Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Brillante Mendoza

The well known film director Brillante Mendoza from Philippines was in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia and theSun managed to interview him. Read the full story here 
Headline: Showing the Shades of  Grey
By Bissme S

BRILLANTE Mendoza is a prominent director in the Philippines' film industry His debut 2005 film, The Masseur, won the Golden Leopard Award at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland. Then in 2009, he took the best director award for his film, Kinatay, at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival.
That same year, another of his films, Lola, won best picture at the 6th Dubai International Film Festival.
The 58-year-old director was in Kuala Lumpur recently where he served as jury president at the second Malaysian International Film Festival. theSun managed to catch him for a one-to-one interview about his films and inspirations.
What is the secret to your success? 
"There are no secrets to my success. You just have to make your film truthfully, and universally. If you make films because you want to win awards, then you [start on the wrong foot].
"What pushes me is I want my voice to be heard. I can only work on stories I am passionate about."
How do you make your films universal?
"By touching on human qualities and values. My stories are set in the Philippines, but [they] can affect the lives of everyone. A story about humanity will appeal to everyone."
Some Malaysian films get international recognition but do not do well locally. What about your films?
"We have the same situation everywhere in the world. Even in a developed country like France, only a portion of the population [is interested in] this kind of cinema.
"We have to create an audience. It took [other] countries years to develop audiences [who could appreciate these movies].
How do you get motivated to complete your films? 
"If you think of this challenge as a problem and a limitation, then it will stop you from doing what you want to do.
"You have to believe in what you are doing, then you will find the drive and the commitment to complete your film.
"I do not look down upon filmmakers who want to make commercial films. There is nothing wrong if you want to entertain your audience.
"But there are filmmakers who want to provoke critical thinking, and I am more comfortable doing that."
Your characters always have shades of grey. For example, your lead character in Ma Rosa is a drug pusher, yet she is a wonderful mother.
"I always humanise my characters. [There] is no such thing as black and white in [real] life.
"We all make mistakes and we all do something good, and we are [sometimes] put in a situation where it is questionable."
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
"My strength is I try to tell my stories as close to reality as I can. So there is a lot of truth and honesty in my films.
"But my strength is also my weakness. Sometimes, the truth is pessimistic. So people always tell me I am very pessimistic in my views.
"I am just being realistic about the situation that my characters are in."
Did you always want to be a filmmaker?
"I became a filmmaker by accident. I was in advertising.
"When I was 45, a friend asked if I was interested in directing a film that he was producing. I said: 'Why not?'
"But filmmaking can be addictive. After [that], I just can't stop making films."
What is your next project?
"I am doing a story about a [Filipino] Muslim woman who has cancer.
"People [may] think my film is political, but it is not. The political landscape is a secondary thing in my film.
"I am focusing on her relationship with her five-year-old daughter, and her husband who works as a soldier for the country.
"[When] doing research for the film, I talked to several Muslim women in Philippines. I found out that most of their husbands work as soldiers for the country."
Do you think you will face any backlash for focusing on a Muslim family in the Philippines?
"I do not think about that. I just need to be truthful to my story."

The Director ... strives to tell his story as truthful as 
 His films 

His first feature The Massuer

A scene from Kinatay .. the movie won him the best director award at Cannes film festival

A scene from Captive

A scene from Ma Rosa

 A scene from Lola
A scene from Taklub

A scene from Service

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Mouly Surya

Indonesian film maker Mouly Surya speaks to theSun about her movie  where a woman who killed her rapist and carries his severed head to the police station. The movie shines brightly at the recent Cannes film Festival.

