The first interview took place in 2011 with the director of Hanyut U- Wei Haji Shaari. He just finished directing the film and he had shown the film to me. The interview was published in theSun on Feb 16, 2011.
Then, four years later, in 2016, another interview was done with U- Wei and the article was published in theSun on March 15, 2016.
We also conducted an interview with the talented actress Sofia Jane who played vital role in the film and the interview was published in theSun on Oct 13 2016.
Our last interview for Hanyut was an interview with the actress Diana Danielle. This young actress got a solid role in Hanyut. The interview was published in theSun on Oct 25 2016. Below are all the interviews that has taken place under the Sun
1) Interview with U- Wei, the film maker for Hanyut ( published in the Sun Feb 16, 2011)
Headline: Firm Handle on Life
By Bissme S
Movie by director U-Wei Saari – with the exception of Perempuan, Isteri Dan … – do not appeal to most Malaysian movie-goers. But they never fail to strike a chord with critics as well as make an impression at international film festivals.
His films are on the cutting edge and always have moments that touch your heart and make you question life, just like his latest film, Hanyut.
During a preview of the movie’s rough cut, the opening scene already seems like an attention grabber. A furious woman (played by Sofea Jane), with tears streaming down her eyes, is seen running along a river. Then she jumps in and swims towards a paddle-wheel steam boat. A smaller boat appears and a white man grabs her hair ... Based on Joseph Conrad’s first novel, this epic film tells the story of Kaspar Almayer, a Dutch trader in Borneo during the 19th century. His dream of finding a mythical mountain that is filled with gold is challenged by his scheming wife, the colonial authorities, the political machinations of the local chief and Arab traders, and his daughter’s love for a Malay prince.
The film’s cinematography is likely to leave you breathless while the performance seem impressive as well. Besides Sofea Jane, the cast includes Adi Putra, Alex Komang and Diana Danielle.
After the short screening, the director shared his thoughts in an interview:
What can you say about Hanyut ?
The film is so not Hollywood. It is ridiculous to see a white doctor trying to save Calcutta (In City of Joy) or a white widow teaching the king of Siam (The King and I). As one of the characters says in the movie, what do they (the whites) know about us and this country?
Humans are supposed to forget (and get on with life). The meaning of insan (human) in Arab means “to forget”. If you cannot forget, then you will be damned.
The budget for the movie is RM13 million. Is it justified?
I need to raise another RM5 million to complete it. I wanted to make a good film, which is difficult and not many people are willing to go through the pain. When people watch my film, I don’t want them to say: “Ah, untuk filem Malaysia, boleh lah (Ah, for a Malaysian film can do-lah).”
When I did Perempuan, Isteri Dan ..., producers in Malaysia were making movies with a budget of RM250,000. But I told my producer that my film will cost RM1 million. These days, it’s normal for Malaysian films to have budgets exceeding RM1 million.
Hence, I’m giving my current film the money it needs. I’m not saying money is the only answer to making a good film. Money is a big factor. Movies are about visuals. Once you are satisfied with this, then your soul will tell you to feel for the movie.
So profit doesn’t matter to you?
It’s not at the top of my priorities but it matters. I don’t like being poor.
Your films deal with similar themes – alienation, misplacement, bad relationships and identity crisis.
A filmmaker has only one film to produce in his lifetime and the rest are just variations (of it).
The endings in all your movies are always dark and depressing. Why?
My films are about hope. In Perempuan, Isteri Dan ..., the lead character gets killed but death is not the end. Death can be a rebirth. To be a martyr, you must die. In Kaki Bakar, the son killed his (abusive) father because he wants to move forward. Even in Hanyut, the character says: ‘I cannot forget’. It’s a hint that perhaps he might do something to revive his old dreams.
Do you watch local movies? What do you think of them?
I do but they do not draw me to have a discussion. Filmmakers here believe they have a formula to follow and neglect the craftsmanship of filmmaking but there is no formula in filmmaking. Our presentation is not good. So it’s difficult for us to penetrate the international market. I respect anybody who can finish a film because filmmaking is tough. That’s why I go and watch local films. But I feel sad when they have no soul. There are two types of Malay films – one teaches you to dream while the other reflects the the life the character leads and asks the audience: ‘What about your life?’
