Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ayam Fared & Pada Sebuah Ketentuan

Today I am highlighting  an interview I did  Ayam Fared in 2011 and the story appeared in the sun newspaper on June 1, 2011 
Here is the article 

Headline: Voice Of Dissent  
By Bissme S 

Ayam Fared is not one to keep his thoughts to himself. In his second book, Pada Sebuah Ketentuan (It is Fated), he lashes out his anger and pours out his sadness and disappointment about the society he lives in.    
“Many of us prefer to close our eyes to the wrongdoings that take place in our society,” says the author, who is also a theatre artiste and an activist and prefers to be known by his assumed name, Ayam Fared.
“We don’t want to stick our necks out and jeopardise our comfortable life to right a wrong. We’re constantly living in fear. We’re selfish and we only think about ourselves.
“But what is the meaning of life if we don’t take risks and try to make the society that we live in a better place?” 
Pada Sebuah Ketentuan covers a series of poems and short notes, with some witty and sarcastic recollections. It follows in the same vein of his first book, Stabil, where he also sounds out his thoughts about life and society.
But in Pada Sebuah Ketentuan, Ayam gets more personal and inward-looking. He questions about the roads he has chosen to take in life.
He finds himself asking the question: “Should I stay in this line and continue with what I am doing. Or should I just quit.”
He adds: “I have still not found the answer to that question. But writing this book has given me some kind of motivation to stay stronger.”
In a lighter note, Ayam also lets loose with some humour in the book.
One of the gems in Pada Sebuah Ketentuan centres on a conversation he has with a pirate DVD seller who, surprisingly, prefers to watch movies in the cinemas.
Another anecdote tells of two girls who want to borrow Ayam’s clothes for a TV shoot. It turns out that they are playing beggars and his clothes, according to them, are just right! 
Another classic gem involves an incident that takes place at Ayam’s cousin’s wedding.
An uncle pesters him to get married, and Ayam tells his uncle that since he is dead against the monarchy system, he has no intentions of becoming ‘king for a day’ (the groom in a Malay wedding is often called ‘raja sehari’).
Despite these amusing anecdotes, Ayam has pulled no punches in the bold statements he makes in the book about life and society in general.
He openly writes about experimenting with weed and whisky. Such episodes have been included in the book because he wanted to show that not all who smoke weed and drink whisky are bad people.
“I don’t want to be a hypocrite and paint a false picture of my life,” he says, adding that life is not always black and white.
“It’s very narrow-minded when people judge you bad just because you consume alcohol. There are worse things in the work.
“Life is not that simple. People who divide their lives into black and white are wasting their lives away. I want people to realise this and celebrate the multi-colours that exist in our lives.”
Yet, he points out that society tends to stereotype artistes like him with the notion that they cannot write if they are sober.
“Well they are wrong,” he states. “I wrote this book when I was sober.”
However, not everyone can digest the frankness in Pada Sebuah Ketentuan and some may accuse Ayam of courting controvery.
“I write not because I want to become famous,” says Ayam. “I write because I want to express my emotions and vent out my frustrations.
“Even if nobody wants to publish my books, I’ll still write and I’ll find other ways to get my work read. Perhaps, I’ll resort to Facebook.”
Going against the mainstream seems to be in his nature. Even the cover of this book smacks of controversy. It has a picture of him in the nude looking up.
He explains: “I am just looking up at the sky and waiting for God to come down and make everything okay.”
Despite the labels he has been given, Ayam insists: “I’ve never called myself an artiste, activist or an author. Those words are just labels to me.  Maybe, it’s fated that I walk this line (being an artiste).
“My intuition always tells me that if you follow the road that the majority has chosen, then the risk of being on the wrong road is very high.
“The majority always has the power and ultimately, we know power corrupts. I would rather be standing on the outside.” 

The cover of Ayam's Book 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Rosyam Nor & Balistik

Today the sun highlighted one of  interview with Malaysian actor Rosyam Nor who is acting and producing a movie called Balistik. Below is the interview 

Headline An age-old question
BY Bissme S 

In 2006, actor Rosyam Nor took a bold step in producing his first film, Castello. It became a hit, collecting RM2.8 million at the box office. Seven years on, he has come out with his second production – Balistik – under RK Screen and Asia Tropical Films. The movie will open on Jan 9 in 91 cinemas including those in Singapore and Brunei.  
Produced at a budget of RM2.5 million, Balistik is directed by Silver and stars Rosyam,  Rita Rudaini and Adi Putra as Saga, Salina and Nizam respectively.
Saga and Salina fall in love, marry and have a son, all the while unaware that their good friend, Nizam, has been secretly in love with Salina.When Saga becomes a hired killer, Salina urges him to repent but in one of their intense arguments, he pushes her down the stairs, takes their baby and goes into hiding.
Six years later, Saga learns that Salina has survived the fall and has since married Nizam, who is now a police inspector out to apprehend Saga at all cost.
In a recent exclusive interview with theSun, Rosyam, 46, talks about his latest movie and why veteran actors here do not enjoy the same respect and job security as their counterparts in Hollywood and even Bollywood.

* What can we expect from Balistik?  

“Love, tears and lots of action. I brought in a stunt coordinator from Hong Kong to handle the action scenes in the film. I wanted the stunt scenes in this movie to look different from other Malay movies. 
"I have also included well-known Malaysian Chinese entertainers such as Gan Mei Yen, Jack Lim and Jason Phang. I’m hoping they will lure in the Chinese audience to watch my film.”

* You have not appeared in many films in the last few years. Why is that?

“Our film industry is youth-oriented and producers have the habit of giving older actors like myself insignificant roles where we have nothing much to do.
“I do not want to accept such roles. I only want to play roles that excite me. I have the luxury to be choosy [about what roles to take] as acting is not my bread and butter. I also produce TV dramas.
“Veteran actors in Hollywood like Robert DeNiro and Meryl Streep are still playing meaty roles. Why can’t the same thing be applied here?”   

