 when I lost my father to cancer,” says the 30year-old Fatrim (below). 
“I miss him very much. I was a young boy who still needed a father in his life. I remember being angry at everything and everyone then.” 
During that difficult time, he got closer to God and to a certain degree, religion brought him a measure of peace. 
“My father was a storyteller too,” Fatrim recalls.
 “He used to write drama scripts for radio. I believe I inherited that talent [ storytelling] from him.” 
Surprisingly, Fatrim initially did not want to make writing his career. 
“My childhood  ambition was to be an air steward,” he says. 
He applied for many courses in several local universities and was accepted for a diploma in creative writing at Universiti Teknologi Mara in Shah Alam (UiTM). 
“I begged to change my course,” he says. 
“I told them (the lecturers) that I did not know how to write.” 
But he was persuaded to give the writing course a chance. It has since appeared to be the best decision he had made. The course helped to instil the love for writing and storytelling in him. 
“I think God wanted me to be writer,” he says. 
His first work was a children’s book called Geng Karipap. But it was his second novel, Asrama, that brought him fame. Published under Fixi, the  horror-thriller is about Dahlia, who goes to a boarding school. She encounters weird things happening there and begins to investigate them. Asrama remains the top selling novel under Fixi’s banner, with more than 40,000 copies sold to date. “Fixi has always pushed the boundaries in its stories,” Fatrim says. “The stories [it publishes] are brave and bold. 
“When Amir Muhammad (the owner of Fixi) called and said my 
 manuscript was accepted for publication, I thought someone was playing a prank on me. I [could not] believe [the publishing house was] interested in publishing my work.” 
There are plans for a sequel to Asrama in the near future. When asked how he handles criticisms, Fatrim says: “When I started writing novels, I always Googled myself. I want to know what people are saying about my books. 
“Some criticisms aimed at my novels were harsh and hurtful.  I had a hard time digesting them.” 
With time, Fatrim learnt to accept criticisms more maturely.  
“My novels are far from  perfect,” he says. 
“I have learned that I cannot please everyone, and criticisms can make you a better writer.”


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Interchange ( a review)


Today the review of Interchange is out in theSun newspaper 

Interchange ( Review) 

A DETECTIVE, Azman (Shaheizy), and a  forensic photographer, Adam, (Iedil) are investigating a series of ritualistic murders. The more they investigate, the more bizarre and supernatural the case becomes. At the same time, Adam, who is distressed by the daily violence and death he has to deal with, is approached by new neighbour Iva (Prisia). Adam soon learns that Iva is connected with the murders, and realises that the motive for the crimes is something beyond his imagination. I loved director Dain Said’s earlier film  Bunohan very much. I wish I could say the same for Interchange. 
The film starts out strong, with a scene where the characters find a dead body in a seedy nightclub. That piques my interest  regarding the murderer and the motive for the killing. But as the film progresses, sad to say, I lose interest.
Interchange is not an easy movie to  understand. One needs to do a lot of thinking to piece the story together. As it is, this thriller leaves you with more questions than answers. 
I find it hard to make an emotional connection with any of the characters. They appear so cold and detached, and I find myself unable to care about what happens to them throughout the film. 
The cast are talented actors who have churned out brilliant performances in other films. But here, their interactions are so artificial that there is hardly any chemistry among them. Perhaps, the problem lies with the script, which does not give their characters much depth. Some of the dialogue sounds pretentious, and a few characters even speak with funny, fake  accents.  
 However, the film is not a total disaster. I like the fact that the director and his production team are able to create a dark, cold, edgy and depressing atmosphere throughout. In the process, they manage to portray the city of Kuala Lumpur in a different light. There are also many interesting scenes. One is a back alley fight scene between Azman and a suspect he is chasing. Another is when Iva and Adam meet for the first time, glancing at each other from their respective balconies. However, these types of scenes are few and far between. 
The tagline of the movie is: ‘You are not prepared for this journey’. Perhaps, I am not prepared for the journey that this film wants me to take.

Hanyut ( a review)



Today theSun published a review on Hanyut, the movie under the direction of U- Wei Hj Saari

