Everyone has a stomach for movies – whatever genre they may be – stories told through the silver screen have always been captivating. While Hollywood movies with its hit directors, charming casts and enthralling plots are often the center of attention in the entertainment dimension, we should not miss out on our local films’ charisma either. The latest Malaysian pride to hit cinemas soon is BUNOHAN, a powerful story of three estranged brothers and their ailing father whose fates become tragically intertwined.
Directed by Dain Said, the story begins in a godforsaken town in southern Thailand when Adil is rescued from a Tomoi kickboxing deathmatch by his childhood friend, Muski. Their escape sends them back to their home village of Bunohan with Ilham, an assassin and coincidentally a Bunohan native, hot on their trail. There they run into scheming businessman, Bakar, who’s supposedly home to take care of their sickly father but is really after his father’s land. But the real twist lies in their father, Pok Eng’s past – filled with secrets of the brothers’ bonds. A tragic story of a long lost love in a family as each man’s struggle for reconciliation and forgiveness leads to the violence of loss, betrayal, corruption and murder.
BUNOHAN is already making waves off our shores, having premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, the Sao Paulo International Film Festival, the Rotterdam International Film Festival and even the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival where it received a Netpac Award. Speaking of Malaysian pride, we decided to ask the producer of BUNOHAN, Nandita Solomon some questions to gain insight into the local film industry and how aspiring filmmakers get their feet in the door.
17: Was filmmaking something you always dreamt of doing?
Nandita (N): I always knew all the things I did NOT want to do – law, medicine, engineering, IT, etc., the conventional stuff. To be honest, I didn’t know much about filmmaking except that there were directors, and that they were ‘creative’. I never thought I was very ‘creative’ – I couldn’t sing or play music (I’m tone deaf) and my art teachers at school used to fail me. When I look back now, I wonder how the hell anyone could ‘fail’ a kid at art? I just drew things differently.
17: What were you aspiring to be when you were 17?
N: For the longest time I wanted to be a marine biologist and by the time I was 17, that had turned into natural history documentary maker. My heroes were David Attenborough, Ron & Valerie Taylor, Eric and Diane Valli. Yeah, I was kind of a nerd. When I first enrolled in university I was in the journalism program, but I found the course requirements rather dry, so I switched to anthropology, which I loved. My family has always been supportive and they told me that I should enjoy what I was doing and that eventually if I was meant to work in the media, the practical experience would be more useful than studying it. It’s funny how life works.
17: What attracted you to produce Bunohan?
N:Dain Said (the director) is a fantastic storyteller, and Bunohan is a fantastic story. You’d be crazy to not want to do it.
17: How would you describe Bunohan in three words?
N: Brothers. Fighting. Tragedy.
17: How did you first get your foot through the door into the filmmaking world?
N: I came into filmmaking quite late in life (aged 30), from a different career track (international development), and quite by a twist of fate (long story). But since 2005 I’ve done all sorts of things from production assistant, assistant to the producer, assistant producer, legal/business affairs, runner, script reader, script editor, researcher, continuity/script supervisor, post production manager, publicity, etc. etc. I also took the initiative to attend short courses overseas on producing. Producing requires you to know a lot of different things, least of all how to be a production assistant. That said, if you are starting out in your teens, then production assistant is a good place to start because it teaches you discipline and gives an introduction to the machinations of filmmaking.
17: What advice can you give to aspiring Malaysian youths who wish to join the film industry?
N: There are so many different roles in the film industry – you could be a producer or director or writer or cinematographer or boom operator or compositor or editor or financier or grip or composer or distributor or publicist or cinema manager. Of course you must have passion, regardless of what you do in life. You also need to have imagination, creativity, knowledge and skills, intelligence, tenacity, compassion, hunger to constantly grow and improve. We should all aspire to do things that inspire us. But you always have to work really hard if you want to do anything really well.
17: Where is Malaysia in the filmmaking world? Would you say that Malaysia’s film industry is growing and is gaining recognition around the world? That is, from a youth’s perspective, is there a bright future for them if they were to join?
N: Basically, the Malaysian film industry is at a very exciting stage in its development. Yes, young people, get involved! We’ve got our critically acclaimed filmmakers recognized at international film festivals, while others keep making more and more films and reaping bigger and bigger box office returns each year, and now we’re having international co-productions and such. The industry will need new blood to keep things fresh and innovative. It’s an exciting time with lots of possibilities and potential.
17: In terms of filmmaking, what do you think of new media and everyone’s fave platform, Youtube?
N: It’s still early days with new media, and nobody quite knows where it’s going to go. There are pros and cons. It’s more egalitarian as anyone can pick up their camera or phone and make a film or video clip and reach an audience. At the same time, just because you can shoot and edit doesn’t necessarily mean you can tell a story or make a film. So while it has the power to democratize what was once quite an exclusive media & space, and it does empower some storytellers or communicate important messages to a wider audience, it also means there’s a lot more crap out there to sift through.
BUNOHAN opens in cinemas on March 8th!
–by Rachel Au
Tags: bunohan, dain said, director, estranged, kelantanese, Malaysian film, movie, nandita Solomon, Netpac Award, producer, Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival, the Rotterdam International Film Festival, the Sao Paulo International Film Festival, three brothers, Toronto International Film Festival, tragic, Youtube