* Do you think audiences here would want to see an older actor in a leading role?

“Yes, why not? Older actors in Hollywood from Sylvester Stallone to Bruce Willis are still pulling in the crowd. In Bollywood, Amitabh Bachchan and Rajnikanth, who are pushing 70, are still playing lead roles.   
“In February, I will be a grandfather. At 47, I’m probably the youngest grandfather in Malaysia! I’m not afraid of getting old.  The only thing is that I must look after myself well. I do look good for my age though. This is because I watch my diet.
“So I must also choose my roles carefully, befitting my physique and age.
“In four years’ time, I will turn 50 and  my dream is to play a lead role in a movie when I’m 50. I am determined to make this dream come true.”

* Why do you think audiences accept older Hollywood and Bollywood actors as the lead but not Malaysian?

“Foreign actors do not act in any other medium except in films. You rarely see Meryl Streep or Robert DeNiro in TV shows. If you are a big fan of these actors, you have no choice but to go to the cinema and catch them in their movies.  
“Our older actors, however, often appear in television shows. Their fans do not feel the need to go to the cinemas to see them.
“In the last two years, I have cut down on my television appearances. I am trying to create a hunger for my fans to watch my films in the cinemas.”     

What is your next movie?

“It is a sweet love story between a mute guy and a blind girl entitled Isyarat Cinta. Adi Putra and Liyana Jasmay will be playing the lead roles. The movie will open in cinemas in June next year.”

Rosyam Nor plays a hired killer 

Rita Rudaini  is torn between loving two men

Adi Putra is a man torn between his duty and his friend
The poster of the film

A scene from Balistik : Rosyam Nor as a hired killer ..

A scene from Balistik  

A scene from Balistik - Expect love, tears and action 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Kolumpo opens the cinema today. I have watched the film and I really enjoyed the film.  There was never a boring moment... I would suggest people to catch  the film. The film simply proves Malaysian film makers  can tell  good stories that touches your heart.  Any way I had opportunity to interview the cast and crew of the film and the story appeared in the sun newspaper today . Here is the full article   

Suggested : A Trio Of Heartfelt Tales 

THREE touching stories by three directors which show the plight and dilemma of three people caught in situations that are beyond their control – that is what you get in Kolumpo.
The combined feature cleverly showcases a multiple of languages spoken in this country such as Bahasa Malaysia,Cantonese, Tamil and English all in the one  film.
Otto Films Sdn Bhd recently held a special screening of Kolumpo for the benefit of media and invited guests which garnered quite a lot of positive response. Opening in cinemas today, Kolumpo talks about the hopes, dreams and love of three individuals set in the backdrop of city life, each separately helmed by three directors – Bront Palarae, Rozi Izma and Sheikh Munasar. 
In Bront’s piece, an Indian immigrant Rahul (played by Azad Jazmin) arrives in Kuala Lumpur only to discover that the company that has offered him a job has gone out of business.
A restaurant owner listens to his plight and then decides to help him out. But the owner has his own agenda – he wants Rahul to work at his restaurant. And so, Rahul begins his new life as an illegal immigrant.
“Immigrants are a part of our city now,” says Bront, an actor who has directed short films in the past. 
“They came to this city with big dreams only to find disappointments. People do not want to listen to their kind of story because it’s not a success story.”
Bront will next helm a movie entitled Sabotage – on how the Chinese are recruited to infiltrate a communist party with the aim of turning those commandos into normal citizens. He hinted the film will be along the lines of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.
The second story by Rozi is about Gienna (Nell Ng), a Chinese woman in her 30s, who has mother issues but finds herself spending an afternoon helping a stranger, an old Malay makcik
named Nek Wok (Ruminah Sidek) find her house.The problem is that Nek Wok cannot remember where she stays. 
Rozi was not available for comment earlier but her lead actress, Ng, has this to say: “This movie is to show that there is still goodness and good people in our society. The movie gives us hope.”
 Ng who gave wonderful performances, credits her co- star actress Ruminah, for helping her. “She is so easy to work with and she is always sharing her knowledge with me.”
Sheikh Munasar’s piece centres on the shy Hafidd (Amirul Ariff) who meets a pretty stranger (Sharifah Amani) after missing the last train home. For someone who has never had a date in his life, this is a life-defining moment and his only hope of a glimpse of love. Sheikh Munasar hinted that the film, in some way, is a reflection of his life. Ten years ago, he came to Kuala Lumpur from his hometown in Johor Baru to study filmmaking. Like his character, he felt homesick and lonely.
When asked if he met his love at the LRT station, just like in the movie, he laughs and says: “I am not going to tell you that.” 
He says, the next film he is planning to direct will touch on his childhood years. As a child, he used to stay in the government flats called Flat Lumba Kuda in the centre of Johor Baru. 
He says: “The flat has been demolished several years ago. But the place will always hold a special place in my heart. It is the place where I learned about life.”

Bront on the set of Kolumpo .... 

Rozi Isma on the set of Kolumpo 

Sheikh Munasar on the set of Kolumpo 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Afdlin Shauki , Papadom 2 & Sandakan Tears

On Nov 26 the sun ran a story  where I interviewed Afdlin Shauki who talked about his sequel to his hit film Papadom as well as co directing a Hollywood project that

Suggested Headline : The Return Of Undercover Dad

A father's love for his daughter is beyond question and comparison.Comedian and director Afdlin Shauki explores this emotion in the sequel to his hit film Papadom. Although the sequel was completed in 2012, it will only open in cinemas on Dec 12. When Afdlin’s Papadom hit the cinemas in 2009, it became a big hit. The story centred on a widower Saadom (Afdlin) who is over-protective of his daughter Mia (Liyana Jasmay). Feeling stifled, she moves to Kuala Lumpur to pursue a course on film-making.
Without her daughter’s knowledge, Saadom gets himself a job as a gardener in the university where she is studying to keep an eye on her. And the doting dad’s new job created the comedy moments for the movie.
Papadom made a huge impact at the 22th Malaysian Film Festival, grabbing the best film award as well as the best actor and best actress awards for Afdlin and Liyana respectively.
In the sequel, Afdlin and Liyana will reprise their roles as father and daughter. This time, Mia is working as one of the crew members at a film set. Through reliable sources, Saadom learns that three men on the set are interested in Mia and are trying to woo her.
He goes undercover as one of the extras on the set to investigate the men. He wants to make sure that only the best candidate gets to wed Mia. Once again, Saadom finds himself challenged and that makes for truly hilarious and chaotic scenes.In an exclusive interview, Afdlin shares his candid views on the film.