Hanyut Review 

SET IN the 1830s, the story revolves around a man who is consumed by two dreams he holds dear, which inadvertently cause his downfall. Kasper Almayer (O’Brien) is a Dutch trader living in colonial Malaya and with the white man’s superiority complex over the natives of the land. He has two dreams. The first is that his daughter, Nina, who is of mixed blood (half-Malay, half-Dutch) should be brought up as a westerner and not a local. So he sends the 10-year-old Nina to Singapore to be educated as a westerner. His second dream is to find a mystical mountain of gold hidden deep in the jungle that the local people talked about. He hopes the riches from the mountain will allow him to return to his home in Europe in glory with his daughter Nina by his side. His local wife, Mem Putih (Sofia), hates him for separating her from her only child. Her mission in life is to bring pain to him the way he had brought pain into her life. 
After 10 years, Nina (Diana) returns home as a beautiful young woman from Singapore. She discovers that her father’s business is in the dire straits all because he has neglected his business to channel all his focus in finding that golden mystical mountain. The possibility of finding the mountain becomes closer when Almayar meets with a Malay prince named Dain Maroola (Adi), who is looking to get his hands on gunpowder. Dain promises to show the location of the gold mountain to Almayer if the trader can supply him with gunpowder. Unknown to Almayer, Dain has no idea where the mountain is. He lies so that he can get the gunpowder. Things get complicated when Nina and Dain fall in love. Nina is certain that her father will never give his blessing to their union. Mem Putih cunningly persuades her daughter to elope with Dain. Mem knows that the ideaof Nina marrying a Malay man will bring tremendous pain to Almayer. 
Director U-Wei has done a brilliant job depicting how dreams can sometimes destroy us in Hanyut, his latest film. It shows how Almayer’s two dreams consume his soul and crush him forever. The transformation of Almayer from an arrogant man to a broken and hopeless one is well captured. You will hate him when the movie begins and you will end up pitying him when the movie ends. 
I really believe Hanyut has one of the best opening scenes in a Malaysian film. The camera zooms in on a Chinese man (a cameo appearance by Patrick Teoh) smoking opium. Even under the spell of drug, the Chinese man could still hear the screams of a mother being separated from a child. The pain of a mother is indeed difficult to ignore. 
But Hanyut is far from perfect. For starters, Sofia Jane’s portrayal as Mem Putih do not strike chord with me. She is far too dramatic in her portrayal of a woman holding a grudge against her husband. This is not an easy statement for me to write as Sofia Jane is my all-time favourite local actress. I always feel she does her best acting when she is subtle. Her eyes are enough to express the emotions she goes through. But in Hanyut, sadly, that subtlety is missing. U-Wei could have given the film a better pacing and the storyline could have been tighten. If comparisons have to be made, UWei’s previous movies such as Kaki Bakar and Jogho give off an intensity that could burn your heart. But this intensity is somewhat missing in Hanyut. Despite these weaknesses, Hanyut is still a winner in my book and I would not be surprised if the film pick up a few major awards at the upcoming Malaysian film festival. Looks like U-Wei might have to make more room to put his growing number of awards. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Nicholas Saputra & Interchange




Interchange, the Malaysian movie under the direction of Dain Said will be hitting the cinemas today. Indonesian star Nicholas Saptura plays a mystical like creature. To add reality to his character. Nicholas has to go through from two hours to six hours make up and prosthetics. Read the full story in the sun today.  

Headline: Like A Second Skin 
By Bissme S


























Indonesian  actor Nicholas Saptura looks dashing in most of his films. But in the Dain Said’s latest film Interchange, which opens in cinemas today, the actor appears as a sinister creature. Nicholas had to undergo two to six hours of makeup, including putting on prosthetics, to achieve the animal-like look for his role. He is not the first a ctor to undergo such a drastic t ransformation. Below are some Hollywood greats who had gone the extra mile for a film role.   

*Christian Bale in The Machinist (2004)


The actor lost 38kg for his role. He originally wanted to lose 45kg, but was advised against it as it would endanger his health. Bale’s diet consisted of one can of tuna and an apple a day. His 38kg weight loss is said to be a record for any actor for a film role. 
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*Robert De Niro in Raging Bull (1980) 



To play the iconic boxer Jake LaMotta, De Niro trained with the legend himself and also fought in three different boxing matches in real life, in order to look convincing on screen. To p ortray LaMotta’s later years, De Niro had to put on 27kg. The drastic weight change gave him rashes and breathing issues but he picked up the best actor Oscar for all his suffering. 
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*John Travolta in Hairspray (2007) 



To play the hefty Edna Turnblad, Travolta wore a 14kg fat suit which caused him to sweat a lot, and underwent more than  four 
hours of makeup. He also had to dance in heels.  
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*Curtis Jackson/50 Cent in All Things Fall Apart (2012) 



To play a college football player struggling with cancer, the rapper had to drop 25kg. To do that, he survived on a nine-week liquid diet, and worked out multiple times a day.
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*Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder (2008) 



Cruise put his good looks aside to play overweight, m iddle-aged, and extremely potty-mouthed film producer Les Grossman. He also donned a fat suit, large prosthetic hands, chest hair wig and a bald cap for his standout role.
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*Ralph Fiennes in Harry Potter series (2005-2011) 



To get into skin of Harry Potter’s nemesis Lord Voldemort, Fiennes shaved his head every day, wore fake f ingernails, dentures and reptilian skin, and underwent a three-hour makeup session. Children even burst into tears upon seeing him on set.
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*Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor (1996) 



Murphy played seven characters in the film, where he had to wear a fat suit made of polyurethane and spandex, oversized rubber hands, and latex bladders. The film won an Oscar for best makeup.
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*Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) 



