Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Today theSun published my interview with the Indonesian film maker Joko Anwar who is making a horror film, Pengabdi Setan, with the Malaysian actor Bront Palarae in the lead role. Read the full story below
Headline: For Love of a Classic Horror
By Bissme S
As a young boy, award-winning Indonesian filmmaker Joko Anwar loved to watch movies. He often visited a dilapidated cinema called Remaja Theatre in his hometown of Medan, Indonesia. The cinema was well known for screening horror and martial arts films.
“Sometimes, I purchased a ticket, and other times, I just peeked through the vents,” says Joko, 41, in an interview with theSun.
One film that left a lasting impression on Joko was director Sisworo Gautama Putra’s Pengabdi Setan, an iconic Indonesian horror film released in 1980.The film tells the tale of a recently widowed man and his two teenaged children who notice eerie incidents happening in their home.
Pengabdi Setan terrified audiences in Indonesia when it first came out, and was even shown in the United States and Japan. It remains a cult hit internationally even today.
Joko says: “I first watched Pengabdi Setan when I was six. I held on to my seat so tightly. When I came out of the cinema, it was still bright, and I was hoping the night would never come.”
Now, 27 years later, Joko is remaking this iconic horror film. His version of Pengabdi Setan was shot over the course of 18 days in April, and will play in Indonesian cinemas at the end of the year.
The remake is the culmination of a dream for Joko, as the original film remains one of the strongest memories he has of going to the cinema.
“The [original] film still gives me the chills,” he says.
“I always wanted to make films that have a similar impact on the audience.”
For the past 10 years, Joko has been negotiating with Rapi Films – the company that owns the rights to the original Pengabdi Setan – to give him permission for the remake. When he finally got the green light earlier this year, it was a moment of pure joy for the filmmaker. Joko is retaining the original film’s basic plot, its eerie atmosphere, and the religious undertone.
“I’m trying to keeping as many elements of the original film as possible,” he adds.
However, Joko is also bringing in a few surprises to the remake. But for now, he does not want to reveal too much.
“When you’ve finished watching it, you will understand the connection between the original and the remake,” he says.
Joko has picked award-winning Malaysian actor Bront Palarae to play the lead character of the grieving widower. One wonders if the casting choice is a marketing strategy to get Malaysian audiences to watch his remake.
“I never choose my actors for marketing purposes,” he says.
“That is not the way I make my films. I choose my actors because they fit my characters.”
The rest of the cast comprises Indonesian actors Tara Basro Dimas Aditya, Endy Arfian, Nasar Anuz, Egy Fedly, Ayu Laksmi, Elly D. Luthan, Arswendi Bening Swara, M. Adhiyat, Fachri Albar, and Asmara Abigail.
Most of the shoot took place around a house in Pengalengan, West Java.
“We scouted for months looking for the right location,” Joko says.
“Initially, we wanted to find one in Jakarta because the production cost would be cheaper, as we had a limited budget.”
But when the crew saw the house in Pengalengan, they immediately fell in love with it.
“The place was already atmospheric, and the roomsstrangely fit my imagination,” he says.
In addition, the weather during the shoot was chilly, which added to the haunting mood.The film is a career milestone for Joko, who originally studied aerospace engineering at the prestigious Institut Teknologi Bandung because his family could not afford to send him to a film school.
After graduating, he became a journalist at The Jakarta Post, and later became a film critic. In 2005, he directed his first feature film, the romantic comedy Janji Joni which became a box-office hit.
Since then, many of his films have achieved critical acclaim at international film festivals. Joko has also gone in front of the camera, to try his hand at acting.
“I decided to act so that I can understand how it feels to be directed,” he says.
“It really helped me [to] direct my actors. How to make them comfortable in a scene, to know what’s the best environment for an actor to be able to slip into character, and so on.”
When asked what is his biggest challenge as an Indonesian film director, Joko says: “To be able to stay on track [making] films that I want. It’s very easy to be hired [for] films that you are not passionate about."
Thursday, June 15, 2017
Sunday will be Father's Day. theSun got the award winning film maker Shanjhey Kumar Perumal, to describe his relationship with his father and his new born son.
Headline: A Son's Lasting Gratitude
By Bissme S
Filmmaker Shanjhey Kumar Perumal’s debut film, Jagat, was somewhat inspired by his own relationship with his father, Perumal Annamalai, 68. The film, written by the 37-year-old centres on a boy who tries to find a suitable role model among the three men in his life – his labourer father and his two uncles. His father has very little time for him, while one uncle is a gangster, and the other, aformer drug addict.
Jagat created history when it became the first non-Bahasa Malaysia film to grab the best film award at the 28th Malaysian Film Festival in 2016. Shanjhey also walked away with the best new director award. Jagat went on to take five more awards at the 2016 Kuala Lumpur Film Critics Awards.
On March 31 this year, Shanjhey became a first-time father with the birth of his son. That life-changing experience allowed him to understand his own dad better.
It also affords him new insights into the bittersweet relationship he has had with his father from young.But he admits with a laugh: “I find my father to be a more loving grandfather than a father.”
