Saturday, December 13, 2014

For Your Consideration (2015 OSCARS®; Foreign Language)

SAYANG DISAYANG is Singapore's entry at the 2015 Academy Awards® i.e. Oscars® (Foreign Language).

Kindly visit the film's fb page for updates.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Oscars?

I am pleased to announce that SAYANG DISAYANG has been selected by the Singapore Film Commission to represent Singapore for consideration by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the Oscars 2015 in the Foreign Language category.
...wait, did I hear/write that right? seems so surreal to mention SAYANG DISAYANG and the OSCARS in one sentence. Alhamdulillah. Insya-Allah. Amin.

(Read the film review of SAYANG DISAYANG here)

The Sun (1 Oct 2014, Malaysia)

The New Paper (25 September 2014, Singapore Press Holdings Ltd)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

ciNE65 Mentor credit

It was an honour when the folks at NEXUS invited me to be a mentor for the 3rd edition of ciNE65 early in 2014. I was previously invited to be one of the judges for its past 2 editions. It is awesome to observe the programme grow since its inception in 2012.

Filmmaking is about collaboration. Another most important aspect of telling stories is to be able to inspire one another and grow personally from the shared experience. I am drawn into the project because the project promotes storytelling from the eyes of the Singaporean - to explore and express the Singapore Identity by sharing what Singapore means to us through film.There are so many stories to tell. These stories will be an important document to relate ourselves in the years to come.
Here is the final product done by the team.

UTTER 2014

I am so honoured to be selected as one of the filmmakers for this initiative.  This is the first time I have adapted a book into film. I see this exercise more of re-interpreting the original text with respect rather than a direct visual translation of the written material. I had the privilege to consult the author himself, Muhammad Salihin, for my film re-interpretation of his work prior to the shoot.

The premiere screenings took place on 30 July, 3+6 August at GV Vivocity. The second wave of screenings is ongoing at The Arts House, 1-6 September. For more details and updates on future screenings, kindly visit Sinema.

UTTER is a special Singapore Writers Festival initiative, which showcases the best of Singapore writing and celebrates its potential to be adapted into different media and across languages, giving audiences fresh perspectives and a deeper understanding of our homegrown authors. Utter 2014 will feature four short films inspired by Singaporean short stories in our national languages.

* Directors and writers will be present for a post-screening discussion.
* Each ticket comes with a complimentary Utter 2014 book featuring behind-the-scenes content, original screenplays and film storyboards.


Title: Tin Kosong (Empty Cans)
Rating: PG
Duration: 14 minutes
Genre: Drama
Director: Sanif Olek
Written by: Mohammad Zulfadli Bin Mohd Rashid
Language: Malay with English subtitles
Cast: Khalid Babu, Michael Chua, Aminah Ahmad
Inspired by: Tin Kosong by Muhammad Salihin Sulaiman

Title: Hui Jia (Going Home)
Rating: PG
Duration: 10 mins
Genre: Drama
Director: Kenny Tan
Written by: Kenny Tan, Asa Lee
Language: Mandarin and some Chinese (Hokkien) dialect with English subtitles
Cast: Steven Woon, Michael Tan, Bernard Tan
Inspired by: Hui Jia by Lin Jin

Title: Un Vasalil (At Your Doorstep)
Rating: PG13 (Brief Coarse Language)
Duration: 11 minutes
Genre: Drama
Director: Don Aravind
Written by: Wesley Leon Aroozoo
Language: Tamil with English subtitles
Cast: Sithira Thevi D/O Sinnathamby Selvalingam, S. Siva Kuma, Prasakthi D/O Allagoo
Inspired by: Mukadukal by Kamaladevi Aravindhan

Title: That Loving Feeling
Rating: PG
Duration: 12 minutes
Genre: Romance
Directed: Wee Li Lin
Written by: Teh Su Ching, Wee Li Lin
Language: English with English subtitles
Cast: Glory Ngim, Neo Swee Lin, Kamil Haque
Inspired by: Homecoming by Gopal Baratham

Friday, August 22, 2014

Sex therapy

Recently everyone's favourite comic/actor, Robin Williams, apparent suicide from depression has put mental health into the spotlight. Unfortunately, just like HIV, the stigma towards mental illness, i.e. schizophrenia, bipolar et al prevents many chronic sufferers from gaining proper health care. And this in turn causes unnecessary stress towards their respective caregivers. Mental disorders are real and affects everyone. 