All art must be political and erotic. But erotic here is not vulgar. Erotic here means sensuous
2) Interview U - Wei, the director for Hanyut ( Published in theSun March 15 2016)
3) Interview with Sofia Jane, the lead actress of Hanyut ( published in theSun on Oct 12 2016)
By Bissme S
WATCHING the rough cut of U-Wei Saari’s much-awaited film Hanyut, screened for a selected audience, is an eyeopening experience.
The opening scene is dramatic, where actress Sofia Jane, looking distraught and crying her eyes out, runs towards the river to prevent a boat from leaving. She even jumps into the water to do that. Then, out of nowhere, another boat appears with a white man onboard. He grabs Sofia by the hair and drags her back to shore. Meanwhile, Sofia is screaming her heart out …
As the film progresses, we learn that Sofia is playing Mem Putih, a Malay woman of Betawi origins who is married to Dutch trader Kasper Almayer, played by Australian actor Peter O’Brien. Almayer has just heartlessly separated Mem from their 10year-old daughter Nina, who is being sent to Singapore to attend school there and learn to be a Westerner.
The opening scene finally makes sense: the boat Mem is chasing is taking her daughter away and the man who is stopping her is her husband.
Mem begins to hate her husband for separating her from their daughter. She becomes a bitter woman and wants to inflict her pain on her husband. Revenge has blinded her to the point that she is even willing to use their daughter to hurt the man she hates. Hanyut, based on Joseph Conrad’s first novel Almayer’s Folly, will open in cinemas here on Nov 24.
When U-Wei first came out with the idea of turning this particular novel into a film 15 years ago, he had award-winning Indonesian actress Christine Hakim for the role of Mem in mind.
But as time passed and taste changed, U-Wei decided to give Sofia the role instead. Watching the film, one can say that U-Wei has made the right choice because Sofia has nailed the role of a frustrated mother and bitter woman brilliantly.
The actress had read the novel years ago. When she was offered the role in Hanyut, she picked up the novel again and explored the role of Mem Putih in more detail.
“Conrad’s depiction of Mem Putih had intrigued me,” says the 44-year-old Sofia.
“I believe her pervasive rationality is instrumental to the story. Set in the 1800s, we see a cultured and liberal Malay woman. This opened up a whole new set of possibilities for me as an actor and a woman.
“In all honesty, such characters are often found in books but rarely documented in films.”
Sofia enjoyed shooting the scene where her character Mem is finally reunited with her daughter Nina after 10 years. The grown-up Nina is played by Diana Danielle.
The scene where the mother and daughter try to find common ground to reconnect after years of being apart is both touching and emotional.
Mem’s pain and bitterness of having her child taken away from her has led the actress to go back to a period in her life she had not wanted to revisit. Years ago, Sofia had lost her son.
“All those emotions came rushing back once the rehearsal started,” she recalls.
“I embraced Mem from day one. There is nothing fictional about those feelings.”
In fact, Sofia can also relate to the emotional feelings that her screen daughter Nina goes through in Hanyut. Nina is constantly searching for her identity, whether she is a westerner or a Malay. And like Nina, Sofia comes from a British-and-Malay parentage. Hanyut features an international cast and crew and Sofia cherishes the experience working with them.
“To have an international cast and production crew deconstructing and contributing towards a slice of our history, our culture and our language has been amazing,” she says.
Hanyut also sees her reuniting with the director. The first time they worked together was in UWei’s controversial debut film, Perempuan, Isteri Dan ….
“Working with people I like and being comfortable is important,” she says.
“U-Wei has much faith in his team and vice versa, and this is important on a film set. He has been a wonderful and trusted friend which is why I will never say no to working with him.”
When asked what is the the biggest challenge being a Malaysian actor, she says: “It’s to remain challenged and curious. You can only do that if you get the chance to work with people who keep you on your toes. Great materials are not easy to come by. In six years’ time, I will be 50. I am telling myself not to compete against the giants because performing has never been about that.”
