Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Daven, CCTV

Today my interview with the film maker Daven R was published in theSun today.  Here is the full story: 

Headline: The Man In Charge  
By Bissme S

A Good film has to have a good story. That is what local cinematographer Daven R. believes. Last year, when he directed his first feature film, CCTV, he applied this principle to his work.
“The main strength of CCTV is the storyline which has a few
interesting twists,” said the 43- year-old Daven.
This suspense thriller with a touch of horror opens in cinemas on July 30. The RM1.5 million movie focuses on a technician, Hariri (played by Aeril Zafrel), who is instructed by his boss to fix a CCTV camera in an old hospital.
While repairing the camera, he accidentally falls, knocking himself out and injuring his head and leg. When he regains consciousness, he finds himself a patient at the hospital.
While recuperating, he meets some creepy patients and begins seeing strange things.The doctor in charge, Dr Muthalib (Hasnol Rahmat), is a mysterious man who runs the hospital with an iron fist.
As time passes, Hariri has difficulty differentiating what is real and what is not. When he decides to investigate these strange happenings in the hospital, a shocking surprise awaits him.
Other members in the cast include Ardel Aryana, Jeff Omar, Dino Pak and Asliza Abdullah.
“The actors did a terrific job with their characters, giving
excellent performances to make their roles believable,” said Daven, who cited Hollywood’s Steven Spielberg and India’s Manirathnam as his favourite directors.
Although CCTV is his first feature film , Daven is not a rookie in the film industry. He made his debut as a cinematographer in 1999 for the critically-acclaimed indie film Bukak Api which focused on sex workers in Kuala Lumpur’s Chow Kit Road.
Since then, he has been a cinematographer for countless local films such as Gong, Susuk, Cun and Adnan Sempit, with a career spanning 15 years. One wonders what took him so long to direct his own film.
Daven said: “Directing a movie is almost like playing God. You decide everything that goes on the set, from the beginning to the end. You decide how a film should be shaped.
“So, I cannot just sit in the director’s chair. I took as much time as I needed to sharpen my skills. The more work I did as a cinematographer, the more knowledge I gained to be a director.”
Daven admits having some regrets directing his first feature film so late in his career.
“Today, you’ll find many young filmmakers directing their first feature film the moment they graduate from school,” he says.
“They are hardly 25, and they have already directed their first feature film!
“Having said that, I must be grateful that I did not abandon my dream to be a filmmaker. It is better late than never.”
His biggest influences came from his dad, a film projectionist.
“My father had a mobile cinema,” said Daven. 
“He travelled from one small town to another to screen the films.”
Sometimes, Daven would follow his dad and help him set up the mobile cinema. Seeing the audiences’ reaction to the films inspired him to be a filmmaker.
When asked what is the philosophy behind his direction,
Daven says: “I want to direct movies that touch the emotions and have human values. [Look at] Iranian movies. They have simple plots. But their simple plots have a lot of subtext and deep messages.”
Daven is already in the middle of writing the script for his second feature film. Called Thambi, it will have Tamil and Bahasa Malaysia dialogue. The story focuses on two childhood friends, one Indian, and the other Malay.The Indian boy is forced to leave his village and his best friend to live in a big city. Years later, fate reunites them. This time, they are enemies. The Indian boy has become a gangster while the Malay boy is now a police inspector. If everything goes well, Daven says he will begin shooting Thambi next year. 

the director on the set 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Siti Nurhaliza

The popular singer Siti Nurhaliza talks to theSun about putting a musical theatre production that will tell the story of her life to her fans out there. Read here for the full story.  