Closer to home, many communities in Asia still view mental patients as "dirty linens" in the family and very often sweep these sufferers and issues under the rug to "save face". I feel strongly for this matter which led me to helping the non-profit ClubHEAL with their PSA videos sometime ago.

Another mental disorder that is not commonly discussed is sex addiction. I had the privilege to direct the first 2 episodes of the second season of the television series, BINGIT. Based on my research, on the contrary, sex addiction does not only affect men - women are effected too. Just like the other mental disorders, there is no obvious physical trait on a sex addict. 

Thus how do one identify a chronic sex addict? The general signs are when his/her addiction starts to cause cracks with the people close to him/her, i.e. the spouse or partner, the sexual habits begin to get deviant that it causes harm to the partner.

Here are the two episodes. They were telecast on 6 and 13 August respectively at 2200hrs. Rated PG13.

BINGIT S2 01/02 from Sanif Olek on Vimeo.
Bingit season 2 episode 01/02

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

An invitation

"Majlis Bahasa Melayu Singapura mengundang... Encik Sanif untuk membentangkan kertas kerja mewakili Singapura dalam Sidang Antarabangsa Kesusasteraan Asia Tenggara (SAKAT) sempena Sidang MASTERA ke-20 di Brunei Darussalam..."
I still remember some time ago when I began television (late 90s), I was tasked to produce a documentary about Cikgu Muhammad Ariff Ahmad. Perhaps this might not sound like a big deal to many folks but many colleagues then were genuinely concerned. Well, you see, my command of the spoken Malay language was - to put it kindly, rather substandard (and it still is in some ways). That would have meant I will be communicating 'full-frontal' with the Sasterawan aka *The Esteemed National Literary Figure* himself on an almost daily basis while I researched about his life. They were concerned about how I would be communicating with him. It was a challenge for me but Cikgu Ariff (good-humouredly) was kind enough to let me go on and converse/direct him in English (and yes, a smattering of Malay when I can). 

To cut the long story short, I went on to produce 2 half-hour episodes of Cikgu’s life and continued to produce another 2 half-hour episodes of another esteemed Sasterawan, the late Cikgu Masuri SN.

During the many conversations I had with Cikgu Ariff, he once casually chipped in that I still remember to this day. He said, “…biar bualnya kurang, asal jangan hilang jiwa dan bahasanya”.

I had just completed my first feature film, Sayang Disayang, about the Nusantara. So there! Another day, another adventure, baby!

Kalau bukan kita siapa lagi, kan..?

And yes, I humbly accepted the invitation. Wish me luck!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Singapore NDP2014 screening season

15 August.

And that wraps the screening of my feature film SAYANG DISAYANG that opened in Singaporeon the eve of its 49th birthday and continued to screen over the National Day period, ie 8-15 August. It was a tremendous experience meeting my attendees at every screening. Thank you so much for your presence and generous feedback. This debut feature filmmaking journey wouldn't have been possible without the gifted cast, dedicated crew and kind friends who kept reminding me why I made SAYANG DISAYANG in the first place. And importantly, You - the audience for your time and support for Singapore-made films. The only way to nurture the growth in homegrown arts is to actually buy that ticket and attend the respective showcase. 

I am privileged to have the opportunity to express the Singapore voice with Cinema. Its reach is universal and the experience is tremendous when I'm able to move another with the human condition. I set out to make a universal story about the Nusantara, of which Singapore is located at its heart. 

I am overwhelmed that SAYANG DISAYANG has attracted a mix of nationalities/ethnicities/demographic at every screening. Many in attendance may not know that the film was filmed in 2009, but was only completed in October 2013. Yet the issues and story are not out of place in August 2014. The film is independently-funded and possibly the 1st Singapore-made film in the Malay language in about 50 years. The spirit of its 6-year filmmaking process truly reflects our resilience as Singaporeans.

I look forward to share this journey again (both in Singapore and overseas). 

For details and updates on SAYANG DISAYANG, please visit the film's FB page regularly. #sayangMovie

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

SAYANG DISAYANG opens during Singapore National Day

It's finally here!

I'm so excited to announce that my debut feature film, Sayang Disayang, opens during Singapore National Day (8-15 August 2014) at The Arts House at The Old Parliament. It is indeed apt to present this national film at the nation's most important date, commemorating its status in history as sovereign state on 9 August 1965!

