Monday, March 26, 2018

Edmund Yeo & Aqerat

The award winning film maker Edmund Yeo speaks to theSun about his film Aqerat that deals with human trafficking and rohingya refugee  

Headline: The Shocking Truth
By Bissme S

PRODUCER, director and writer Edmund Yeo can certainly give himself a big pat on the back. Last year, he became the first Malaysian filmmaker to win the best director award at the prestigious 30th Tokyo International Film Festival for his film Aqerat, which deals with the dark side of human trafficking, and his lead actress, Daphne Low, also took home the Tokyo Gemstone Award. 
Aqerat was recently shown at the second Malaysian International Film Festival in Kuala Lumpur. The story centres on a young Malaysian woman named Hui Ling (Low) who is saving up to start a new life in Taiwan. But her roommate steals her money and disappears. 
Desperate, she joins a gang dealing with the trafficking of Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar. But when she sees the atrocities the gang inflicts on the refugees, the guilt takes a toll on her. The painful tone of the film, and Low’s powerful performance, will touch your heart and consume your soul. 
“I [like to] make films about my country and what is happening around me,” says Yeo who also wrote the screenplay for Aqerat. Back in 2015, Yeo was among the millions of Malaysians who were horrified at the discovery of a mass grave near the northern border, filled with the remains of over 100 Rohingya refugees.
 “In the past, we only read about Malaysians being victims of human traffickers,” says the 34-year-old. 
“But now, Malaysians are the bad guys. I was curious what motivated these traffickers to commit such cruel acts against 
other human beings.” 
To get a true picture of the situation, he talked to Rohingyan refugees and several non-profit organisations dealing with them. What he learned shocked him. He found out that there were ordinary folk who had turned to human trafficking just to earn some extra money. When he read an article about a kindergarten teacher who was arrested for human trafficking, he almost made his lead a kindergarten teacher. Aqerat will open in local cinemas at the end of the year. 
Yeo has always wanted to be a filmmaker, and it’s no wonder he fell in love with the arts. His father is a film critic for a Chinese newspaper and a former executive of a recording company, while his mother was a pop singer. 
He says his parents never stopped him from becoming a filmmaker, though his mother did try to change his mind. 
“Now, my motivation is to make good films and not disappoint my parents,” he adds. 
Yeo started by directing short films, some of which were shown at international film festivals, and even won awards. His first feature film, River of Exploding Durians, was also nominated at the Tokyo International Film Festival in 2014. 
The majority of Yeo’s lead characters are female. 
“[It’s] because I prefer working with actresses more than actors,” he jokes, but adds that 
“I prefer if there is a distance between my lead character and me”. He explains that if his lead character is male, he may project himself on the actor. 
“I might get too attached to my lead.” 
Using a female lead gives him the flexibility to explore possibilities. Currently, he is editing his third film, Malu, about two sisters who were separated since young.
 “I am exploring the family dynamic in this film.” 
This might very well be another award-winning film in the making.

Monday, March 19, 2018


Proksi is Malaysian action movie that deals with cybercrime. theSun has interviewed the director. Zulkarnain Azhar  and three main cast members from the movie - Ashraff Sinclair, Bront Palarae and Sangeeta Krishnasamy

