Liew Seng Tat's latest film, "Lelaki Harapan Dunia" seems to be following the footsteps of "Bunohan" as it had its premiere at various international film festivals before its official release in Malaysia.
The film is a surprise global success considering its tale is that of an old Malay tradition and culture that one would have thought would not have been relatable to those outside of Malaysia.
"Lelaki Harapan Dunia" focuses on a quaint Malay village which falls into mayhem when an abandoned house in the woods is thought to have been haunted by a mythical Malay ghost, Orang Minyak. The misunderstanding leads to various accusations, confusion and hilarious situations.
The comedy film features talented local actors such as Wan Hanafi Su, Harun Salim Bachik, Sofi Jikan, Jalil Hamid and Azhan Rani.
At the gala premiere of the film which took place at GSC Pavilion, Kuala Lumpur on 24 November 2014, Cinema Online got to interview the man behind the film, director Liew Seng Tat.
Where did you get the inspiration and ideas for the film?
The idea came to me when I saw a picture of a group of men lifting a house. I was impressed by the picture. The picture remained in my mind for so long. It is as if the house not only represents a place for them to stay, but also their identity and sense of belonging in the community. The picture also made me think, 'why do humans work together and also fight at the same time?'.
This film has premiered at many international film festivals, but I wanted to bring it back home to Malaysia because that is more important. When I create a film, I don't want the film to just entertain the audience, I want the audience to be able to bring back something they had learned from the film, some extra information that they can reflect and think about.
What is the biggest challenge faced by the film and how did you manage to convince the male cast to cross-dress?
From the very beginning, I felt bad for making the guys wear women's clothes. But they didn't complain or object to the idea. In fact, they even managed to pull off the scene perfectly!
Also, how did you manage to convince Wan Hanafi Su to appear half naked in the movie for the Orang Minyak role?
I am very amazed with Wan Hanafi's professionalism on the set. He managed to act out his character perfectly. When I contacted him regarding the role, he studied the script immediately that night. The next day, he agreed to play the role saying that he loved the script. In the script, it was already explained that he has to go half naked, but he said yes, so it meant that he was okay with it.
How long did it take for you to complete the script and how long was the duration of the shoot?
It took me almost two years to finish the script and the shooting took an even longer time. But it did not matter because I wanted to make a film that I believed in with my solid script and I know that the production will take a longer time to complete, but I wanted it to be the best!
According to some, the film seems to portray a skeptical and sarcastic remark toward the Malays. What can you say about this?
I have no intention of causing anger or dissatisfaction among any parties because the objective of this film is to portray the old house-lifting tradition which was practiced by the Malays in the early days.
For me, this subject is very interesting for us to focus on because many have come to realise about it in this film. The social criticism of the film is very subjective and everyone each has their own point of view regarding the subject.
So what's next for "Lelaki Harapan Dunia"?
The film will premiere at the Singapore film festival next month. The Singaporeans are attracted to the house-lifting tradition that they don't have there. For me, as long as they are willing to accept my film, it is enough.