Headline: A Musical About Siti 
By Bissme S

Malaysian  diva Datuk Siti Nurhaliza, 36, will be telling the story of her life in a musical theatre production that is planned to be staged for eight days in November at Istana Budaya. Konsert Musical Fragment Datuk Siti Nurhaliza will focus on her childhood years, her success in music and her present-day life. The 36-year-old singer wants to do something special for her many loyal fans
who have been supporting her for the last 20 years, and she feels this musical will be the perfect gift.
“The musical will give my fans a glimpse of my life behind the glamorous stage persona,” she said of the three-hour production which is still in the planning stages.
It will also look at her controversial marriage to the man who stole her heart, Datuk Seri Khalid Muhammad Jiwa, better known as Datuk K. They were married in 2006. Siti is now looking for actresses to play her through the various stages of her life, as well as an actor to play her husband. She said the musical will likely have two different actresses playing her – a child actress to represent her in her childhood, and a younger actress to play her when she first started her career in music.
“I will make an appearance near the end of the musical,” Siti said. 
“Of course, I will sing too.”
She has a few names in mind but declines to reveal who they are for now. She said she will announce the cast when the time is right.
Besides music and dances, the musical will also have footage of her childhood and teenage years projected on a screen. Some of this footage has never been shown in public before.
More recently, on the music front, Siti has released her latest album,
Datuk Siti Nurhaliza Unplugged, which has 18 tracks featuring stripped down versions of her songs.
The recording of this album took place when she held a two hour, soldout concert called Datuk Siti Unplugged at Istana Budaya in April this year. During the show, she sang all her popular hit songs from her 20-year career.
“It was always my dream to perform an unplugged concert,” she said. 
“My concert was only held for one day and it played to a full house. Many of my fans did not even manage to get tickets to see my concert.”
That motivated her to release this album for the many fans who did not manage to catch her concert and also for those who want to hear her songs again.
Siti also lamented on the current state of the entertainment industry in Malaysia. She agrees with the many local singers who have complained that the Malaysian music industry is in a terrible shape. Yet, she believes there is still hope to revive the industry.
“We need corporate companies to support local singers whenever we have concerts here,” she said.
“When foreign artistes come here to perform, their concerts get a good response.
“We have many good singers, from Jaclyn Victor to Anuar Zain, who can pull in the crowd. Without strong sponsors, it is difficult for Malaysian singers to hold concerts.”
When asked if she has any other goals in life, Siti said: ”I would like to hold concerts outside Malaysia. I want to entertain my fans abroad.”
She hinted that perhaps a concert in London or Australia would be a good start. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Fadli Al- Akiti

Today theSun published my interview Fadli Al- Akiti who spoke about writing science fiction in his national language.

Headline: Going Beyond Reality 

FADLI AL-AKITI is one of those science fiction authors who can draw their readers into a world that is totally different from the one we all live in, a world that is created purely from their imagination.
Fadli  who is also the editor of Dewan Sastera (a magazine under the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka stable), has so far come out with four science fiction books, including the latest, Gugurnya Azazil,published by Simptomatik Press.
The book was released in April and is now available in major bookstores.The story takes place in the future where an entity is slowly destroying the universe. An astronaut takes up the dangerous task of returning to the present day to stop the creature.
Fadli’s other books also have similarly thrilling plots. His first book, Jian, was published in 2003. He wrote it when he was just 18 after his form five exams. The book tells of an isolated village where the people are suddenly dying from what looks like an alien virus.
Fadli’s second novel Saga Horizon came out five years later. The story is set in a future where Earth has become a barren place, and the human race has lost its humanity.
Early this year, he co-wrote Leksikon Ledang with science fiction author Nor Azida Ishak. This story has several interlinked plotlines, beginning with a biochemist who is conducting experiments using
mosquito DNA. At the same time, an illegal logger is attacked by something strange after finding some treasure in the middle of a forest.The story then shifts back to the 16th century, where a 
beautiful princess confronts a king who promises to give her the blood of an innocent boy. Leksikon Ledang recently won the second prize at the Sayembara Fiksyen Sains & Teknology UTM–Kumpulan Utusan science fiction novel competition.
Fadli is now working on his fifth book, which deals with the concept of artificial intelligence and the apocalypse. He spoke to theSun in this exclusive interview about the challenges of being a Malay science fiction writer.

*Who sparked your interest in writing science fiction?

My mother is a big fan of science fiction films. She used to take me to see these films,such as Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. From movies, I went on to read science fiction novels. That was when I became exposed to authors like H.G. Wells, Frank Herbert and Michael Crichton.I wanted to find out if there were any authors writing this genre in the national language. That’s when I discovered our own Rahmat Haroun. I consider him to be the father of Malay science fiction novels.

*What are some of the biggest challenges you faced?

Before Simptomatik Press, I presented Gugurnya Azazil to two other publishers. But they told me that my book was only for children. I think that is a very myopic view. Science fiction appeals to everyone, not just children. If the local publishing industry wants grow, we need to broaden our horizons. Look at the Harry Potter books. Even adults are reading them.
On another occasion, the publishers were not happy with the cloning element in Saga Horizon. They felt I was
going against Islamic teachings, and asked me to rewrite those chapters. I felt as if I was forced to kill my unborn child. But in the end, everything worked out for the best and I’m happy with the
changes I made.Now, you can find many Malay science fiction novels tackling the issue of cloning.

* As a Muslim writer, do you censor yourself when writing your novels?

