Friday, January 3, 2014

The LOVE Trilogy

Take away love and our earth is a tomb. ~ Robert Browning

The LOVE Trilogy comprises of the films LOST SOLE, à la folie and AMEEN آمين. Each of these films addresses the universal theme of love. The residing characters echo various interpretations, personifications and manifestations of love.

Ten years have passed since my dad, Haji Olek bin Bakar left us in the February of 2004. His passing inspired me to write a short film about his real-life experience when he was leaving the mosque after a Friday noon solat. This inspiration had led me to write about LOST SOLE that eventually became my first short film. This film was also produced about 10 years after I left film school. I have been working on television making programmes of various genres prior to this film. Subsequently, the 'success' of LOST SOLE re-ignited the filmmaker bug in me. Not one to be satisfied with just doing television, the subsequent divergence to return to filmmaking has also been a self-imposed personal challenge if I still have that elusive cinematic eye. After all, I was a trained as a filmmaker.

I have decided to put these short films online to coincide with the completion of my first full-length, feature film, Sayang Disayang, in late 2013. It is also to commemorate the 10th anniversary of my dad's passing that triggered me to return to filmmaking. Sayang Disayang marks the beginning of another phase.

LOST SOLE was inspired from several personal experiences. When I was about 8 years old, my late father arrived home from a Friday noon solat at the mosque bare-footed. The thought of him walking home with no footwear for about 2 kilometers from Masjid Assyakirin, the nearest mosque, awed me as a child. The image of him at the house doorway looking exhausted, frustrated and helpless inspired me. As I grow older, I discovered that missing footwear at the mosque is a regular occurrence and often wonder the circumstances that would have allowed such occurrences in the "house of God". LOST SOLE was filmed in 2005, ie post-9/11, at time when I realized having Mohamad in my name - unfortunately - stood as a dangerous "badge of honour" at airport immigrations in western nations. I faced irony head-on as the profiling made me fear for my being and getting anxious with the western notion of freedom

à la folie "like crazy", is a story of love, manipulation and revenge that was loosely inspired by the classical Ramayana text. It was produced from my desire for a less structured filmmaking style. I had just completed 6 months of shoot for a television drama series - a process that was largely structured by the needs of commercial television and scripted narrative. I chose to deconstruct the Ramayana - the greatest love story ever told - and jazz it up with rock-and-roll as the catharsis. With just a concept, a camera and no script, I devised with my actors over 2 nights. Furthermore, this process allowed me to be in a filming technique where I can be intimate with my actors. In tune with the origins of the original text, Singapore's Little India district at Serangoon Road became the set-up for this improvisation.

As a child, I attended six years of Islamic madrasah education while concurrently attending secular education at a public primary school. Subsequently, I attended secondary education at an all-boys, Methodist missionary school. Upon reflection, I feel blessed to have the privilege not many boys at that age could experience with these diverse education. I remember that in all these institutions, a consistent religious strain persisted - to love a fellow human being and accept one another unconditionally. In classes at both institutions, I often pondered if sexuality and spiritually can co-exist, while watching the lovely Ustazahs (female Islamic teachers) recited the Quran verses and then listening to the very melodic hymns during weekly chapel services. It was with these ideas in mind that the concept for the final film AMEEN آمين was realised.