Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Hanyut & U Wei

I met the well known film director U- Wei Saari at Chawan, Bangsar and asked the following questions. This interview was published in theSun today. Here is the full article  

Headline: Bleeding For His Art  

Award winning filmmaker U-Wei Saari has put his heart, soul and sweat into his latest masterpiece, Hanyut, an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s 1895 debut novel Almayer s Folly. 
The story centres on Dutch trader Kasper Almayer living in colonial Malaya who dreams of finding a mythical gold mountain. He faces many enemies, including his own scheming wife, Mem. Starring Peter O’Brien, Diana Danielle, Sofia Jane, Adi Putra and Khalid Salleh, Hanyut (top) will open in cinemas at the end of this year. 
During a recent preview of a rough cut of Hanyut, UWei (below) answered some questions posted to him. 

* Hanyut has a budget of RM18 million. Some would say this is too much. 

Four years from now, everyone will say: ‘U-Wei was right, you need that amount of money to make an international film’. If you want a wedding dinner that [has good food], you have to pay for it. Same goes for movies. In the past, people said that my film Kaki Bakar (the first Malaysian movie shown at the Cannes Film Festival) was not a film because it was shot with a video camera. Now, many people are using video cameras to make films. 

*In all your films, your protagonists are always flawed. Why the fascination with flawed characters? 

“Angels are boring because they have no flaws. Angels are jealous of humans because humans have flaws. We have the choice to be good or to be bad. The best thing in life is to have choices.” 

*You like to feature bad marriages in all your movies. Any reason? 

“I am unlucky in that field (laugh). I write good bad marriages. Bad marriages give you drama, and a dysfunctional family is more interesting.” 

*What motivated you to turn Conrad’s novel into a movie? 

You cannot go wrong with a good book. Conrad’s not so condescending in the way he portrays us in his novel. It’s also interesting to see a white man afraid of a Malay woman. Conrad understands the mystery of a Malay woman. Men like to believe that they are smart and they can manipulate women. But in reality, women are the smarter ones, and they manipulate men.” 

*How faithful are you to the adaptation of this novel? 

The only thing you should be faithful to is to your wife and even that is very difficult for me. I believe in creative infidelity. I am not here to film his book. I am here to interpret it. When I made Jogho, I told the author (S. Othman Kelantan) that I cannot be faithful to [his works], and that his novel is just raw material to me. “In an interview, he jokingly said: ‘U-Wei is very clever and when he writes the script, he did not even see me’. But he likes the movie. I believe a filmmaker should not be intimidated by the author behind the book he is adapting.

* What do you feel when you watch Hanyut, again? 

I feel like throwing up. I try not to watch my movies after I have edited them. 

*So, you are not proud of Hanyut? 

“I am proud of all my works. But it hurts me whenever I watch my movies again. I wish I could have directed them better. “I always doubt myself [at every] creative moment. But doubt is good. Doubt makes you think. When you have doubt, you are not full of yourself.” 

*Your movies do well at international film festivals but never locally. 

I feel disappointed. I feel like Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. There is a famous line she said: ‘I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.’ I am the same. 
Her other favourite line is: ‘I don’t want realism. I want magic’. I want the same thing, too [for my movies].” 

*DuBois ends up in a mental hospital. Will you suffer the same fate? 

Sometimes, the Malaysian film industry can be like a mental institution – the haphazardness, the lack of infrastructure, and the regimented rules … We have campaigns like bring Malaysian movies to international cinemas and encourage filmmakers to think outside of the box. The clich├ęd taglines of these campaigns are not even fit to be written on a T-shirt.” 

*Why don’t you make more commercial movies? 

I want to hang on to my vision. I have to do the kind of movies I want to do. That is my curse. Of course, I get hurt a lot. But I survived. I can sleep easily. I do not suffer from bad dreams. Some make films because they want to tell the world they are filmmakers. That is why you see them rushing [around] making one film after another. I do not need that. I take my time to make movies. There are few things I want to say in my films. 

*What are some of them? 

Not all marriages are good. 

*Do you ever feel like quitting? 

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

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