Headline: Web of Deceit
By  Bissme S

AFTER releasing the action thriller J Revolusi last year, director Zulkarnain Azhar has turned his sights on the issue of cybercrime for his second feature film, Proksi. He explains that, previously, the “most important thing” in the world was gold, followed by oil, but adds that has since changed. 
“The most important thing [now] is data,” declares Zulkarnain in a recent interview. 
“Just imagine, a hacker gets hold of a millionaire’s data, and threatens to use it against him and paralyse his business empire. Naturally, the hacker demands a ransom and the millionaire has no choice but to pay.” 
He points out that such a crime can be committed with just the click of a button, and that the criminal could easily disappear into thin air. “Cybercrime is a huge thing in the world right now and most Malaysians do not realise it. You can do anything on the web these days. You can even hire an assassin from the web. 
“I have never seen a Malaysian film dealing with this kind of theme, and I can safely say that Proksi is the first Malaysian cybercrime thriller.” 
The story centres on hacker Aman (played by Ashraff Sinclair) who is based in London with his partner in crime, Sam (Bront Palarae). They find out that a mysterious hacker named Carrie has stolen sensitive data about Malaysia, and wants to use it to threaten our country’s peace and stability. Aman and Sam set out to stop Carrie. Their journey takes them to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. Things get complicated when cybercrime officer Elle (Sangeeta Krishnasamy) goes after Aman and Sam to apprehend them. 
Asked if a story about hackers and cybercrime can pull in audiences, Zulkarnain states: “I believe any theme that is presented well, people will accept it.” 
Lead actor Ashraff concurs: “The film is visually exciting, too.” Describing his character Aman, he says: “My character believes he is an activist, and [that] he  is creating a better world.” 
To prepare for his role, Ashraff read about Adrian Lamo, an American-born hacker who is currently in jail. Lamo gained media attention for hacking into several computer networks belonging to high-profile entities such as The New York Times, Yahoo!, and Microsoft. 
“I have even watched a documentary on him,” he adds.
Award-winning actress Sangeeta is happy to be part of the film. “This is my first action movie,” she says. 
“I have a lot of fight scenes in the film.” Sangeeta, who is trained in the Indian martial art of kalaripayat as well as the Japanese martial art of akido, adds that her training has come in handy for her action scenes.
 “My character does not talk much. I rely on body language to convey my feelings and that can be challenging. ” 
Sangeeta adds that being involved in this film has opened her eyes to cybercrime. 
“Before this movie, I never took cybercrime seriously.” 
She used the example that if a hacker takes one ringgit from every account in Malaysia, we will never realise the money is missing because it is such a small amount. But if one ringgit is taken from 20 million accounts belonging to Malaysians, the hacker is now RM20 million richer. 
“Now imagine [if] he uses that money [for] something evil ... Cybercrime is a dangerous thing,” concludes Sangeeta. 
Bront, who plays Sam, says most of his scenes are with Sangeeta, as she tries to use him to get to Aman. 
“My relationship with Sangeeta is like a divorced couple,” says Bront. 
“My character hates her intensely. He has every reason to hate her. Nobody likes to be used.” 
But off the set, the two get along well, and make each other laugh. “Bront likes Sangeeta, but Sam hates Elle,” says Bront with a huge laugh. 
Proksi is scheduled to be released at the end of the year.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Brillante Mendoza

The well known film director Brillante Mendoza from Philippines was in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia and theSun managed to interview him. Read the full story here 
Headline: Showing the Shades of  Grey
By Bissme S

BRILLANTE Mendoza is a prominent director in the Philippines' film industry His debut 2005 film, The Masseur, won the Golden Leopard Award at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland. Then in 2009, he took the best director award for his film, Kinatay, at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival.
That same year, another of his films, Lola, won best picture at the 6th Dubai International Film Festival.
The 58-year-old director was in Kuala Lumpur recently where he served as jury president at the second Malaysian International Film Festival. theSun managed to catch him for a one-to-one interview about his films and inspirations.
What is the secret to your success? 
"There are no secrets to my success. You just have to make your film truthfully, and universally. If you make films because you want to win awards, then you [start on the wrong foot].
"What pushes me is I want my voice to be heard. I can only work on stories I am passionate about."
How do you make your films universal?
"By touching on human qualities and values. My stories are set in the Philippines, but [they] can affect the lives of everyone. A story about humanity will appeal to everyone."
Some Malaysian films get international recognition but do not do well locally. What about your films?
"We have the same situation everywhere in the world. Even in a developed country like France, only a portion of the population [is interested in] this kind of cinema.
"We have to create an audience. It took [other] countries years to develop audiences [who could appreciate these movies].
How do you get motivated to complete your films? 
"If you think of this challenge as a problem and a limitation, then it will stop you from doing what you want to do.
"You have to believe in what you are doing, then you will find the drive and the commitment to complete your film.
"I do not look down upon filmmakers who want to make commercial films. There is nothing wrong if you want to entertain your audience.
"But there are filmmakers who want to provoke critical thinking, and I am more comfortable doing that."
Your characters always have shades of grey. For example, your lead character in Ma Rosa is a drug pusher, yet she is a wonderful mother.
"I always humanise my characters. [There] is no such thing as black and white in [real] life.
"We all make mistakes and we all do something good, and we are [sometimes] put in a situation where it is questionable."
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
"My strength is I try to tell my stories as close to reality as I can. So there is a lot of truth and honesty in my films.
"But my strength is also my weakness. Sometimes, the truth is pessimistic. So people always tell me I am very pessimistic in my views.
"I am just being realistic about the situation that my characters are in."
Did you always want to be a filmmaker?
"I became a filmmaker by accident. I was in advertising.
"When I was 45, a friend asked if I was interested in directing a film that he was producing. I said: 'Why not?'
"But filmmaking can be addictive. After [that], I just can't stop making films."
What is your next project?
"I am doing a story about a [Filipino] Muslim woman who has cancer.
"People [may] think my film is political, but it is not. The political landscape is a secondary thing in my film.
"I am focusing on her relationship with her five-year-old daughter, and her husband who works as a soldier for the country.
"[When] doing research for the film, I talked to several Muslim women in Philippines. I found out that most of their husbands work as soldiers for the country."
Do you think you will face any backlash for focusing on a Muslim family in the Philippines?
"I do not think about that. I just need to be truthful to my story."