*Some sequels are never as successful as the original film. Are you afraid of that with Papadom 2?

“When I made Papadom, many people had doubts of the movie’s success. Our cinemas were flooded with gangster and ghost movies as the critics believed the audience was not keen on films about
family relationships. But Papadom turned out to be a success. I had invited a test audience to watch Papadom 2 and they liked what they saw.There are more conflicts and dramas in Papadom 2. All I can say is to bring lots of tissues to watch this movie.”

*Tell me what kind of a father are you? Are you anything like your character Saadom in Papadom?

“Like Saadom, I am also a workaholic. My children (he has three daughters, age between three and 14) complain that I do not spend enough time with them. But I work hard because I want to give them a better life. Saadom can be overbearing and overprotective and I am the same.
“In future, my daughters’ boyfriends are going to have a tough time dealing with me. I will scrutinise them like an FBI agent (laughs).”

*Do you prefer to be a comedian in front of the camera or working behind the scene as a director?

“No one wants to see an old actor like me on the screen any more (laughs). The audience are more interested in younger faces. So it is better that I move behind the camera as a director. I have no complaints as I enjoy my work. But there will come a time when no one wants to watch the kind films that I direct. Then I will have to change, again. Perhap by then, I will wear the hat of a producer. And if the time comes again when noone wants to see the kind films that I produce, then I will have to stop being a producer and put my mind into doing something else.”

*What is the next film you will be directing?

“I have two film projects currently in my mind. One is called Angkasawan that is set in a futuristic Malaysia – where we will send a second astronaut to space. There will be some comedy elements in the film.
“My next film may be called Jin Tiger, and it’s a black comedy about a gangster who finds faith, religion and wants to reform. But his gang members try to pull him back into a world of crime.”
All your films have comedy elements.

*Do you have any plans to direct a serious film?

“Yes. Next year, I plan to co-direct an English film called Sandakan Tears with a Hollywood director. Most of the cast and crew are going to be from Hollywood and Australia.The film is loosely based on our history of the so-called Sandakan Death Marches. Australian and British soldiers captured by the Japanese during WWII
were shipped to war camps in Sandakan (Sabah).
“They were tortured and given little food and medical care. Some prisoners were even forced to march through the jungle and as they reached the foot of Mount Kinabalu, the Japanese soldiers
shot and killed them.
“I am also the executive producer of the film and we have plans to distribute the movie, internationally. I believe it is story that the world would love to see.”

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Mislina Mustaffa & Walls

I will be watching theater production called Walls on this coming Friday. I have interviewed the two directors and one lead actor of the production. The story appeared in the sun on Nov 5. It sounds an interesting production. Read the full interview here 

Suggested Headline: A Different Reality. 
By Bissme S

WHY do you still want to live when everyone you love is gone? That is the theme director Hari Azizan is exploring in her latest theatre production entitled Walls.The play also explores what values and rules will mean to us when we are the only person in the world.
The story centres on a woman who wakes up one morning and finds an invisible wall isolating her from the world. She is the only human being in her new prison. With only nature and animals for
company, she tries her best to survive and make sense of the surreal world that she is trapped in.
“I wanted to know what motivates this particular character to continue her life,” says Hari who has also directed other theatre production such as The Vagina Monologues and S.O.S Times.
“When I started this production, I asked myself what I would do if I were in the character’s shoes. I still have not figured out the proper answer, yet. Most probably,  I will wait to die.”
This 80-minute theatre production under the banner of Five Arts Centre will premiere at the Black Box in Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur, on Saturday and runs till Nov 17.
The stage has been turned into a surreal forest filled with various animals. But the creatures which make a constant appearance are a cow, dog and civet cat.
The concept of the play brings to mind the recent Oscar-winning Hollywood film The Life of Pi where a boy is stranded in a small boat in the middle of the ocean with a few animals.
“First of all, there is no sea in this play,”says Hari, laughing. “Ours is more about an understanding of one another and in this case, the other happens to be animals.
“The play tells us that different species of life can live together if they make an effort. The play also explores our relationship with nature.”
Hari explains that the script for this play was influenced by a Germany novel The Wall by Austrian writer Marlen Haushofer. The book was later made into a film in 2012, directed by Julian Pölsler.
The production has only two cast members – actress Mislina Mustaff and theatre performer Chi Too.Mislina, who has been acting for 20 years, plays the isolated woman while Too plays her husband as well as a dog. The actress says: “Looking at some of the scenes [in this play], the audience will probably say: ‘This is silly but it is true’ and they will laugh.”
Hari adds: “This is not a comedy or a slapstick. We, Malaysians, always hide behind humour whenever we face an intense situation. We make stupid jokes and just laugh at our serious problems.” 
Co-director Wong Tay Sy, however, describes Walls as a fun play to watch.
“It will keep the audience wondering whether the wall separating the character from the world really exists or is she imagining it,” says Wong who is also a visual artist.
When asked what she would do if she were in the lead character’s situation, she says tongue-in-cheek: “Since I am the only person in the world, I would not bother to wear any clothes. Then I do not have to wash any.”
When asked what the audience should expect, Mislina says: “Some madness. We all go crazy in our own room where we know no one is watching us. What the character finds is that  things from her old world doesn’t make sense anymore in her new situation; and what she finds in her new world doesn’t make sense either.”
Mislina points out that she and her character share some similarities. “I have come to a stage in my life where I am more comfortable with animals than human beings.
“Not so long ago, I had a discussion with some friends and I said: ‘We should live like animals. They eat when they want to eat. They sleep when they want to sleep. They play all the time. They love whoever loves them. They are impulsive and lead a simple life’.”
And if she were to be trapped like her character, Mislina says she would gladly turn herself into an animal to blend with nature and the animals around her.
“Most probably, I will try to act as a monkey living on a tree.”
When asked if she is under pressure to perform, she replies: “When it comes to performing, I always imagine myself as a child and I say to myself: ‘This is my playground, I can do whatever I want and enjoy the playground." 

