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