Headline: An Act of Survival 
By Bissme S

Indonesian film Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts was greeted with standing ovations from its appreciative audiences and rave reviews from the critics at the prestigious Cannes film festival last year. The film centres on a woman named Marlina (played by Marsha Timothy) from Sumba Island, who is working to save enough money to pay for a traditional burial for her late husband, whose mummified corpse lies in her living room. Local gangster Markus (Egi Fedly) knocks on her door and coolly informs her that he and his gang will be robbing and raping her later. But first, they force her to cook chicken soup for them. She puts poison into the chicken soup, killing the other gang members, and later beheading Markus when he tries to rape her.
Carrying the severed head, she then begins a journey to the police station, which is miles away, to turn herself in. Along the way, she meets with several people, raising questions about her actions and how the world sees her. 
There’s an aura of feminism that envelopes this film. It cannot be denied that Marlina’s character has become a symbol of feminism in Indonesia. 
In fact, during the recent Women’s March 2018 in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, there were women who carried posters of the film and distributed chicken soup. 
“The interesting part is if you come across someone like Marlina on an island like Sumba, she probably does not know what feminism is,” says the film’s director, Mouly Surya  in a recent interview with theSun. 
“[But] any man or woman in her position will fight back. The film is all about survival.” 
Mouly points out that the original idea for the film came from Garin Nugroho, another renowned Indonesian film director, who wanted her to direct the film. Garin was interested to see how a female director would interpret his story. 
Together with producer Rama Adi, Mouly turned Garin’s five-page story idea into a fulllength screenplay. 
Mouly, at just 36, is considered one of the most prominent female filmmakers in Indonesia. After graduating from Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia, with a bachelor of arts in media and literature, she obtained a masters in film and television from Bond University, Queensland. In addition to making films, the Jakarta-born director also teaches directing classes in Jakarta. Originally, Mouly wanted to be a writer. But that dream changed when she got involved in an amateur film project in college. 
In an interview with Indonesia’s Tatler magazine, she said: “When I had my first taste of directing films, I felt the same joy as when I was writing. But instead of writing with words, directing is writing with images.” 
Her debut film, Fiksi (2008), which premiered at the 13th Busan International Film Festival, won numerous awards, including for best director at the Jakarta International Film Festival(JIFFEST). Five years later, in 2013, she produced her second feature film, What They Do Not Talk About When They Talk About Love, which was shown in several prestigious international film festivals, such as the Sundance film festival and Hawaii film festival. That film received the Netpac Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Netherlands. 
While her first two films were shot in Jakarta, her birth city she is familiar with, Mouly decided to take a risk and shoot Marlina on the more remote Sumba Island. It turned out to be a great decision, as the stark landscape is treated like another character in the film. Another strength of the film lies with lead actress Marsha, who has given a powerful performance. 
“We did not want to cast someone who is dominating,” Mouly recalls. 
“We wanted to cast someone who is vulnerable and has a tragic aura.” 
 When asked about her next project, Mouly says: “I really want to find a project I love, and which will elevate my film skill. It should be as strong as Marlina.” 
I have no doubt that when she releases her next film, it will be another masterpiece. 

Footnote:  Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts is now showing in selected cinemas nationwide

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Rosyam Nor

Rosyam Nor speaks to theSun about playing the badminton icon Datuk Misbu Sidek in a biopic movie Lee Chong Wei which will hit cinemas on March 15 