Tickets are available online at or The Arts House box office.

Screening schedule
7.30pm | 8, 11-15August
11am + 3pm | 9 August (with post-screening Q&A)
3pm + 7.30pm | 10 August (with post-screening Q&A)

For details, kindly visit the film's Facebook page or download the press release here.

Majulah Singapura! 
#sayangMovie #ndp2014

[film trailer 2]

[film trailer 1]

Saturday, May 17, 2014

VOLUPTAS film teaser

Following my debut feature film, SAYANG DISAYANG, I'm holed up in the editing board with my second, long-gestating film VOLUPTAS, which was filmed in 2010.

VOLUPTAS stars Ariati Tyeb Papar, Aaron Aziz and Suhaillah Salam, with supporting casts Fadly Awaludin, Douglas Lam, Girish Pandey and a special appearance by Mastura Ahmad.

While the film is being completed (ie, target: 3rd quarter 2014), here's something to look forward to.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sayang Disayang opens on SG National Day

The moment is here. Mark your calenders (ie, August 2014)!
Tickets are now available at


All photos by han
All artwork by reeljuice
(Kindly email me to request for hi-res posters)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The problem with Western Media and Brunei.

Brunei has been in the spotlight lately when it's ruler, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, introduced Huhud laws into his country.

Perhaps before we go stoning (no pun intended) the Sultan's intentions, I've reproduced (with permission from the author) a sensible write-up in my humble opinion for us to ponder.

The problem with Western Media and Brunei. 
So Brunei implements Sharia law. A Muslim country in the South China Sea finally decides to establish laws based on Islam, their state religion, practised by the majority of inhabitants, and the West are slandering the Sultan and his government with the idea that Sharia law removes the rights of homosexuals and adulterous people, and that capital punishment by stoning, lashing and caning is a flagrant disregard to human rights. It has come to the extent where public celebrities from the West are organising boycotts of the Sultan's properties and hotelier businesses for his undeniable right, to implement a sovereign act on his own people which, quite interestingly, the Western media didn't report, that most Bruneians welcome. 
It is hypocritical of the West to criticise a small country in the South China Sea, one which they rarely visit, for criminalising homosexuality and coercing fellow Westerners to boycott Brunei, when other Asian countries, like Singapore and Malaysia also do the same. Yet, these celebrities, perhaps, frequenting these countries more often, do not care as much to boycott Singapore and Malaysian businesses. 
In fact, Sharia law is implemented in full in touristy countries like the Maldives, and the increasingly expat friendly Qatar. 
Moreover, Sharia law is established in countries which the West invaded and left to rebuild itself, like Iraq and Afghanistan. Interesting that Hamid Karzai and Talabani were not chastised by these Western celebrities for their implementation of Sharia law. 
What else did the Western Media not report? 
Well, the fact that the Brunei government provides free education to all her citizens regardless of their religion, from kindergarten all the way to university.
The fact that all newly weds are gifted with a government sponsored house.
The fact that through sheer genius, Brunei pegs its currency to Singapore, giving them purchasing power that is 4x better than Singaporeans because they have a cost of living that is 2x better than Malaysia.
The fact that medical care is free.
The fact that access to contraception is easy.
The fact that treatment for STD and HIV is accessible and easy and performed without prejudice.
The fact that women are more educated than men.
The fact that women face no prejudice in the workforce.
The fact that 20% of senior management is held by women.
The fact that sexual harassment is punishable with jail time.
The fact that rape victims are not punished and will not be punished under Sharia law.
The fact that all reports of rape are actively being pursued by the police and investigated with prudence and justice.
The fact that Brunei is extremely sensitive to corruption and has an anti-corruption bureau successful in eradicating minor and major corruption. 
Brunei is an Islamic country. It has for some time limited Sharia only to family and personal status. But has decided to completely implement Sharia law with the same rigour and justice it has always exercised under Common Law. 
Brunei has provided for her people the best of life. And here, the West who has been struggling to provide debt-free education, free healthcare and zero-prejudice for women, is criticising this small Asian country on how Brunei should treat her citizens. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

BEST MUSICAL FILM for #sayangMovie

If music be the food of love, play on.

Here's something to sing about.

On 1 May, my feature film, Sayang Disayang, has been awarded BEST MUSICAL FILM by the jury at the Mexico International Film Festival 2014. Thank you to the jury.