The Director ... strives to tell his story as truthful as 
 His films 

His first feature The Massuer

A scene from Kinatay .. the movie won him the best director award at Cannes film festival

A scene from Captive

A scene from Ma Rosa

 A scene from Lola
A scene from Taklub

A scene from Service

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Mouly Surya

Indonesian film maker Mouly Surya speaks to theSun about her movie  where a woman who killed her rapist and carries his severed head to the police station. The movie shines brightly at the recent Cannes film Festival.

Headline: An Act of Survival 
By Bissme S

Indonesian film Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts was greeted with standing ovations from its appreciative audiences and rave reviews from the critics at the prestigious Cannes film festival last year. The film centres on a woman named Marlina (played by Marsha Timothy) from Sumba Island, who is working to save enough money to pay for a traditional burial for her late husband, whose mummified corpse lies in her living room. Local gangster Markus (Egi Fedly) knocks on her door and coolly informs her that he and his gang will be robbing and raping her later. But first, they force her to cook chicken soup for them. She puts poison into the chicken soup, killing the other gang members, and later beheading Markus when he tries to rape her.
Carrying the severed head, she then begins a journey to the police station, which is miles away, to turn herself in. Along the way, she meets with several people, raising questions about her actions and how the world sees her. 
There’s an aura of feminism that envelopes this film. It cannot be denied that Marlina’s character has become a symbol of feminism in Indonesia. 
In fact, during the recent Women’s March 2018 in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, there were women who carried posters of the film and distributed chicken soup. 
“The interesting part is if you come across someone like Marlina on an island like Sumba, she probably does not know what feminism is,” says the film’s director, Mouly Surya  in a recent interview with theSun. 
“[But] any man or woman in her position will fight back. The film is all about survival.” 
Mouly points out that the original idea for the film came from Garin Nugroho, another renowned Indonesian film director, who wanted her to direct the film. Garin was interested to see how a female director would interpret his story. 
Together with producer Rama Adi, Mouly turned Garin’s five-page story idea into a fulllength screenplay. 
Mouly, at just 36, is considered one of the most prominent female filmmakers in Indonesia. After graduating from Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia, with a bachelor of arts in media and literature, she obtained a masters in film and television from Bond University, Queensland. In addition to making films, the Jakarta-born director also teaches directing classes in Jakarta. Originally, Mouly wanted to be a writer. But that dream changed when she got involved in an amateur film project in college. 
In an interview with Indonesia’s Tatler magazine, she said: “When I had my first taste of directing films, I felt the same joy as when I was writing. But instead of writing with words, directing is writing with images.” 
Her debut film, Fiksi (2008), which premiered at the 13th Busan International Film Festival, won numerous awards, including for best director at the Jakarta International Film Festival(JIFFEST). Five years later, in 2013, she produced her second feature film, What They Do Not Talk About When They Talk About Love, which was shown in several prestigious international film festivals, such as the Sundance film festival and Hawaii film festival. That film received the Netpac Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Netherlands. 
While her first two films were shot in Jakarta, her birth city she is familiar with, Mouly decided to take a risk and shoot Marlina on the more remote Sumba Island. It turned out to be a great decision, as the stark landscape is treated like another character in the film. Another strength of the film lies with lead actress Marsha, who has given a powerful performance. 
“We did not want to cast someone who is dominating,” Mouly recalls. 
“We wanted to cast someone who is vulnerable and has a tragic aura.” 
 When asked about her next project, Mouly says: “I really want to find a project I love, and which will elevate my film skill. It should be as strong as Marlina.” 
I have no doubt that when she releases her next film, it will be another masterpiece. 