Headline: A Life In Film 
By Bissme S

In his  30-year career as an actor, Rosyam Nor has played a wide range of roles, from a ruthless serial killer in Lenjan, to an unfaithful husband in Suami, Isteri Dan ... ? 
“All my characters have been fictional, and I can create them from scratch,” says the 51- year-old award-wining actor. 
But in his upcoming film, Lee Chong Wei, which will hit cinemas on March 15, Rosyam is trying out something new. In the biopic about Malaysia’s current number one badminton player, Rosyam stars as Datuk Misbun Sidek, who coached Lee to stardom. 
Before filming began, Rosyam tried to make an appointment to meet with Misbun. Unfortunately, the meeting could not take place, as Misbun’s packed schedule prevented him from being able to spare any time for the actor. 
Rosyam resorted to other creative methods to get an impression of Misbun before facing the camera. He visited YouTube to watch Misbun’s mannerisms both on and off the badminton court. Rosyam also spoke with several people close to the living legend. 
“I do not want to imitate Misbun,” he says.
 “I want to interpret his persona. I do not want to do a caricature of him.” 
The veteran actor feels the film has come at the right time, when there have been some tensions among the races in Malaysia. 
“The film will show a close relationship between a Malay coach and a Chinese badminton player,” he says. 
“They did not let their differences tear them apart. We should emulate them.” 
Rosyam also believes this film will introduce him to the Malaysian Chinese audience. 
“So far the Malay cinema audience knows who I am,” he says. “I want to expand my circle of fans.” 
Prior to this, the actor also appeared in the 2017 Tamillanguage movie Kabali, where he shared a scene with worldfamous Kollywood actor Rajnikanth. 
“I purposely accepted the role so I could introduce myself to the Malaysian Indian cinema audience,” he says. 
“An actor cannot stay in his safe zone. He should always find a new audience.” 
However, this is not the only film the actor has up his sleeve. Before Lee Chong Wei premieres, fans will be able to see Rosyam starring in another role, in director Syafiq Yusof’s KL Special Force, which opens tomorrow. 
In that film, Rosyam plays a police officer who is trying to apprehend a gang of bank robbers. The action-packed film also stars Fattah Amin, Syamsul Yusof, Shaharuddin Thamby, and Tania Hudson. 
Although it is in a genre that Rosyam is no stranger to, the film presents another about-turn for him, as he usually plays the villain. “It is a great change to play a good guy in a police drama,” he says with a laugh. 
He also has no qualms accepting orders from directors who are much younger than him, such as Syafiq. 
“Times are changing, and the youngsters are ruling the film industry,” he says. 
“As an actor, you have to change with the trend. If you do not keep up with the changes, then you will be left behind. 
“I always put myself ‘at zero’ in front of my directors regardless of their age. To me, the director will have the final say, and I will follow whatever the director says. 
“Even the superstar Rajnikanth follows instruction from the young directors.” 
He often hears stories of veteran actors who are always complaining about young actors who do not know what they are doing on the set. 
But Rosyam states: “I can tell you honestly that some young actors are really talented. They nailed their roles in their first film because they have a better exposure than us. 
“In my first few films, I was a terrible actor. My dialogue pronunciation was horrible. I only got better after a few films.” 
He also admits he now has the luxury of being able to select the film projects he wants. One reason for this he says is because he does not depend solely on his acting for his income. 
“I have money coming from other sources. So I have the liberty to be choosy.”

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Men In Heels

Joe Hasham talks to theSun about his latest theater production, Men Heels that deals with three men who faces gender issues. Read the full story here 