This is truly unexpected as I have never approached this film as a musical per se. On hindsight I was glad I stuck to my guns in not having background music arrangements - after all why spoil the mood when I have really gifted casts in Aidli Mosbit and Asnida Daud who have really, excellent voices. I made them sing 'live' during takes.

And to think that the Mexicans connected to the songs from Nusantara!

Here's the thing that I learnt while reading the songs with them; it is very crucial that they not just sing them, but they need to emote the lyrics and melodies of the respective songs. Emoting the songs is similar to emoting lines in dialogues. One needs to internalise the songs based on the respective moods required in the scenes. Aidli and Asnida, both of whom have extensive theatre training themselves, rose to the challenge and exceeded the expectations, in my humble opinion! Thank you to these truly gifted ladies.

You will have to witness the magnificent result for yourself in the film.

Film credits to date
Best Asian Film (Jury Prize) @ SalaMindanaw International Film Festival (2013, Philippines)
Best Musical Film @ Mexico International Film Festival (2014)
Closing film @ Southeast Asian Film Festival (2014, Singapore)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Sayang Disayang on MANJA

The following editorial was published on MANJA magazine prior to the feature film, SAYANG DISAYANG premiere screening in Singapore. The film closes the 4th Southeast Asian Film Festival (11 April - 4 May 2014) at the Singapore Art Museum.

Thank you to the magazine's editorial team. #sayangMovie

MANJA magazine (May 2014, MediaCorp Publishing).

Monday, April 21, 2014

On-the-job hazards

I've always considered what I do for a living as means to pay my bills and I endeavour to accomplish it well with the given circumstances. I still cherish to remain anonymous but sometimes can't help but get stopped by some random member of the public. To be honest, I really appreciate their kind gestures but often, their subsequent pick-up lines leave much to be desired.

Here are some of the amusing s*t I get from these (rather, well-meaning) random folks.
Q: Aren't you (my name)?
Me: Yes, thank you

This affirmation is normally followed by one of the following;
1. Wow you look younger than in mags/paper/etc..!
2. How come you rejected my child/daughter/son in your shows after his/her drama audition?
3. Oh but you look taller..?
4. How come you're riding a yellow bicycle?
5. Hmm, are you sure?
6. I know this very good (insert pyramid-marketing, based product) good for your late night shoots. Want to try?
7. I have a VERY good story for your drama.
8. What happen to (insert artiste's name)? Are they still together/married?
9. What can I do to be on television?
10. How come you never come eat at my stall?

AND perhaps the most classic of all,
11. How come I don't see you act on television anymore?

MANJA (May 2014, MediaCorp Publishing)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sayang Disayang film Q & A

The following are my responses to standard Q&A pertaining to my debut feature film, Sayang Disayang. #sayangMovie

Can you tell us more about Sayang Disayang?

This film is about Murni, a live-in nurse, who has an uphill quest for the elusive recipe to cook the best Sambal Goreng that matches the taste of that one Sambal Goreng dish once cooked by her boss’ late wife.

Sayang Disayang is a story I came up with after watching a lot of films on food or uses food themes in their respective narratives. At one point I was watching so many food films from Europe, Taiwan and South America and they made me realized then (to my knowledge) there are no films being made about food from the Nusantara (Malay Archipelago). The Malay Archipelago is made up of diverse culture and has very rich heritage in food. I looked at many Malay dishes and finally settled on the Sambal Goreng, a signature dish that is common and instantly recognisable in the archipelago.

Why did you choose this story in particular?

Importantly, I choose to tell this story to look at the relationships between the domestic helper and the family that employs the helper, especially when families employ domestic helpers to solely take care of their elderly parents. I want to explore the shift in dynamics when Asian children don’t live with their parents for some reason and leave this care/responsibility to a stranger.

I’ve been fascinated by how the Sambal Goreng is prepared. Sambal Goreng is not a very complex dish but it is not a very simple dish to cook either. Many dishes from this region do not come in specific quantities, otherwise known as “dicampak campak”, or thrown-in. Many of the recipes are passed down from mothers to daughters in the kitchen. The local elderly wives would say one become good cooks if you spend more time in the kitchen.

Why did you choose the plight of a domestic worker in Singapore? Do you feel that you need to give a voice to this particular segment of society?