Footnote:  Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts is now showing in selected cinemas nationwide

The director

Scenes from her Movie Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Rosyam Nor

Rosyam Nor speaks to theSun about playing the badminton icon Datuk Misbu Sidek in a biopic movie Lee Chong Wei which will hit cinemas on March 15 

Headline: A Life In Film 
By Bissme S

In his  30-year career as an actor, Rosyam Nor has played a wide range of roles, from a ruthless serial killer in Lenjan, to an unfaithful husband in Suami, Isteri Dan ... ? 
“All my characters have been fictional, and I can create them from scratch,” says the 51- year-old award-wining actor. 
But in his upcoming film, Lee Chong Wei, which will hit cinemas on March 15, Rosyam is trying out something new. In the biopic about Malaysia’s current number one badminton player, Rosyam stars as Datuk Misbun Sidek, who coached Lee to stardom. 
Before filming began, Rosyam tried to make an appointment to meet with Misbun. Unfortunately, the meeting could not take place, as Misbun’s packed schedule prevented him from being able to spare any time for the actor. 
Rosyam resorted to other creative methods to get an impression of Misbun before facing the camera. He visited YouTube to watch Misbun’s mannerisms both on and off the badminton court. Rosyam also spoke with several people close to the living legend. 
“I do not want to imitate Misbun,” he says.
 “I want to interpret his persona. I do not want to do a caricature of him.” 
The veteran actor feels the film has come at the right time, when there have been some tensions among the races in Malaysia. 
“The film will show a close relationship between a Malay coach and a Chinese badminton player,” he says. 
“They did not let their differences tear them apart. We should emulate them.” 
Rosyam also believes this film will introduce him to the Malaysian Chinese audience. 
“So far the Malay cinema audience knows who I am,” he says. “I want to expand my circle of fans.” 
Prior to this, the actor also appeared in the 2017 Tamillanguage movie Kabali, where he shared a scene with worldfamous Kollywood actor Rajnikanth. 
“I purposely accepted the role so I could introduce myself to the Malaysian Indian cinema audience,” he says. 
“An actor cannot stay in his safe zone. He should always find a new audience.” 
However, this is not the only film the actor has up his sleeve. Before Lee Chong Wei premieres, fans will be able to see Rosyam starring in another role, in director Syafiq Yusof’s KL Special Force, which opens tomorrow. 
In that film, Rosyam plays a police officer who is trying to apprehend a gang of bank robbers. The action-packed film also stars Fattah Amin, Syamsul Yusof, Shaharuddin Thamby, and Tania Hudson. 
Although it is in a genre that Rosyam is no stranger to, the film presents another about-turn for him, as he usually plays the villain. “It is a great change to play a good guy in a police drama,” he says with a laugh. 
He also has no qualms accepting orders from directors who are much younger than him, such as Syafiq. 
“Times are changing, and the youngsters are ruling the film industry,” he says. 
“As an actor, you have to change with the trend. If you do not keep up with the changes, then you will be left behind. 
“I always put myself ‘at zero’ in front of my directors regardless of their age. To me, the director will have the final say, and I will follow whatever the director says. 
“Even the superstar Rajnikanth follows instruction from the young directors.” 
He often hears stories of veteran actors who are always complaining about young actors who do not know what they are doing on the set. 
But Rosyam states: “I can tell you honestly that some young actors are really talented. They nailed their roles in their first film because they have a better exposure than us. 
“In my first few films, I was a terrible actor. My dialogue pronunciation was horrible. I only got better after a few films.” 
He also admits he now has the luxury of being able to select the film projects he wants. One reason for this he says is because he does not depend solely on his acting for his income. 
“I have money coming from other sources. So I have the liberty to be choosy.”