Mislina Mustaffa plays the lead role in Walls 

The directors  Hari Azizan  & Wong Tay Sy ( Pic By Grey Yeoh) 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ellie Suriaty & Penanggal

Today I am highlighting an interview with actress Ellie Suriaty who talks about her first experience as a film director. This interview appears in theSun on Friday Nov 8. Here is the full article   

Headline: Monster In The Making 
By Bissme S 

AWARD-WINNING actress Ellie Suriaty (below) has just directed her first  film, a horror flick entitled Penanggal (which means ‘detached’) that  will open in cinemas on Nov 28.According to Malay folklore, a penanggal is a woman who makes a pact with the devil to gain supernatural powers. And as in most black magic situations, there is a price to be paid. Some nights, she loses her head which will go wandering in search of  blood. The folklore goes on to describe the head flying with the long, thin bundle of nervous tissue and veins dangling below it twinkling like fireflies in the night. The film centres on Murni (UmmiNazeera) who is forced to inherit the curse of the penanggal when her adopted  mother, Mak Ajeng (Normah Damanhuri) who is a Penanggal, dies.
When many people begin to turn up dead, the angry villagers want Murni destroyed, at any cost. But a religious man, Syed Yusof (Azri  Iskandar), takes pity on her and advises her to turn to God to control the devil inside her. But will the devil leave her alone?
Ellie, 42, was first introduced to the subject of a penanggal in 2006 
when she acted as one in Jo Kukathas’ Antara, a theatre production exploring ghosts of Asian origins. Since then, she has been toying with  the idea of directing a film about it.
She began collecting materials on this folklore and talking to 
villagers, especially the older folk, on this myth. Now, six years 
later, her dream project is finally seeing the light of day.
“I chose this folklore because it is less explored in the Malaysian 
cinema,” says the new director. 
“Unlike the pontianak, a penanggal is not really dead. She is half
human and half monster. It’s interesting to explore this emotionally.”
When asked what she would have done if she were in Murni’s shoes, Ellie says: “If I was turning into a monster, I would wish that I was dead. But I believe there is a solution to every problem we face in our lives. You can always seek God’s mercy.”
She explains the movie is about power and how you should control the power you have so that it does not  overwhelm you.
“As human beings, we must learn to balance the good and the bad,” she adds.
The mystical and horror element is more effective set in a bygone era.Ellie explains: “Since it’sridiculous to see a head detached from
the body flying around the Twin Towers in KLCC, I chose a traditional  setting.”
Ellie made her mark in her first acting role in Teck Tan’s Spinning 
Gasing, a film that dealt with a love story between a Malay girl and a Chinese boy. It was her first foray into films and Tan cast her in
the female lead, Yati. She was only 27.
Many film critics were impressed with her performance. She even won the best actress award at the Cinemaya Festival of Asian Cinema that took place in New Delhi, India, in 2001.
One would have expected Ellie’s career to take off but sadly, she got sidelined and ended up playing supporting roles.
“I remember the film editor of Spinning Gasing, an Australian, telling me to get an agent and try my luck outside Malaysia. He said I would  get offers abroad but I did not want to leave my country.
“And, unfortunately, I did not get offers … I was frustrated. But I did  not allow my frustration to make me a bitter woman. I have no regrets with the way my career had shaped up.
“Today, I am standing in front of you as a director because the journey I had gone through has made me a better person.”
She is happy to see her dream project realised but that has come at a cost. In the second week of the shoot in December 2011, Ellie, who was pregnant with her fourth child, suffered a miscarriage and lost her son, who was stillborn. After burying the child, she came straight back  to work.
“My producers were concerned about me and wanted me to take time off from the shoot,” she recalls. “But I was the captain of the ship and people were depending on me. I had a responsibility towards the production. I couldn’t disappoint them. I did not want to prolong the shooting period.”
Ellie dismisses the notion that the stress of directing her first film had caused the miscarrage. “I could have lost the baby even if I was not doing anything. He was just not fated to be mine ... to keep.”
In a previous pregnancy in 2009, she carried her third child for eight months and her daughter only lived for 15 minutes.
She says: “I’m not angry with God. I think God has been fair to me. He has given me two children. But I have not forgotten about the other two I’ve lost. I know, one day, I’ll meet them in heaven.”

Ellie during the interview with theSun newspaper 

A scene from the  Penanggal ... The village folks are living in fear of ghost that is haunting them. 

The poster of the first film that Eille as film director 

A scene from Penanggal ... UmmiNazeera plays the lead role as Murni 

A scene from Penanggal ... Syed Yusof ( played byAzri  Iskandar )  tries to convince Murni to walk the right road. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sofia Jane

I interviewed the talented actress Sofia Jane recently. She talks about her exciting acting projects and directing a short film that was shown 18th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) 2013 in South Korea. The story appeared in the sun newspaper  on Tuesday Oct 15. Here is the full story.  