I don’t think my film can solve many things. However it is interesting to observe what happens to the Asian/Eastern values such as filial piety, when ideally children who are supposed to take care of their parents employs a "stranger/outsider" to replace their traditional duties instead.

Also, I want to explore what sort of welfare such caregivers are receiving. Many arrived from rural Southeast Asian environments. Are they mentally prepared to be transplanted into urban settings? Even if they are not, would they be prepared to face the social and cultural differences?

We don’t usually see aging single senior citizens as main characters in films. Can you tell us more about Pak Harun?

Pak Harun is a widower who lost his wife in an accident, which left him half paralysed waist-down afterwards. His son had basically abandoned him and employed a live-in nurse to look after him. He seems bitter but actually he misses his wife very much. He externalizes himself by being very bitter to everyone around him, especially his live-in caregiver. He complains that his caregiver cannot cook the same Sambal Goreng that his wife used to cook for him.

Did you encounter any difficulties in getting this story to the screen?

This film is 6 years in the making. I had a tough time getting funds but I was fortunate to have the support of friends who constantly give their moral support. In 2010 there was a crowdfunding campaign, but the money received was still not sufficient. I only managed to complete it late last year after discussing at length with my co-scriptwriter, Gene Sha Rudyn, on ways to tell the same story differently, with the footage filmed in 2009.

Making films has always been challenging. I had good training in filmmaking. However in Singapore you can’t really pay your bills just making films. I make television programmes 85% of the time thus making films simply provides an avenue to challenge myself - to get in touch with my cinematic instincts. On films I see myself telling compelling stories different from what I would have normally done for television.

Dato' Rahim Razali is a screen legend in Southeast Asia. I was challenging myself if I could get a screen legend to act in my film. Dato' Rahim is known to be very particular when it comes to film scripts. I am grateful to him for believing in my script, to come on board in my debut feature film.

Credits to date;
Best Asian Film (Special Jury Prize) @ SalaMindanaw Int'l Film Festival (2013, Philippines)
Closing film @ Southeast Asian Film Festival (2014, Singapore)

Channel NewsAsia 'Singapore Tonight', 10 April 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sayang Disayang film artwork

Here are samples of the film's artwork.

Kindly email reeljuice at gmail for Hi-resolution versions of the posters. 

All photos (except still #5) by han
Artwork by reeljuice

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sayang Disayang official trailer

If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.

Announcing the official trailer for my debut feature film, Sayang Disayang.

Sayang Disayang will screen at the 4th edition of the Southeast Asian Film Festival. I am honoured that the film has been selected to close the festival. The screening took place on 4th May 2014 | 5.30pm | Singapore Art Museum. This will be its Singapore premiere.

UPDATE: The film opens on Singapore's National Day (Aug2014). Get your tickets at

Synopsis #sayangMovie
Live-in nurse Murni works for Pak Harun, a lonely and bitter elderly man who continually harangues his caregiver. Murni tries to cook a Sambal Goreng dish that is exactly like the one cooked by Harun's late wife but success seems to elude her. Despite this, she sings all day in the kitchen, which serves only to irritate Pak Harun further. What is the elusive ingredient that can unlock the tension between Murni and Pak Harun, remedy these damaged hearts and bring them together to sing the same tune?

I want to tell a story affecting all Singaporeans and the Southeast Asian region, especially of the elderly and the domestic caregivers by observing the dynamics where families are increasingly depending on the “outsider” to take care of their elderly parents while the respective adult children are out at work or totally absent in the household.

It is also to celebrate the various ethnicities that define the Nusantara (Malay Archipelago) in Southeast Asia - we may share the same food and evergreen songs, but our perceptions to one another differ because of the language, geography and (cultural and national) politics.

In developing the theme for Sayang Disayang, I used the Sambal Goreng. Sambal Goreng is a signature Javanese dish made of the chilli condiment, or sambal and traditionally is stir-fried, or goreng, with livers and gizzards. Like many dishes of the Nusantara, flavour is achieved by the individual's preference and the amount of ingredients is never exact, but usually estimated and simply thrown in.

Growing up, I watched a lot of Malay films by legendary filmmakers such as P. Ramlee, Hussein Haniff and M. Amin whose socially-aware films had influences from classic Bollywood films, where music and dance are used as segues in their narrative. Sayang Disayang, also pays homage to these film genres - but with a contemporary twist.

Kindly visit Sayang Disayang on facebook for details on this film's journey.

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.