4) Interview Diana Danielle actress of Hanyut ( published in theSun Oct 25, 2016)
Headline : Finding Her Identity
By Bissme S
ONE could say that the role was tailormade for Diana Danielle. The 25-year-old actress is portraying the character of Nina in the much anticipated Hanyut, set to open in cinemas on Nov 24.
Nina is the product of mixed parentage. Her father is a Dutch trader, while her mother is a Malay midwife. In the film, Nina goes through an identity crisis, torn between her Malay and Western roots.
“I could relate to Nina instantly,” says Diana.
Diana herself comes from a mixed heritage. Her father is an American, while her mother is a Malay.
“When I am in America, they see me as a Malay, and when I am in Malaysia, people treat me as a Westerner,” she explained.
She recalled going to her mother’s kampung as a child to visit her distant relatives. They immediately brought a chair for her to sit. “They felt I was not ‘Malay enough’ to sit comfortably on the floor like they did,” she says with a laugh.
“I believe a lot of kids who come from a mixed parentage can relate to Nina.”
Thankfully these days, Diana no longer has to face such situations. “I have spent most of my [life] in Malaysia,” says the mother-of-two, who is married to talented actor Farid Kamil.
“There is nothing American about me, except for my blood. I am a Malay at heart and I believe Nina feels the same way too.”
In Hanyut, Nina falls in love with a Malay man, to the disapproval of her Dutch father. But Nina chooses to go against his wishes, for the sake of love.
“I’m a romantic at heart and I [see] that quality in her,” says Diana. She points out that Nina’s father is not a perfect man, and has done terrible things to her and her mother.
“It is admirable for Nina to forgive her father and love him despite his flaws,” she says.
Yet Nina herself is far from perfect.
“She has a lack of control over her life and her destiny,” Diana says.
In one scene, Nina bids goodbye to her father before leaving him. The scene has special meaning for Diana. Her parents divorced when she was a child, and she has not seen her father since.
“I never got to say goodbye to my dad,” Diana says.
“When Nina says goodbye, I [felt] as though I [was] saying goodbye to my dad, too.”
Initially, Diana wanted to be an actress because she thought that once she became famous, it would be easier for her father to find her. Eventually, she was forced to accept that he was never going to be a part of her life.
“It was at that point that I realised I [had to] become an actress [for my own sake],” she says.
She says she harbours no anger towards her father, and if he comes knocking at her door, she would calmly accept him with open arms. “I am not going to judge my father,” she says.
“I feel nobody gets into a relationship and has children with the aim of abandoning them.”
Diana adds that she nearly missed her chance to play Nina in Hanyut when director U-Wei Haji Shaari was holding extensive auditions for the role.
“A lot of young actresses were dying to work under U-Wei,” Diana says.
“I was only 18 [then]. I was a struggling actress and a newcomer. I was certain that he would not choose me over a wellknown [actress].”
Diana decided not to attend any auditions. She regretted her decision almost immediately. Fortunately for her, U-Wei did not find a suitable actress and Diana was able to visit him, and succeeded in auditioning for the role then.
Diana admitted feeling intimidated being a part of Hanyut, because the film has many capable regional actors in the cast, from award-winning Malaysian actor Khalid Salleh, to the late Indonesian veteran Alex Komang.
“I have to make sure my performance is not below par,” she said. Her favourite memories from the film shoot revolve around the poignant scenes she shares with Sofia Jane, an actress she admires greatly. Sofia plays Nina’s mother Mem Putih.
Diana describes Sofia as a wonderful co-star who helped her to deliver her scenes more convincingly.
“Sofia is so beautiful that she looks like my daughter, and I looked like her mother,” she says with a laugh.
Some people have remarked that Diana closely resembles Sofia.
“I have asked U-Wei if he chose me [for the role] solely because I look like Sofia,” Diana says.
“U-Wei is not the kind of man who will give you a straight answer. So, I just stopped asking him [why]."