Suggested Headline: The Good Wife 
By Bissme S 

Sofia Jane  will be playing the role of a betrayed woman in Teater Kompilasi Nam Ron that will be staged at Damansara Performing Arts Centre from Nov 1 to 3. Sofia’s character, Bulan, is surprised to learn that her husband is charged with killing his mistress.
“My character first learns about her husband’s unfaithfulness when the police inform her that  her husband has been arrested on a murder charge,” says the 41-yearold actress (left) in an exclusive interview with theSun.
“And the next moment, his affair and arrest are all over the media. That is a horrible way to  find out that your husband has been cheating on you.”
Then her character goes through a terrible dilemma –whether to be the perfect wife and support 
her husband during his murder trial – or to leave him and end the marriage. Of course, Sofia is not going to reveal the ending of the story. 
“You have to come and see the play,”she says.
The play also stars Vanidah Imran, Sharifah Amani and Aqasha, and is directed by Nam Ron.This director, who has been presenting cutting-edge productions in the past, also wrote the script  for the play. Sofia finds Nam Ron to be unlike many writers who force their message through to their audience.
“In his works, the unspoken words become the voice for the character,” she says. 
“The great thing about Nam Ron’s play is every time you read his work again, it gets more interesting.”
In this play, Nam Ron is allowing each character his or her say in series of dialogues and monologues. In the case of Bulan, Sofia will be tracing her character’s life with her husband from the moment they met until the point of his betrayal in a monologue.She will be  asking out loud the meaning of being a perfect wife so that the audience can ponder on this  topic. Sofia is also playing a wife in her next project, the much-awaited U-Wei Saari’s film, Hanyut,  that will probably hit the cinemas end of this year.
This is her second stint with the award-winning director. Their first project was Perempuan,  Isteri Dan ...? where she played the adulterous wife, Zaleha. It was the role that shot her to stardom. In Hanyut, she plays Mem who hates her Dutch husband when he sends their 10-year-old daughter Nina to Singapore to be educated in western ways. As she could not forgive him for separating her child from her, she stops talking to
her husband altogether. Many years later, Nina returns home as a beautiful girl and falls madly in love with a Malay man, much to her father’s disapproval. Given the deep animosity Mem feels toward her husband, she encourages Nina to elope with her lover. 
This was U-Wei’s dream project. Since it took him some time to raise the RM18 million needed to do this film, Hanyut was only finished this year.
“When U-Wei first started this project, I was in my 20s,” Sofia recalls. 
“Christine Hakim (the Indonesian actress) was supposed to play the role of Mem and I was supposed to play Nina. Of course, after 13 years and with a few more wrinkles, I could not play the role of the daughter any more. But I had no intention of taking over Christine’s role.”
In fact, Sofia recommended her colleagues for Mem’s role and many of them did turn up for the audition. But in the end, U-Wei wanted Sofia to play Mem. Some who have seen the rough cut of the film have praised her performance and even hinted at the possibility of an award for Sofia. 
“I always try to find some common ground between my life and the characters that I portray,” she says.
“In this case, we are mothers. The greatest thing about being an actor is that you are always representing real people.”
Recently, Sofia directed a short called 1 800 Baby under the banner of the Ikal Mayang: Telling Women Stories, a project initiated by Low Ngai Yuen, who is an executive producer of Garang Pictures. The project gives a platform for women to tell stories through films.
Sofia says: “Someone once told me that there are three types of movies you can make: a movie that will make you money; a movie which you don’t much care if it makes money; and a social
commentary... a film that you are passionate about.”
Her short, 1 800 Baby, falls in the third category. 
“Personally, I feel strongly about this issue called teen pregnancy.”
Her 11-minute film is about an unmarried teenager who has no choice but to give up her child for adoption. Years later, the mother tries to find the child through a TV reality show. Her short was seen at the recent 18th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) 2013 in South Korea, which ended last Saturday. Sofia harbours no desire to direct a feature film in the near future. 
“There is so much I lack and I am not a trained director ... yet.”
Next year, she plans to pursue a degree in performing arts at a London university.
“Ultimately, when I return, I might want to teach. I enjoy teaching and sharing my knowledge.”

Sofia Jane as Mem in Hanyut that will hit Malaysian cinemas in December 

Sofia Jane as Bulan in Teater Kompilasi Namron that will be staged at Damansara Performing Arts Centre from Nov 1 to 3.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Mislina Mustaffa : The Freedom Of Being Shameless

Last year I interviewed Mislina Mustaffa who talks about her interesting project Homeless By Choice.  The article was printed on this blog May 1, 2012. 
This year she has put her experience into  a book called Homeless Buy Choice ( Top picture is the cover of the book).  Datuk Paduka Marina Mahathir has officially launch the book on Thursday Sept 19.  A few days before the book  launch,  Mislina has spoken the sun about the book and the story was uploaded in the Sun online portal on Sept 18, 2013.  Here is the story  

Suggested Headline:  The Freedom of Being Shameless  
By Bissme S 

Last year, actress cum activist Mislina Mustaffa embarked on an interesting project called "Homeless By Choice", where she decided to be homeless for a year. She gave up the place she called home for the last eight years and disposed off most of her belongings. Carrying only the basic essentials in her backpack, she stayed in budget hotels, tents and in the houses of kind strangers who were willing to take her in as a guest.
"French author and feminist Simone de Beauvoir once said that 85% of a woman's daily life is spent cleaning the dirt that keeps coming back," says 42-year-old Mislina.
“When you have no house, you have no dirt to clean. I am curious to see what I'll be doing with 85% of my time."
Mislina's sojourn as a homeless person is finally over. The journal she kept during the time has been turned into a book called "Homeless By Choice" that will be officially launched tomorrow (Sept 19) at 8.30pm at R.A. Fine Arts - The Gallery, Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur. Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir will officiate at the launch. Mislina recently spoke to theSun about being 'homeless' 

* You wanted to be homeless for a year and that year has finally come to an end. Have you got a permanent roof over your head now?

No. I am still homeless. I have decided to embark on another year of being homeless. This time I will be camping at beaches. For the time being I am camping at the Batu Ferringhi beach in Penang.

* How long do you plan to be homeless?

Till I get bored. After a year of camping at the beach, I might want to live in a cave or on the top of a tree for a year. I have come to a stage in my life where I never plan my future. I just go with the flow.

