A Rising Star – The Films of Taufiq Kamal


Fikri Jermadi measures the rising star of award-winning filmmaker Taufiq Kamal in this Buzz of the Week.

I first came across the name Taufiq Kamal when I saw his BMW Shorties award-winning film, ‘Rozita binti Roslan’. Of course, it’s not so difficult to have opinions of films once they reach the so-called mountaintop, and ‘Rozita’ was no different. The buzz surrounding the film was quite high, so I watched it a state of heightened anticipation.

For once, I was not disappointed. Such levels of expectations could have broken a film; here, I see a film made of sterner stuff. It’s not an entirely new premise, as the story of a boy meets girl has been done many different times in different ways before.

However, there is something that’s different and interesting here. The style of the film was bright and breezy, tackling what could potentially have been incredibly serious in a light-hearted manner. I recall the name of Wes Anderson popping prominently in my mind. It’s no surprise that the director himself listed Anderson’s name along with Michel Gondry and Darren Aronofsky as influential figures, all filmmakers with very unique visual tendencies.

rozitaA lot of this has to do with the editing rhythm of the film. The cutting of John Hafiz meant that we never linger on a shot even a microsecond longer than necessary. It created a sense of urgency that meant even a second or third consecutive viewing feels fresh. This playing around with space (and time, to a certain extent) feels new, relative to other films on the block.

It is therefore with great anticipation that I waited for ‘Terbit 23’, the film he made using the production grant won from BMW Shorties. Again, I noted a similar film in the offing. When I saw a guy and a girl on a jetty at the start of the film, it’s a clear thematic marker of the direction the film is heading in. It seems, however, that the filmmakers went even more extreme than ‘Rozita’, truly challenging us with the deeper and bigger questions about love one will have thought of, but rarely realised out loud.

In that regard, it’s appropriate that the director’s name is Taufiq Kamal. Hearing that name I can’t help but always think of Taufik Ismail, the influential Indonesian poet who similarly voiced out what many dared to think only in their dreams. The works (and words) of Taufik the poet may be more overtly political, but he tackles the big questions in small, concise manners. One could say the same for Taufiq the director.

Of course, how effective and significant the films may be depend largely on your mood. The film’s granular approach to questions about life and love precludes further thinking on matters beyond that. It seems like such stories exist only a vacuum, with few other links made to other aspects of life. Then again, that probably wasn’t on the agenda when they all sat down to make it. It’s difficult to castigate something for what it’s probably not meant to be.

I shared ‘Terbit 23’ with a friend of mine, who noted much of the same. “Yeah, if the guy had no money and other problems in life?” I wondered aloud. “I wouldn’t mind watching that film.”

“You did,” he said. “It’s called ‘KIL’.

I laughed.

Featured image credit: Rising Star Tutoring

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