Shanjhey is the eldest among three children. “When I was a kid, my relationship with my father was warm and sweet.”
He remembers playfully wrestling with his father on many occasions, and his dad reading bedtime stories to him.
“My father was the first person who told me about the Malaccan warrior Hang Tuah,” he says.
He believes his father’s storytelling inspired him to tell his own stories through films. But their relationship changed when Shanjhey entered his teenage years.
“There was bitterness in our relationship,” recalls Shanjhey of that period of time growing up in Parit Buntar, Perak.
“At one point, I even stopped talking to him.”
His father was a general worker and gardener at Shanjhey’s high school.Perumal also sold ice kacang and newspapers to earn extra money. Shanjhey would often help his father at the stall and to deliver newspapers.
“My father woke up at 5am every day, and only stopped working after 7pm,” he says.
“When he got home, he was too tired to spend time with me. I felt neglected. I was angry at him for putting his work first. I did not understand his predicament then.
“Looking back now, I realised he was working hard to put a roof over our heads, and food on our table. I should have been more grateful.”
Instead, the teenaged Shanjhey turned rebellious. He remembers an incident where one of his classmates made fun of his father. He got so angry that he attacked his classmate. Fortunately, his father
intervened and stopped the fight.
“I was protecting my father’s honour and he was not grateful,” recalls Shanjhey.
“Instead, he slapped me in front of my classmates, and I felt embarrassed. I was so furious at him after that.”
Things got worse when Shanjhey entered Form Six. His father forced him to stay with his uncle, who lived miles away from their hometown.
“I was angry at my father for separating me from my friends,” he says.
Only much later did Shanjhey realise that whatever his father did, it was done with the best intentions in mind.
From then on, he concentrated on his studies and eventually, graduated with a Communication degree in Film and Broadcasting from Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang.
“My father shaped me to be the person I am today,” he says.
“If he was not strict with me, I would have ended up as a bad hat.”
One thing Shanjhey really admires about his father is that Perumal never stopped him from pursuing his dream of becoming a filmmaker.
“He understood my passion for the arts and he wanted me to be happy,” he says.
Speaking on his own experience with fatherhood, Shanjhey says he was extremely nervous on the day his son, Arrievan, was born.
“There were some complications, and I was worried for the safety of my wife and my son. My son had to spend a day in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit).”
Fortunately, both mother and baby turned out fine afterwards. As a father, Shanjhey hopes to teach his son to respect others, to never be afraid to say sorry, and to never forget to say thank you.
He is also aware that his son might be a rebel during his teenage years, just as he was.
“Sometimes, [being a] rebel is a good thing,” he says.
Shanjhey is also aware that whatever path he takes, it will influence his son.
“So I must be careful with my choices,” he says.
But at the end of the day, he adds: “The important thing is, I want to give him the freedom to be who he is and who he wants to be.”
Thursday, June 8, 2017
Namron speaks to theSun about his role in Mencari Rahmat which is adaptation of Oscar Wilde's famous play The Importance of Being Earnest as well as directing a movie One Two Jaga that deals with corruption.
Headline: Unmasking The Lies
Director Al Jafree Md Yusop’s latest project Mencari Rahmat will be premièring at The Kota Kinabalu International Film Festival (KKIFF) which runs from July 7 to 16. This indie film is a Malay adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s famous play The Importance of Being Earnest and set in a local context.
This dark comedy centres on successful businessman Razak Abdullah who has to look after his niece Ratna. Razak has a wild, party-loving side. But he hides it from Ratna. Whenever he heads to the big city for some fun, he tells Ratna he is going to see his troublesome younger brother Rahmat. In reality, Rahmat does not exist. Inadvertably, Razak’s charade is exposed.
Taking on the role of Razak is Shahili Abdan or better known as Namron. Others in the cast include Amerul Affendi, Adibah Noor, Sharifah Amani, Fauziah Nawi and Nadiah Aqilah.
Explaining his reason for accepting the role, the 48-year-old Namron says: “I love the fact that the director has taken the trouble to interpret a well-known western work in a Malay context. We
should experiment with the way we tell stories.”
This is something close to the heart of this actor-director. In 2003, for his first attempt at directing a film, Namron did a a loose adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, which
he entitled Gedebe. The film deals with the power struggle between two best friends where one eventually is killed.
The other reason Namron signed on for Mencari Rahmat is that the story takes place mostly in two houses. He says that goes to show that director Al Jafree wants to put the whole focus on the story
and performances to hook the audience.
“The actors have to rise to the challenge to churn out a convincing performance,” says Namron
"And as an actor, I like to be challenged.”
Going into more details about his character Razak, Namron says: “All of us have a mask, and It is up
to us whether we want to wear it or not. In Razak’s case, he chooses to wear his mask because he is afraid of people judging him. If we live our lives like Razak, then we are not being true to ourselves. I do not think I will be good friends with someone like Razak.”
Wilde’s play is full of sarcasm and witty humour – elements that might not appeal to the average Malay film goer who generally prefers slapstick comedies.
“We should be adopting a totally different marketing strategy for Mencari Rahmat from the usual way we promote a typical Malay comedy,” says Namron, adding that they will try to lure in audiences who love to see subtle comedies.
