Back to the Past – Kantoi

Ezzah Mahmud gets up close and personal with Adam Zainal’s graduation piece.

After attending ‘Close Up’, the 2018 Film Showcase of Faculty of Cinematic Arts, Multimedia University (MMU), I went back home, filled with an overflowing surge of emotions I never thought I had before. Firstly, I feel and believe that these students have made such amazing films, way beyond what a ‘typical’ student film would be classified as. Secondly, I got so pumped up to make my own film. Coming after a hiatus of a good couple of years, this event has served as a boost for me, and I will try my best to share with you guys what I think and feel about these films. The first day of the showcase featured two short films from a total of 18, ‘Kantoi’ by Adam Zainal and Chan Teik Quan’s ‘Weeping Birds’.

We will look at the former for now. I first came across ‘Kantoi’ in the middle of last year. Somehow, the trailer went viral on Twitter, where I discovered and became hooked on the idea of the film. It’s my very first memory of it, and it made me want to root for it. The thing about this film is that it is talking about the really big issue of teenage pregnancy, especially in high schools across Malaysia (or around the world, for that matter).

A Malay word literally translated as ‘being caught red-handed’, it can apply to a range of situations, from when you catch your boyfriend cheating on you to discovering your little sister enjoying your Cadbury bar you’ve kept in the fridge for yourself. ‘Kantoi’ the film is about a young girl, Alia (Mawar Remy). She discovers her pregnancy after doing a pregnancy test. She then ‘kantoi’ with her best friend. There is the dilemma of whether she should tell her best friend, Raihan (Hannan Kamaruddin), that the positive test kit is actually hers. The adventure throughout the film is them looking for the girl that is pregnant, and you can see how one thing leads to another; the drama grows from being between just four people to trending as the hot topic of the whole school.

The thing I really like about this film is how the writer, Arya Ilyasa, was able to bring the topic, which is a big deal, into something that is fun, young and relatable. Teenage pregnancy is not something new in Malaysia, but it remains a taboo topic considered so serious that those going through it will face hardships, perhaps manifested in bullying from friends. Not only that, they will also need to put up with the shame and ridicule. To see this topic being discussed and put forward as this film’s overall theme is enlightening and refreshing.

In watching this film, I must admit that it bought me back to my high school times. The uniform, the school environment, the ‘lepak’ in toilet, and so on, all depicts a very believable and convincing world. The production made the most of such places, with locations such as the canteen, toilet and the field bringing back vivid thoughts of my own high school experience; there is a strong similarity I noticed with this film.

Above all, the thing I really want to express my admiration towards is the production side of things. I believe the team has produce a great short film that has standards, one that is way above than the typical students film I mentioned earlier. I was film student myself, and know well the context of such productions. The casting, for instance, is brilliant. In addition to Mawar and Hannan, we also have Aishah Andri (who performed as Sabrina) and Nur Shahidah Abdullah (Nazatul) who really convinced.

They were very good in portraying the over-dramatic, witty students essential in depicting teenage reality. Take a second to flashback to your teen years. Now think about you and your friends, probably with your own weird little ways of speaking with each other, complete with having crushes and maybe even have your own excuses for things you want to avoid (like going to co-curriculum activities). Now imagine seeing that drama on the big(ger) screen. That’s what ‘Kantoi’ felt like for me. I love the way these characters were written, showcasing how they are smart, funny, innocent and inquisitive all at the same time. They are memorable, and I think you will either like or be annoyed by them (depending on who you are; the point is the portrayals were effective). As this short film takes place only in one evening, you can get the sense of how fast the drama develops.

Production wise, I would give it an eight out of 10. The film starts with the boom shoot of a girl in a toilet cubicle. You can tell that all the shots were well-planned, making filmmaking sense. When I see the behind-the-scene footage and the final film, it cast a totally different meaning, as it shows how they did a lot of work. This includes the colour correction in the post-production process. The flow of the film felt right. I was fully immersed in it; I did not feel like I was watching a film, but instead was in the drama with them. However, there are parts that can be improved, as certain bits of the dialogue recording is a little off. All the same, I was very pleased with the efforts of the team at making ‘Kantoi’ come to life.

I think this is an amazing film that touches on a serious topic in a light and relatable way. You will feel various feelings, sensing the ups and down in a light enough way to make you feel nostalgic. At the same time, you will also be aware of the issues the film tries to put forward. It is a film for the young and the old, one film that can be embraced by everyone, and a fun little flick that deserves to go viral.

Featured image credit: Healthline

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