The handsome actor had to endure some five hours of makeup just to play Benjamin Button, an older man who gets younger as the years go by. 
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*Johnny Depp in Black Mass (2015) 



No stranger to a dopting a new look for his film roles, in Black Mass, Depp plays  violent Boston mobster Whitey Bugler. He was almost u nrecognisable. His prosthetics included meticulous hair plugs, false eyebrows, stained teeth and extensive face makeup. 
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* Jared Leto in Chapter 27 (2008) 


Leto had to gain over 30kg by eating unhealthy snacks for this role. His weight gain brought serious health issues, even landing him in a wheelchair.
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*John Hurt in The Elephant Man (1980) 

This black-and-white biopic  centres on Joseph Merrick, a severely deformed man living in 19th century London. It was rumoured that Hurt’s prosthetic costume was modelled from actual casts of Merrick’s body. The makeup took seven to eight hours to apply each day, and almost two hours to remove.
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*Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) 



The makeup team transformed Oldman into various monsters so convincingly that the movie won an Oscar for best makeup. Oldman even hired a singing coach to help him lower his voice so he could give Dracula a more sinister quality.




Monday, November 28, 2016

Boo Junfeng & Apprentice



 Headline: Caught in Hangman' s Noose  
By Bissme S


Singaporean filmmaker Boo Junfeng took five years to complete his latest film, Apprentice, and the end result is nothing less than astounding. Apprentice brilliantly depicts the tortured emotions that a hangman goes through while executing criminals in prison. It shows how difficult it is to kill another human being, even if it is the person’s sworn duty. 
When the film was screened at a number of international film festivals earlier this year, , including the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, it received standing ovations and rave reviews. It went on to take home the Network for Promotion of Asia-Pacific Cinema award at The Taipei Golden Horse festival, as well as the Best Acting Ensemble award in Hawaii and the Interfaith award in St Louis in the US. Boo was also named rising director at South Korea’s Busan International Film Festival in October. 
“I am not advocating five years as a natural period for people to make a film,” says Boo. 
“But if you want your film to mean anything to [your audience], it deserves all the time it needs to be made. 
“A good film should outlive the filmmaker,” he added at the press conference after the recent Malaysian premiere of the film in Kuala Lumpur. 
Apprentice centres on a Singaporean Malay correctional officer, Aiman (played by Singaporean actor Fir Rahman), who is recently transferred to the territory’s top prison. At his new workplace, Aiman, 28, forms a close relationship with Rahim (Malaysian veteran Wan Hanafi Su), who is the longserving chief executioner at the prison. Rahim later asks Aiman to become his apprentice. However, Aiman is keeping a secret. His father was executed by Rahim, a fact which haunts Aiman and causes him to have mixed feelings about his new boss. 
Boo does not hide the fact he is against the death penalty. He says: “Fundamentally, I do not believe the state should have the right to take a life.” Yet he insists he does not push his beliefs to the audience in Apprentice. 
Instead, he hopes that the film will spark a healthy debate about capital punishment. 
“It is necessary for any society to examine [certain] issues, especially if they [relate to] life and death, from time to time,” he adds. 
One of the film’s biggest strengths is its two leads, Fir and Wan. To understand his character, Fir met with a woman whose husband was executed. 
“She told me that her husband felt it was better for him to be hanged, because the longer he stays in the prison the more his family will suffer,” he says. 
Meanwhile, Wan got to meet an executioner to help him get into character. The man turned out to be nice, and that encouraged Wan to put some humanity and compassion into his character. 
“[The filmmakers] gave more emphasis [on preparation],” he says. “Their preproduction was good ... and [they gave] me a lot of input to portray my role more convincingly.”
 Boo, on his part, did a lot of research, including reading Once a Jolly Hangman by Alan Shadrake. The controversial book, which criticised Singapore’s judicial system, also included an interview with Singaporean hangman Darshan Singh, who was an executioner for over 50 years. 
Boo also interviewed former executioners, imams and priests who helped death row inmates in their final moments prior to their execution. He also met the families of those sentenced under the death penalty and how they dealt with this bitter reality. 
“Before I met the first hangman, I had already written the first draft of the script,” Boo says. 
“[Afterwards], I realised [the hangman character in my script] was just a caricature. I [actually] liked the hangman I met in real life ... he [became] a person to me.” 
Some films that do well in international film festivals may not do as well in their native countries. Luckily, Apprentice seems to have struck the right chord. 
“The reaction in Singapore was better than expected,” Boo says. 
“A lot of people stayed [until the] end of the credits, [hoping] to see an extra scene.” 
Boo even asked several cinema operators in Singapore to leave the lights off for a few seconds longer once the film is over, to allow the audience to sit in the dark and ponder the issues depicted in the film. 
Footnote Apprentice is now playing in cinemas.

Boo with his two actors Wan Hanafi Su (left) and Fir Rahman