Headline: Kicking Up The Heels 
By Bissme S 

NEW THEATRE production Men in Heels aims to dispel the many misconceptions about an oft-talked-about segment of society, while at the same time, show that despite our differences, we are all the same underneath. 
The show will be staged at Pentas 2, Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac), and Performing Arts Centre of Penang (penangpac) over the next few weeks. Recently, director Joe Hasham invited me to sit in on a few rehearsals. 
From what I have seen, Men in Heels, produced under the banner of The Actors Studio Seni Teater Rakyat, will take the audience on a roller coaster of emotions. 
The production centers around three best friends – Ilya (played by Zhafir Muzani), Bryan (Ivan Chan), and Peter (Mark Beau de Silva) – recalling the best and worst times in their lives. At its core, it is an outrageously funny and heartachingly poignant look into the world of drag, as seen through the eyes of its three characters’ alter-egos. Initially, Joe had wanted a grand drag show with 10 to 15 dancers on stage. 
He turned to klpac’s resident director and writer Mark to write the screenplay. Instead, Mark presented a script with a different tone from what Joe had imagined. 
“I feel in love with the script immediately,” Joe recalls. 
“It is a wonderful script of three men with gender issues. People are so critical of those who are different. We should be celebrating our differences.” 
On his script, Mark says: “I am going into the psyche of these three individuals. We are looking at the world of drag on many levels. We are asking many questions about this world. “Are we defined by the clothes we wear? Are we defined by our gender roles? “Often, I hear words like: 'We have to tolerate people like them’. But tolerance is such a dirty word. We make them feel invisible, as if they do not exist. 
“We are trying to represent them respectfully in this play.” 
Director Joe agrees. He points out that the play will showcase some of the hilarious scenarios these characters encounter, as well as highlight the struggles they endure. 
“In the play, we have three very different individuals, at very different stages in their life,” says Joe. 
“They rely on each other, root for each other, and celebrate their individuality fiercely.” 
llya, also known as Sahara or Labia Labu, loves tough-looking policemen. Sadly, the attraction only goes one way. Bryan, who is also known as Double Entendre, leads a double life, while Peter, aka Caroline Sik Nee, is a stylish lady who likes Laura Ashley prints and tea parties. 
In one scene, Ilya recalls his first love, a former schoolmate, speaking with humour and sweetness. But when he goes on to
reveal that their love story does not have a happy ending, all the sweetness in Ilya’s voice disappears, and all one can hear is the sadness. 
There are no tears in Ilya’s eyes, but you can feel the pain in his body language. Kudos to Zhafir for nailing these emotions in his character perfectly. 
Joe has also shot six music video clips featuring the characters in drag, which will be intertwined with the play on stage. The actors also had to undergo two months of training to learn how to walk and dance in heels. 
“The audience will see the glamorous side of the drag world, but behind the glamour, there is a lot of pain involved,” Joe says. 

Footnote Men in Heels will be staged at klpac from Feb 24 to March 11, and at penangpac from March 16 to 17

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

OlaBola The Musical (Review)

What to know what OlaBola The Musical looks like? Well you can read the review in theSun today (Feb15, 2018)

Headline: The Champions of Song 

BY Bissme S

WHEN the queen of Malaysian musical theatre, Tiara Jacquelina, first announced that she wanted to turn the hit movie OlaBola into a musical, I had my doubts. 
It was hard to imagine how she would adapt a sports film into a stage production. I could not visualise a group of footballers scoring goals while singing their hearts out. 
True enough, the production seemed to be struggling during rehearsals. Then, a week before opening night, Tiara announced that they would use “cutting-edge technology” to enhance the play, with 3D projection mapping, 360° surround sound, as well as state-of-the-art lighting technology. I felt she was taking a huge risk. 
If she went overboard with the cutting-edge technology, the whole production could end up looking tacky. And what if the technology did not work smoothly during the staging process? She would have a nightmare on her hands. 
I was expecting a train wreck on the Feb 8 opening night at Istana Budaya Kuala Lumpur, but Tiara and her team pulled off something really marvellous, outstanding and magical. With this spectacular show, Tiara has elevated herself to the role of ‘empress of Malaysian musical theatre’. 
In P. Ramlee the Musical, she brought a train on stage. In OlaBola, she went a step further and brought a ‘military helicopter’ into the show just before the interval! The scene would take your breath away. I am not going to reveal more, so as not to spoil the surprise for others who have yet to see this musical, which will run till March 11. Just be there and experience the magic. 
OlaBola is loosely based on the real-life story of the Malaysian national football team who overcame a series of obstacles to qualify for the Olympics in 1980. 
The scene stealers of the show are Iedil Putra, Douglas Lim and Nasz Sally, who will tickle your funny bones with their witty dialogue and funny gestures. Iedil plays clownish radio host Rahman, Nasz is the kooky Cik Kiah, while Lim is the grumpy kopitiam owner who constantly criticises the Malaysian football team. 
There are many moving moments in the musical, too. But the one that really touched my heart is when Abi Manyu, who plays goalkeeper ‘Spiderman’ Muthu, quarrels with his father, Appa (played by Nave VJ), who disapproves of him playing football and prefers Muthu to concentrate on the family business instead. When Muthu sings about quitting the team, Abi’s vocals shine. 
Another touching moment is when Melissa Ong, who plays Mei Ling, the sister of team captain ‘Tauke’ Chow Kwok Keong (played by Brian Chan), tries to persuade her brother to return to the team after he quits over an argument with coach Harry Mountain (Stephen Rahman-Hughes). Like Abi, Ong has an amazing voice. 
The football matches are intense, and the new technology adds to that intensity. The songs are also catchy, the dances lively, and the energy levels fiery. 
Even Chiu Keng Guan, the  director of the OlaBola film on which this musical is based, loved what he saw on the opening night. 
“It was awesome” was his reply when asked how he felt. Like me, he loved the military helicopter scene. 
The only complaint I have is that the show goes a little overboard with the patriotism factor. At the end, the audience gave a well-deserved standing ovation for Tiara and her team. 