* What can we expect from your book Homeless by Choice?

My book is about the freedom of being shameless. When people talk about a journey that they have taken, they always talk about strength. But I shamelessly tell my readers about the vulnerabilities I felt throughout my journey. I talked about the loneliness I felt. I talked about getting bored with the journey itself. I talked about the vulnerabilities you would not feel if you are in a home surrounded by friends and family.

* What do you hope to achieve from this book?

I asked basic but harsh questions in this book. I asked why do we need to choose to confine ourselves to a structured life? Despite all the education we have, why do we, especially women, have to conform to the idea that our lives will only be perfect if we are married with kids and a home.
A lot of women I know do not want marriage, kids and a house, but they took this path because they worry what society will think of them. I want women to explore their options. I want them to experiment with their lives. When you explore and experiment with life, you have to cross boundaries.
I want them to ask questions. I want them to know that you must never be afraid to ask questions. Small questions will lead to big questions. But asking questions is a taboo in our society. I hope the book will inspire people, especially women, to embark on their own journey.

* Describe an interesting chapter we can find in this book?

Almost every morning, the city council guys come to the Batu Ferringhi beach where I was camping to shoot stray dogs. Personally, I do not feel that stray dogs should be killed. Why should we kill stray dogs? What is their crime? Let them live!
So, every morning when the city council guys arrive, I would tell them that these dogs belong to me. Interestingly these dogs (seven of them) became my protectors. At night, on their own initiative, these dogs would stay outside my tent and guard it. If any strange guy approached, they would bark and scare him away. 

* What have you learnt about yourself from the journey you have taken?

Some of our beliefs are constructed out of fear. When I stayed at the beach, there were many nights when I failed to make a fire. The rain would wipe away the fire I had created. I used to be afraid, wondering how I would live in darkness? However I slowly got adjusted to the darkness, I learned to do things in the dark. Now I am no longer afraid of the darkness.

* Some have labeled you mad for undertaking this homeless project. How do you feel about this label?

"So many great minds like Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein were considered mad at one time. Yet without them we would not have lights and telephones. If I entertain such allegations, then I will stop experimenting with life and I do not want to do that. I want to keep on experimenting with life.”

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Psiko Pencuri Hati

Today Psiko Pencuri Hati Hits the cinemas. I have interview the director of the film Nam Ron and the story appeared in the Sun newspaper on Tuesday September 3.  I am reproducing what was written in the article    One of my favourite quote in the article when the director said : "I think there is a little madness in everyone. But some people are good at hiding it."

Suggested Headline : Going Psychotic 
By Bissme S

DIRECTOR Shahili Abdan,who is better known as Nam Ron, started his career in theatre as anactor, writer and director before switching to helm independent films such as Gedebe, Gadoh and Jalan Pintas.The 45-year-old director has now gone mainstream with his first feature film, Psiko, Pencuri Hati – a thriller which exploresthe theme of murder and madness. It opens in cinemas nationwide on Thursday.
When asked why he is moving in this direction, Nam Ron says: “Like all storytellers, I want to share my story with as many people as possible.”
He is rather excited to be reaching out to a different kind of audience who may not have seen his theatre productions or independent films.
He says: “When I was directing plays, I found it difficult to bring my plays out of Kuala Lumpur ... I  felt I was catering to a niche audience only. If I want to get my stories to a wider audience, I believe only going mainstream will allow me to do that.”
When asked why he waited until now to make the transition, he says: “Nobody offered me a chance to  direct a mainstream film until now.
“But I believe everything in life is fated. If I was given a chance to direct a mainstream movie in my  20s or 30s, I probably would have rejected it as I was not ready.
“Now, I am at the age where I am more comfortable to take up this challenge.”
Psiko, Pencuri Hati centres on a crime-fiction novelist, Sidi (Bront Palarae), who suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). For his latest novel, Sidi is doing research on a serial killer dubbed the ‘Thief of Hearts’,who is still at large.But he hits a wall trying to find out more about this murderer who cut up his victims to remove their hearts.In trying to get into the head of the murderer, he begins to suffer from violent nightmares and hear voices urging him to kill.
His best friend, Man (Amerul Affendi), suggests that they take a break, and so they head off to a resort run by Pak Abu (Suhaimi Yusof) and his young wife, Siti (Shera Aiyob), in Pulau
Pemanggil, off the coast of Mersing.
There, Sidi meets a depressed housewife, Wani (Sharifah Amani), who had suffered three miscarriages and is holidaying with husband Khai (Syed Hussein). As it turns out, Wani is a big fan of Sidi’s novels and she is immediately attracted to the writer, much to Khai’s disgust. Things become complicated when Siti, who has developed feelings for Khai, is found dead on the beach.
Nam Ron is confident that the strength of the screenplay will carry the movie through. 
“Thefilm is very performance driven. Everyone has given a great performance.”
Both the lead actors, Bront and Sharifah Amani, are award winning artistes. Sharifah Amani was named best actress for her performance in Gubra at the 19th Malaysian Film Festival in 2006 while Bront took the best actor award for his performances in Belukar at the 23rd Malaysia Film Festival in 2010.
As for the theme of the film,Nam Ron says: “I think there is a little madness in everyone. But some people are good at hiding it.”
The director himself admits to suffering from extreme depression at a young age but was stopped by a prominent local theatre director from seeking psychological help.
“He told me that I should put my energy into the arts,” recalls Nam Ron, who took that advice  seriously and started dabbling in the acting and writing for the theatre. The rest, as they say, is history.
“The performing arts has given me a purpose in life ... It has cured me from my ‘madness."When I [am involved in] the arts, I feel I exist. I think God has saved  me through this.”

