Sanif finds his missing ingredient
A lone Malay film from Singapore after 40 year prompts HIZREEN KAMAL to write about the man behind the reels.
MALAYSIA has a booming Malay film industry but neighbouring Singapore has not seen a Malay film emerge from its shores for nearly 40 years. The last Malay film from the island republic was Satu Titik Di-Garisan (by Cathay-Keris Film Production).
That film also marked the end of the Malay celluloid production in Singapore, as the industry then shifted its operations to Kuala Lumpur. While Singapore does produce several feature films, these are mostly in English and Chinese.
There was even one in Tamil recently. However, the future may be brighter for the island’s Malay film industry, thanks to Sanif Olek, Singapore’s award-winning short film director.
His directing credits include some television work and a trilogy of short films — Lost Sole (awarded Best Film on religion at the International Festival of Short Films on Culture, Jaipur and Best Narrative Film, International at the Rahmat International Short Film Festival, Tabriz, Iran, A La Folie (awarded Best Short Film at the fourth Jogja-Netpac Asian Film Festival 2009) and Ameen.
Admitting that the Malay voice in Singapore is under-represented, the 40-year-old is hopeful of reviving the Malay film industry in Singapore.
With 15 years experience in the island’s TV industry and known for a focused working style and demands on quality, Sanif is banking a lot on his debut Malay feature film, Ramuan Rahasia (The Missing Ingredient), to be released in Singapore and Malaysia at the end of the year.
Sanif, who holds a degree in media from Perth’s Murdoch University, also hopes the film would be a homage to legendary film-makers like Tan Sri P. Ramlee, Hussin Haniff and M. Amin.
Sanif said the idea for Ramuan Rahasia occurred to him eight years ago, and he took inspiration for the story from the people around him.
He is filming his debut feature under his company, reeljuice Films.
“This is a very important project for me. It is not only about being possibly the first Malay film after four decades post Jalan Ampas and Cathay-Keris, but also because the story covers a lot of elements that touch on (the lives of) modern contemporary Malays, making it relevant to both countries,” says Sanif who was in Kuala Lumpur recently to promote the film, which is 65 per cent completed.
Ramuan Rahasia is a tale of family love and inter-generational relationships and uses food such as sambal goreng as a metaphor for finding the missing ingredient.
Sanif said Ramuan Rahasia was inspired by films such as Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman, Lars Hallstrom’s Chocolat, Gabriel Axel’s Babette’s Feast and Alfonso Arau’s Like Water For Chocolate.
Adding spice to the film is the inclusion of classic Malay folk songs such as Si Jali-Jali, Pesan Kakek and Sayang Di Sayang, which are sung by key characters in the film.
While its uniqueness alone will draw an enthusiastic audience, this 90-minute film features an exceptionally strong cast.
Veteran actor Datuk Rahim Razali, whose four-decade award-winning career as a director, writer and actor has made him an icon in the Asia-Pacific region, has given his full support by sharing his rich experience with the Singapore production team and heading the list of cast.
Rahim also sings in Ramuan Rahasia.
Sanif, who had watched Rahim’s popular feature film, Abang, as a boy, said he had always wanted to have someone of his stature in his film. “It is a great honour, and working with him has been a humbling experience for me.”
Rahim plays a lonely widower who cannot stand his maid’s cooking.
“He had what was needed to bring out the character of a man who suffered a stroke and was reduced to being in a wheelchair,” says Sanif, who is grateful to the screen legend (known to be very selective in choosing a film project) for his involvement.
“Rahim did very well. His facial gestures and body language did it all,” he says.
Other crowd-pullers in the cast are Singapore’s rising stars including Aaron Aziz who is also making quite an impression in Malaysia, Rafaat Hamzah, Aidli “Alin” Mosbit and Keagan Kang.
“With the fine actors, popular songs of the past and heart-warming story, I think the film will surely strike a chord and delight a diverse audience, both commercial and art house,” says Sanif.
Of course he realises that the attempt to revive the Malay film industry in Singapore is no walk in the park, but he feels compelled to do it anyway.
“That’s the challenge. I come from an independent film-maker background. Before me, there was no Malay film-maker who did a short. After that, more and more Malay film-makers emerged. So, it felt good.
“(It is) the same with this project. It is going to be a good, but not smooth, ride. The first one is always not easy.
“Hopefully, it’s going to be how Pendekar Bujang Lapok is being talked and discussed even now.”
Sanif also hopes to look for financiers to complete the film, which has a projected budget of S$350,000 (RM828,554).
“Since there has been no commercial reference, it has been hard to convince investors to come in,” he says, adding that they were also apprehensive to fund the film for fear that it might not be a success.
So far, Sanif has used his own money on the project. On his thoughts about the local Malay film industry, Sanif said it is a thriving one with a mix of commercial and independent films.
“I see many talented young directors and producers lately. I believe it is moving forward and there are segments in the audience who long for ‘thinking’ films like those of the late Yasmin Ahmad’s.”
Thank you Hizreen for the wonderful article.
NOTE: This film is still incomplete and appeals for funds/donations to finish the remaining 35% of shoot.