For more, visit the OlaBola the Musical website.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Ayam Fared & Layang

I have interviewed actor, director and writer Ayam Fared who talks about his latest production. Here is the full story 

Headline: Going Beyond The Norm 
By Bissme S 

For a theater performance that is adventurous, different, and exciting, catch Layang, being staged tomorrow and Sunday, at new community arts initiative KongsiKL, located in Taman Goodwood, Kuala Lumpur. 
KongsiKL, housed within a large industrial warehouse, offers a fluid, versatile set-up that encourages audiences to move around the performance area. 
Produced under the banner of Main Wayang, Layang is a multimedia performance that incorporates various elements such as physical theatre, shadow play, visual effects, virtual reality and electronic soundscapes, within a minimalist structure. 
Main Wayang believes strongly in making theatre performances accessible to the public. In keeping with this belief, entrance to the Layang performance will be free, in the hope of attracting a more diverse audience, and not solely theatregoing enthusiasts. 
The show only has three members – writer-actor-director Ayam Fared who is also the sole performer in the production, visual artiste Fairuz Sulaiman, and musician Sudarshan Chandra Kumar. Ayam says: “Some will label  our production as ‘experimental’. But personally speaking, we do not like giving labels to our performance.” 
In fact, Ayam – who won best director at the 2012 Boh Cameronian Arts for his prison play Short Eyes – sums up Layang as a performance where the artistes are trying to find a medium to communicate with each other and the audience. 
He admits the way they are presenting this production is not the norm in the Malaysian theatre scene, but adds that they are always seeking alternative ways to tell stories without the use of a huge cast and crew. 
“As artistes, we must never stop finding new ways to tell our stories, and we must never stop asking questions about ourselves and about our craft.” 
To elaborate, Ayam says: “For example, if you are a painter, you must ask yourself: are you only a painter if you have an exhibition? When you do not have exhibition, do you still paint?” 
The one-hour show will explore the themes of migration, displacement, and isolation. 
“The show will follow one particular character who is searching for a society where he can be himself,” he says. 
“All of us are directly and indirectly searching for a place where we can be real and not feel disconnected and alienated. 
“We are not providing any answers in this play. Sometimes, our job as an artiste is to create questions. I feel we do not ask enough questions.” 
Ayam frequently dabbles in bold, avant-garde performances. So does he hate everything that is commercial? 
He says: “These days if you are in a commercial world, you will be asked how many followers you have in your social media. I do not want to lead that kind of life. I do not want my life to be just a series of captions on Instagram. I am exploring life. I am trying to find what is real, and what is suitable. If I walk in the commercial world, I think I will not be allowed to explore life.” 
When asked the biggest misconception about him, Ayam laughingly says: “They believe I love to be edgy, experimental and to push boundaries. “In reality, I just want to live a simple, happy life without much struggle.”

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

OlaBola The Musical in theSun

OlaBola The Musical opens officially to the public today till March 11. Here is a look at the coverage of the OlaBola The Musical in theSun ....