Monday, July 29, 2013

The New Village & Wong Kew Lit

Currently there is a huge spotlight on the Malaysian Chinese made   movie The New Village. Initially the movie is supposed to be hit the cinemas in Aug 22, 2013. Now the authorities has postponed  the movie from releasing to the cinemas because they felt the movie might glorify communism.  
theSun had managed to interview the director of the film  Wong Kew Lit last year ( 2012)  when camera just began shooting on the film.  The article appears in theSun on March 16, 2012 . I dig up my  old truck  and managed find this old  article. Interestingly,  the director had  addressed the issue of communism in the film and the reason motivated him to direct this film . I am  reproducing the interview theSun had carried with the director  last year.   

March 16, 2012 
Headline : Rekindling  The Past 
By Bissme S  

A story of forbidden love set amidst the backdrop of the Malaya Emergency era forms the premise of Wong Kew Lit’s first foray into directing a feature film.
The 41-year-old award-winning director, who has helmed numerous documentaries and television  shows, wants to use this Chinese film to enlighten the younger generation on the sacrifices the early Chinese settlers had to make in order to continue living in a country they had grown to love.
The New Village 1949 is set during the Malayan Emergency when the country is still in the midst  of a guerrilla war after the end of World War II. Once allies  against the Japanese invading 
force, British Commonwealth troops are now battling the Malayan People’s Anti- Japanese Army which has been reformed as the Malayan People’s Liberation  Army intent on kicking out these colonialists.
The female protagonist in the story is only 18 years old when her whole family is forced into a resettlement camp in a new village. This is part of the colonial  government’s strategies under 
the Briggs Plan (named after General Sir Harold Briggs, the British Army’s director of  operations in Malaya) to cut local support for the ‘insurgents’.
During this chaotic period, the girl falls in love with a man who has retreated into the jungle to fight against the colonial forces. The two young people defy the 
strict rules of the new village to establish a relationship. Playing the leads are modelturned- actor Kevin Soo and Miss Astro Chinese International 2011 Leena 
Lim. Shooting for this movie, which started last week, will be carried out over 30 days. The film, budgeted at RM3 million, is expected to be released before the end of the year.
Wong, who has been in show business for more than 15 years, shares his thoughts on his maiden movie in this exclusive interview. 

* What is your aim of making this film?

Much of what had happened in the past is not written in our history books. They became untold stories and one of them concerns the establishment of new  villages in Malaya.
The new villages were first set up in 1949. The British opened 480 such villages all over Malaya and forced some half a million Chinese folks living close to the jungles to relocate there in 
order to cut off food and medical supplies to the communists. The British then destroyed the people’s homes so that they could not return. Many people thought those new villages were just like any other normal villages, but they were  wrong.These families were actually put into trucks and brought to a piece 
of vacant land, surrounded by a fence, that was alien to them. They did not get enough food and could only be out of the camp between 6am and 3pm. They had no freedom at all.
I want to tell the younger Chinese generation that the life they are enjoying now is the result  of the sacrifices made by their forefathers. We must appreciate what they had done. The film 
shows they did what they had to do because they loved this land very much. 

* You made this movie because you wanted to show how much the Chinese loved this country. Yet certain quarters consider the Chinese as pendatang (immigrants). How do you feel about this?

I was born here. I’m sad some people consider us as pendatang but I’m not angry. Anger is useless … it only leads to conflicts and nothing good ever comes out of it.
I feel the word pendatang prevents Malaysians from being united. If people understand our history, then perhaps none will call us pendatang. The Chinese have been in this land long before independence. Chinese schools have been around for more than 200 years. We helped fight for the independence of this country. We helped to build this nation.

* Some see these communists as heroes who started a revolution while others see them as enemies of the state. How do you view them?

We have different ways of interpreting history. My interpretation is that the Emergency era was a chaotic period in our history and there were no heroes. Everyone was doing his or herbest to survive and to protect this land. In the history of any nation, there are lots of sad and dark moments. But what’s important is forgiveness. We need to forgive each other – even our enemies. Only then can we carry on with our lives. But we must never forget our history.

*Historical films usually do not pull in the crowd, especially the younger generation. How do you think The New Village 1949 will fare?

This is not a historical film. History is just the background. This is a love story between two people who are separated by the fence of a new village and the political climate of the country. It’s just like Titanic. The director had used the history (of the sinking ship) to tell a forbidden love story and I’m doing the same thing here.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Father's Love

Since June is the month where we celebrate father's day. I am highlighting a  touching story between a father and son that I have done and was published in theSun newspaper on June 18, 2013 

