Hidden Gems – KL 48 Hour Film Project 2015 Part 1

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Having trawled through all the films made for the KL 48 Hour Film Project last year, Fikri Jermadi decided that it would be amiss not to at the very least offer a brief appraisal of selected films.

I took part in previous editions of KL 48 Hour Film Project, in which competitors are given only two days to make a complete short film using prerequisite elements such as lines of dialogue, prop and character. As such, I can well understand the challenges faced in making stories for film in a two-day time period. It’s incredibly difficult, at least for me, so first of all props should be given to all who dared to take part in the competition. 

If there is any necessity for this, I hasted to add the fact that the following list is formed based on my own opinion, with films that harkens to my taste making the cut. Is it the best of the lot? My own personal favourites? All I can say is that these are the ones I’m compelled to write about the most. Furthermore, 10 is a superficial number, something that is nicely rounded relative to the others. Therefore it should be understand that there could very well be a number of other films worth watching here, but 10 is the number, so here we go.

mqdefaultIt’s always good to start with a comedy, and I believe ‘Langsai’ falls firmly in that category. The story of two hitmen on the way to abduct a person of interest for their boss is not something that film fans will look at and say, “Oh, there’s nothing at all that’s influenced here by Quentin Tarantino.” I do not wish to make it seem like Blue Films are ripping him off, but there are cute undertones that could be linked to Pulp Fiction. It has a very dry sense of humour, which I more commonly associate with British comedies. Wherever the influence is coming from, what’s wonderful is how the filmmakers made it all make sense. There’s a circularity here that’s very pleasing to note. It certainly is very funny and, for once, worthy of the LOL so favoured by seasoned WhatsApp users.

Another that is arguably as worthy of such as title is ‘Yus to Dance and the Bumbling Cowboy’. The title itself gives away the somewhat slapstick nature of the comedy, featuring a cowboy and a native in an awkward position. Again, comedy is hard to do, but Marhalim did it well enough to appeal to those interested in such endeavours. It’s also a clever usage of one of the competition’s key elements, a character named Yus. What’s interesting is the genre itself. The cowboy film does not exist, aesthetically speaking, much outside of the United States. The reasons are fairly obvious in many respects, but we have a fairly interesting adaptation that actually feels authentic. Standing in for the stereotypical Native American could very well have been one of our own aboriginals. I’m always pleased whenever such variety can be noted on screen, so at least on a more anthropological level this films will maintain its sense of relevance.

Continuing the comedy trails, there’s a lot of that which could be seen in Shahril Abidin Azizi’s ‘Jangan Mati Lagi’. The story of two convicts escaping from prison seems blasé at first, before they encounter a strange scenario involving a man on the verge of killing a woman. I have to say, though, that much of the comedy is centred on the effeminate portrayal by one of the actors playing the prisoner. Here, I laughed along as well, but I am not sure whether the underlying reduction of complex gender identities to caricatures is thought out as much by others. I’m not a particular fan of simply playing up the laughs of effeminate characters, but there is a strong tradition of that in Malaysian cinema, and this film is no different. Furthermore, the ending itself was somewhat problematic in a way; as the credits rolled, I found myself thinking, “That’s it?” They filmmakers built up a strong case for an engaging film, but the ending did not pay off on that initial promise. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t more than just a little disappointed, for the potential was well-played out up till that point.

maxresdefault (2)On a similar front, ‘Hakikat’ was equally ambiguous in such a regard. Simply put, the husband, who had lost his wife, is undergoing some therapy to deal with his grief. However, the tricky part of dealing with a difficult situation is that a short film made under extreme conditions is not likely to provide a satisfying conclusion to that end. The filmmakers eventually settled on an ending that seemed like a simple way out that did not need professional prodding to procure. Then again, perhaps it is I who is not reading the situation properly; different people do react in different ways. Kudos must be given, though, to the lead actress, whose portrayal as the wife was incredibly endearing. Hers was a difficult one, because our sympathy for the main character is dependent upon the bond we have with her as well. The final shot (I am tempted to say helicopter/crane shot, but given that fact that they probably used a drone to shoot it, a different may well have to be coined) also emphasised this, and it was beautifully executed.

A similar bond well executed is also noticeable in ‘Rintik Melankolik’. It snuck up on me, though, surprising with its emotional elegance, because the first part of the film did not indicate anything of the such. It’s another reminder to watch a film all the way through to the end, for the key unlocks the door at the most interesting of times. Standing on the outside looking in, I thought the filmmakers were probably a little too excited to play around with a stabiliser, especially in the first scene. However, when a key bit of information was given halfway through, something clicked in my head, and I went through that door, fully enjoying that moment of enlightenment and all that came after it. It’s a very poignant film, in which the location and setting was treated almost as a character in its own right. I wondered, though, if that form of plotting was deliberate; could it have been more effective if that information was delivered either right at the start or the end? It’s a tricky question to consider, but consider I do all the same. The answer that is the film, however, is a fine piece of work, and the director, Azlan Mazaruddin, deserves plenty of kudos here.

Part two will be posted soon. Check out the full playlist of submitted films here. Read our interview with the competition organisers way back when in 2010.

Featured image credit: Fundbox

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