Rewan Ishak talks "Postcard Express"
Writer: Elaine Ewe
Rewan Ishak at the red carpet event for "KIL".
With "KIL" announced as one of the five Malaysian films slated to screen in Cannes Film Festival recently, hype for the film's release on 30 May 2013 has definitely seen a decent rise. Initial reactions for the romantic comedy geared towards the positive, as it is a funny, genuinely touching piece of filmmaking that just so happens to revolve around the theme of suicide. Akil (Redza Minhat), a depressed and suicidal young man who just cannot seem to end his life, decides to contract a company known as Life Action Bureau to help him achieve his goal, only to fall for his quirky neighbour, Zara (Cristina Suzanne). With no way to terminate the contract and the clock ticking down to his final moments, will Akil be able to find happiness?
We recently met with the film's executive producer and long-time colleague of the director, Rewan Ishak, to talk about the project's unique premise and casting, as well as his plans for "Passport Express", a short film that Rewan directed for Astro My Hometown.
How did "KIL" come about? How involved were you in the conception and production of "KIL"?
It started off as a small-scale production between me, Nik Amir Mustapha and Jeremy Little. All of us just wanted to shoot a short film among friends, but as it turns out, the idea we had was more suited to be a film instead. But if not for Nik Amir and his futsal accident, our film wouldn't have made it into cinemas. We couldn't afford to shoot for more than 11 days because of our limited budget, so we only released it on social media platforms like YouTube and promoted it by shooting the trailer a week after we finished shooting the whole thing. Then Nik Amir got admitted into the hospital because of said futsal accident, and his roommate turned out to be Tengku Iesta from Grand Brillance. He [Tengku Iesta] told him that he saw our trailer and how impressed he was by it, so Nik Amir pitched our film to him and that was how we got a distributor.
"KIL" is a departure from your previous short film Passport Express. The latter was a very personal short film based on how you see the world and your life experiences. How would you describe "KIL" then?
What "KIL" is, is also the main reason why the film managed to get approved by the Malaysian censorship board despite its 'suicide' theme. The film is not actually about suicide, but about a guy who finds meaning in his life after he reaches rock bottom like falling in love. As you know, Akil contracts Life Action Bureau (LAB) to help him kill himself, only to find that he doesn't want to die when bad things start to happen to him. The defining feature of "KIL" is that everyone can relate to it, because I'm sure that everyone has moments in life when they wanted to die, no matter how serious they felt about it.
Will "Passport Express" be adapted into a feature film?
Yes, definitely. I'm currently working on expanding the script for a feature-length film. I've already got the title for it, which is "Postcard Express".
That's great! Will the fans have to wait long for it?
Not that long I hope! [Laughs] Maybe next year?
Rewan Ishak with Cinema Online's Cinnamon Lion.
You are a big fan of Projek Disko Baldi, which was why you got Iedil Putra, Tuan Faisal and Redza Minhat on the short film. What was your casting process like for KIL? Did you know that you wanted Redza Minhat in it from the start or were you just open to any suggestions that were brought to you?
Cinema Online, 22 May 2013
Nik Amir already knew he wanted Redza Minhat for the leading actor when he conceived of the story because he saw him onstage before. So it was a matter of whether he [Redza] would agree to it. We called him and he read through our script and he was like, "Oh, this is something different, it doesn't take too long to film either," and bam, we've got our actor. As for Cristina, we have been friends for a while. She had just quit her job as a stewardess and she had experience acting for television, so I asked her if she would be interested to star in our film as her physical features fit the character of Zara. She said, "Why not?" When she showed up for the audition, Nik Amir agreed with me then that she should be Zara. The rest of the cast was basically a matter of who we could get to star in our film based on their schedule and our budget.
How do you feel about KIL being selected to screen at Cannes?
All of us were pretty shocked about it, I mean; the movie hasn't even come out in Malaysia for God's sake! What happened was we got a call from the organizers of Cannes Film Festival who saw our film and he asked us if they could screen it at Cannes out of competition, and at first we were just like "Did you get the wrong number?" But yeah, after the shock died down, we are really happy about it even if we are not competing for any awards there because it is such an honour.
As a somewhat new filmmaker who has found success, do you have any advice for students who want to go into the industry?
I'd say don't think about the technical aspects and results so much, don't wait, just do it. We are so blessed in this age because filming can be done even with a limited budget, such as using DSLRs and iPhones and you can just release it on YouTube like we did or any other social media platform without worrying that no one will pick it up for distribution. If it's good, it's good, success will come later. Just do it because you like films, because you want to send a message, because you have something to say.
That's great advice. So are there any other upcoming projects after "KIL" and writing "Postcard Express"?
Nik Amir will be busy directing his second feature film, "Bikin Filem" with Playground Productions, while I'll be helping him out as an editor, like I did for "KIL".
Last question: What is the most recent film that you've watched that you liked?
"The Grandmaster" by Wong Kar-wai. If there is one action film that you must watch, this is it. It blows the recent "Ip Man – The Final Fight" out of the water.
"KIL" is out in local cinemas on 30 May 2013!