Headline : Precious Time Together 
By Bissme S 

It is  never easy for a son to bury his father. But when the situation is reversed, the pain can be far more excruciating. Jimadie Shah Othman, 33, knows well this emotion. He recently lost his eldest son, Adam Azfar, who was only six, to brain tumour.
He suspected that something was not right last November when he saw that Adam was walking unsteadily. It was discovered that Adam had a 3.5cm tumour in his brain. As Adam was too young to have surgery and chemotherapy, the only medical solution was 30 sessions of radiotherapy.
“I was ignorant and thought Adam will be completely cured after the 30 sessions,” he says.
The doctor did not have the heart to tell the hopeful father that his son would not live long. But Jimadie did his research on the internet and learnt that people with his son’s illness had only six to seven months to live.
“After the doctor had confirmed what I learnt to be the truth, I broke down and cried,” he said. “Out of the blue, an African guy who was a patient in the hospital came and hugged me. I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me. He could see that I was in pain and he just wanted to console me.”
Jimadie hid his sadness so he could be strong for his son. Adam’s health deteriorated to the point where he could not use his legs and hands.
“All he could do was to sit, sleep and watch television,” Jimadie says. “He could only consume liquid food and it broke my heart whenever he begged me for KFC and his favourite biscuits.”
Adam’s illness brought Jimadie closer to God. Initially, he was angry with God over what had happened to his son.
“I prayed but I felt God had not listened to me,” he says. “I felt God did not help me. I was questioning why people had to fall sick. I was questioning why people had to die.
“I have not found the answers. But I have learnt to accept that some things are fated.
“Looking back now, I think God has been more than fair and kind to me. He had given me six years of happiness with Adam and only six months of sadness.”
In the hope of finding a cure for his terminally ill son, Jimadie even sought the help of bomohs.
“I am not the types who believe in the bomohs,” he says. “But when your son is ill, you become desperate and you are willing to believe in anything that will cure him. I read all kinds of silly mantras and followed rituals that made no sense. You can believe in alternative medicines and herbs but I would suggest that you stay away from the bomohs.”
Many of his friends and even strangers had contributed money as well as support to Jimadie when his son was ill. There was one stranger who’d heard about Adam’s situation in Facebook and travelled several times from Seremban to Kuala Lumpur just to visit Adam.
“I saw a lot of kindness,” Jimadie says.
It was on May 27 around 10am that Adam took his last breath.
“The previous night my son was not breathing properly,” he says. “I had to call the doctor to the house.”
The doctor informed Jimadie that he had two choices – either to put Adam on life support system or let him die peacefully.
Not wanting to prolong his son’s misery, Jimadie chose the second option and 13 hours later, Adam was no longer around.
“He died in my arms,” Jimadie recalls. “Adam was my first born and I learnt the art of fatherhood through him. It will be difficult to forget him. The first four months when Adam was born, I dared not hold him in my hands because I was afraid I will drop him.
“He was very close to me. He was like my best friend. Whenever I was free, I used to take him on my motorbike and we would have fun roaming around the neighbourhood.”
One wonders how his wife, Emme Nurelyanna Sazali, 32 and his two other children – Iman, five and Sophie, nine months old – are coping now without Adam.
“My wife used to run a tudung business online,” he says.
“But she stopped because she was too busy with her full time teaching job and her duties as mother and wife. After Adam’s death, I asked her to go back to her online business. When your mind is occupied, you grieve less.
“As for my two children, I think they are too young to understand the concept of death and sadness.”
The assistant editor with the news portal Malaysiakini has plans to write a book on his  experience with Adam in the future.
“I hope the book will be a guide to fathers who are in the same shoes as I am,” Jimadie says. “I wish to share my experience with them.”

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Usman Awang

Today I am highlight a story that focuses on a well known poet, the late  Usman Awang from the eyes her daughter Haslina Usman. This interview appeared on Friday June 14 … two days away from June 16 which is father’s day.  

Haslina with her father when she was 16 year old.

Headline: A Daddy  Girl 
By Bissme S

THERE is a saying that no man can love a girl the way her own father does and Haslina Usman can testify to this.
The way she talks about her father, the national laureate, and late Datuk Usman Awang, one can see that he had been a great influence in her life. One of her most beautiful memories of her father was the many conversations they had on the swing in the garden of their home.
"He was the first person who exposed me to the world of arts," says the eldest child of the well known poet and writer.
"He took me to my first ballet performance and my first art exhibition. He would always ask for my opinions and my views on what I had seen and heard."
Another beautiful memory was when her dad watched her perform the traditional Malay dance performance called Puteri Sadong.
"I was so proud to have my father in the audience," says Haslina who now runs a bakery business called Cakes By Lyna.
"He always made a point to be there when his children needed him, no matter how busy he was."
From the late 60s to the early 70s, her dad was constantly travelling to various countries in Europe and America, as a guest poet and a writer.
"I was just a kid then, and I missed him very much whenever he was away," she recalls. "He missed me, too so he would send me postcards where ever he went. I loved rings and I would ask him to get me rings that reflected the culture of the countries that he had visited.
"Dad would take the trouble just to fulfil my request. Once, he even went to a Red Indian settlement in America, just to get a ring for me."
When Haslina was a teenager, her father would keep a hawk eye on her movements.
"My two brothers enjoyed greater freedom than I, and I was angry at my father for treating us differently," she says.
"Looking back now, I understand his reasons better. Fathers are always over protective of their daughters compared to their sons because they do not want anything unforeseen to happen to them, being girls. He was just looking out for me."
Strangely enough, Usman never wanted any of his four children to follow in his footsteps to become a poet or a writer.
"He always told us that a writer's life is a difficult life, and that he did not want any of us to have that kind of life," she says.
Since her father passed away in 2001, Haslina has been writing poems. But she has no intention of publishing her works.
"My works are not important," she says. "What is important is that I keep my father's legacy alive."
She has taken over the publishing company - UA Enterprises Sdn Bhd - that her father had set up in the 70s. The objective of the company is to promote her father's works which comprise of more than 300 poems and 100 short stories.
She is utterly sad to learn that younger generations have a vague idea of who her father was.
"My father has contributed a lot to the literary world and I did not want him to fade away," she says.
As part of reaching out to the young and hip readers, she has collaborated with Fixi publication to publish Yang Nakal-Nakal which features her father's works - 17 short stories and eight poems. The book will be officially launched and sold this Sunday, June 16 at 2pm at The Annexe Gallery, Central Market.
"Fixi has a steady set of young loyal readers who are always buying books that they published, she says, eager to expose this new generation of readers who might not have heard of her father.
Her other project is to publish another book entitled Kekasih featuring 40 of her late father's poems. She is also getting visual artists to translate her father's poems into art.
"It will be their interpretation of my father's work," she says.
If everything goes well, Kekasih will be launched at an event known as Hari Usman Awang on July 20. For this event, Haslina will be collaborating with two artistic bodies - Sebudi and Kelab Athma Jiwa.
She cited the pillar of strength in her father's life to be her mother. When her mother passed away in 1999 from an asthma attack, her father was not the same person any more.
"My mother's death was really unexpected," Haslina says.
"Dad did not have the mood to write after that. He became very sick without my mum around and his health deteriorated further."
Three years later, on Nov 29, 2001, Usman finally succumbed to heart complications.
When asked to name one thing that many people do not know about her father, Haslina laughs and says: "During his last days, when he was sick, my father loved to watch cartoons with my two children. One of his favourite cartoons was Tom & Jerry. It was nice to see him laugh."

The cover of the book that was recently launched
Haslina Usman ... wants to keep her father's legacy alive among the the young generation