If everything goes well, Mencari Rahmat will hit the big screen here by the end of the year.Currently, Namron is busy directing his new film, One Two Jaga, where he bravely tackles the sensitive issue of corruption.
The story centres on two crooked authorities who harass and take bribes from illegal immigrants. The film stars Rosdeen Suboh, Zahril Adzim, Ameriul Affendi, Vanida Imran and Azman Hassan.
Namron has sent the script to Bukit Aman to be vetted before shooting began. After making a few changes, he got the green light to shoot but the film might yet be banned by the censorship board.
If that happened, it won’t be the first for Namron as his earlier films, such as Gaduh, which deals with racial tension in a school, and Jalan Pintas, about an unemployed graduate resorting to crime,
were banned too.
“I am not purposely stirring up controversy here,” he says of his latest project.
“All of us have heard stories like this from immigrants. I am just highlighting what I have heard in a film.I am a firm believer that a filmmaker should push the boundaries and discuss sensitive topics with an open mind. Not discussing certain issues is like sweeping rubbish under the carpet.”
He points out that most people mistakenly think that corruption is not a dangerous crime because nobody gets killed.
“Corruption can be deadly. It can kill people’s hopes.”
He also stresses his film does not entirely paint the authorities in a negative light.
“I am sympathetic towards them too,” he says.
“I am trying to show what forces someone to go down the wrong path and take bribes. My film is more about humanity than corruption.”
With Namron at the helm, expect One Two Jaga to stir up some interesting discourse. The director also plans to bring the film to international film festivals and markets overseas.
Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Headline : Thriving On Challenges
By Bissme S
Director Sisworo Gautama Putra’s Pengabdi Setan produced in 1980, is an iconic Indonesian horror film that went on to be
screened in Japan and the United States. In April this year, award-winning director Joko Anwar (Pintu Terlarang & A Copy of
My Mind) shot a remake of this classic, which is slated for release in Indonesian cinemas at the end of the year.
Playing the lead in Joko’s version of Pengabdi Setan is award-winning Malaysian actor-director-producer Bront Palarae. In an exclusive interview with theSun, the 38-year-old actor says: “Pengabdi Setan has been Joko’s favourite film since childhood. He always wanted to remake the film.”
Bront says that he is honoured to be part of the project which is so close to Joko’s heart, adding that the director had kept the
iconic elements from the old film, and brought in some new changes to the remake.
“You will get a sense of deja vu and some freshness from the film,” he says, adding that the movie is about a man trying to
keep his family from the brink of destruction.
Bront first met Joko in late 2014 when the director saw his performance as an eccentric filmmaker in Terbaik Dari Langit,
which later won him the best actor award at the 2015 Asean International Film Festival & Awards.
Joko praised the film on Twitter, which led to an invite to meet with Terbaik Dari Langit’s cast and crew. “That was my first
time meeting him,” says Bront.
Before long, Joko offered Bront a role in HBO Asia’s Halfworlds, a landmark English-language supernatural-themed
TV series. Pengabdi Setan is their second project together.
Bront takes on the role of father-of-four Bahri Suwono, who has just buried his wife. When strange, eerie incidents
start happening in his house, Bahri suspects someone has been dabbling in black magic and now, he spirits are haunting his
“You feel like you are watching an Agatha Christie whodunit,” says Bront, who had to learn Bahasa Indonesia to play
While waiting for Pengabdi Setan to premiere, the actor is not sitting on his laurels. Next week, Bront will be
leaving for the Philippines to shoot another chilling horror film, Daddy’s Home.
He plays a man who returns home after a few months working onboard a ship. But his wife and teenage son soon realise he is not
the same person. The film will be directed by award-winning Malaysian filmmaker Bradley Liew, who is
based in Manila, and produced by award-winning Philippine producer Bianca Balbuena.
The two had previously worked together on the film, Singing in Graveyards. For Daddy’s Home, Bront has to learn Tagalog to get into the skin of his character. Asked why he is going for roles in foreign films, Bront explains: “When I act in these
foreign productions, nobody really knows who I am. I am almost like a newcomer and have to prove myself all over again.
“That is a good feeling. I want to be out of my comfort zone. I want to be put in a new place where I have to struggle to play a
role. I would rather be an anchovy in a big sea, than a big fish in a small pond.”
As for local productions, the actor has just completed shooting Safari Mall, a comedy directed by Jordan Suleiman, about a group of people trapped in a shopping mall which is suddenly attacked by aliens.
Bront says he will be playing himself in this film. “Sometimes, as an actor, we impersonate others and mock them. Here, the
audience will see Bront Palarae mocking Bront Palarae.”
Next year, Bront goes behindthe camera to direct his second film, Dawn Raid: The Hands that Rattled the Queen
, based on a true story about the Guthrie Group, a British trading firm which controlled the Malaysian rubber plantations.
In 1981, a group of Malaysian businessmen took control of the company through the stock exchange, with the aim of
returning the plantations back to local ownership.
“We are not doing a pure business film,” Bront explains.
“We are approaching it like a heist film. Through this film, we want to say that it is cool to serve your nation again.”