I would like to think that I do not censor myself. As a Muslim writer, I always put God first.But I believe you can blend religion and science in your work.
I also believe science fiction readers are smart. They will not easily label you murtad (apostate) just because you brought the dead back to life.In fact, my favourite author Rahmat tackled this theme in his novel Di. Ar. Ti (about a doctor who is obsessed about resurrecting the dead), which was published in the 1990s.

*What do you think of the Malay-language science fiction scene?

When I started writing, it was a niche market. But today, the market has grown. Now, there are many readers who want to read Malay science fiction with original ideas. They do not want to read books that copy ideas from western science fiction.Writing science fiction is not child’s play. You have to do a lot of research and gather a lot of scientific data before writing your story.In science fiction, you are dealing with impossibilities, and it is your job as a writer to make the impossible look believable to your readers. And you can only achieve that aim if you have done your research properly.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Kerja Kahwin & Anwardi Jamil

Today theSun publishes my interview with director Anwardi Jamil  who is making a Malaysian film that focuses a traditional Malay wedding.

Headline : Marrying Culture
By Bissme S  

A traditional Malay wedding is the central focus of Anwardi Jamil’s latest film Kerja Kahwin that will open in cinemas at the end of the year.
“There are few Malaysian movies that highlight the beauty of Malay culture,” says Anwardi, who not only directed the film but also wrote the script.
Instead, he points to Indonesian filmmakers who had brilliantly highlighted their culture in their films. He cites, for example, Ifa Isfansyah’s 2011 film Sang Penari, which features ronggeng, a type of Javanese dance. The film went on to win best picture and best director at the Indonesian Film Festival. Last year, another Indonesian filmmaker, Adriyanto Dewo, highlighted the traditional nasi padang in his film, Tabula Rasa, which has been gaining rave reviews in Indonesia as well as abroad. Nasi padang is a traditional dish from Padang, the capital of West Sumatra. It comprises steamed rice served with various choices of meat and vegetables. In the case of Anwardi’s Kerja Kahwin, the film centres on Farah who is fulfilling her grandmother’s wish to have a traditional Malay village wedding instead of a modern one in an expensive hotel. But preparing for a wedding is never an easy affair. This is evident in the film where chaos, tension and confusion reign. There are also funny moments that will make you laugh.
To Anwardi, “a Malay wedding is the perfect vehicle to showcase our Malay culture without being pretentious”.
He adds: “A Malay wedding has everything – food, music, dance, culture and also a lot of weird relatives.”
But he laments that a lot of cultural elements in Malay weddings are slowly disappearing.
“If you go to an urban Malay wedding that takes place in a hotel, you will find the sound of the kompang (a Malay traditional drum) being played from a CD player. They no longer hire kompang players.
“A few even discard some of the ceremonies performed in a Malay wedding such as bunga telur (to signify fertility) and merenjis air mawar (sprinkling of the rosewater on both the bride and groom) because these ceremonies [allegedly] go against Islamic teachings.
“I think that is very sad. The Malay culture has been in existence for thousands of years and we should be cherishing our culture, not discarding them, so easily.
“If you keep saying some of the ceremonies in Malay weddings are against Islamic teachings, then what you are implying is that the things our grandmothers and our greatgrandmothers did for their wedding ceremonies were un-Islamic! I really believe our culture can co-exist peacefully with our religion.” 
Kerja Kahwin is Anwardi’s fourth film. Interestingly, the movie is made with a budget of only RM400,000 and the entire movie was shot within five days in April in Janda Baik, Pahang.
Anwardi says: “I want to make big movies but big movies require big budgets. There are very few producers who are willing to fork out that kind of money.”
So Anwardi decided to be creative and worked within the budget he could get.
“I had a good production team and the weather was good to me and that is reason I managed to wrap this film up in a short period of time.”
Playing Farah is newcomer Janna Nick (inset and above) while the grandmother is played by veteran actress Datuk Rosnani Jamil (above), who is also Anwardi’s mother. Others in the cast include A.R. Badul (above, left), Aziz M. Osman, Mubarak Majid and Saharuddin Thamby.
Anwardi has plans to show the film in international film festivals including the Venice film festival.
“The cultural aspect of the film will appeal to foreign audiences out there,” he reasons.
 He is also writing the script for his next film, One Night in Happy World, based on how the popular song, Selamat Hari Raya, came about in 1958. The song was composed by the late legendary P. Ramlee while the lyrics was written by his late father, film director Datuk Jamil Sulong.
“At that time, the local film industry was located in Singapore and there was an actors’ strike,” he says. “To earn extra money, the actors decide to put on a variety show at a well-known nightclub called Happy World. “That is where the Hari Raya song was born.”
He says he plans on shooting the film next year.

Anwardi ... we should cherishing our culture.