Liew Seng Tat posing at the FFM 27 red carpet.
The Liew Seng Tat-directed Malay comedy film "Men Who Save the World" or better known as "Lelaki Harapan Dunia" conquered the 27th Malaysian Film Festival (FFM 27) last Saturday on 5 September, with a total of five wins over 24 categories!
Despite going through some controversial issues, the film emerged as the big winner of the prestigious night as it took home the Best Film award, Best Director and Best Original Story awards, as well as Best Child Actor award for Rykarl Iskandar.
During the officiating ceremony the film also took home the Best Art Design award for Tunku Mohd Taufek and Tunku Tommy Mansur.
With so many victories for "Lelaki Harapan Dunia" which also enjoyed a healthy run at film festivals around the world, director Liew Seng Tat talked to Cinema Online right after his FFM 27 win and here is what transpired.
After winning five awards including Best Art Design during the officiating night, how do you feel now that "Lelaki Harapan Dunia" has won Best Film?
I am very thankful and very proud of my team. I'm also very inspired!
The cast and crew of "Lelaki Harapan Dunia" at the post-red carpet event.
Did you expect that you would win in this major category?
No. As you can you see on stage, I didn't even prepare my speech, I was really nervous and my mind went blank. But I really hoped that we would win the Best Actor award too because I think Wan Hanafi Su is a really great actor. However, we can see that the competition this year is really strong. For example, "The Journey" – the film is a Tsunami. That's why I think that's interesting, because this means that this year, we have a better quality of films. Hopefully next year it would be even better.
Out of all the films nominated, which film do you think was your biggest competitor?
Actually I don't really know. I can't choose because I think that every film is strong in its own way. I would vote for not one, but a few, and they have all been shortlisted. Everyone was nervous and I had sweat so much when the names were called!
Now that you have won all these awards, do you think people would have higher expectations from you? Are you pressured by that?
Just like the experience we had from "Lelaki Harapan Dunia", we started with an aim of wanting to tell a good story and say what we wanted to say in a very honest way. We will try to do the best that we can as long as it is within our capabilities and resources. I don't think I am pressured to make something even better now, I would always stick to the same process and spirit.
Liew Seng Tat thanked his team and supporters when receiving award.
What do you think is the main strength of the film that attracted the juries' attention?
I honestly don't know because it is subjective. I don't even know who the juries are.
As you would know, previously there have been some controversial issues surrounding your film, especially accusations of racism. Do you think that this might be the reason that attracted the juries as you are brave enough to include this element in your film?
In the first place, I didn't plan to be controversial, that's not my plan. I just want to make good movies. I just want to test stories that matters to me and portray them in a good way. When the end result is out, it's up to the film critics and audience to comment or judge. So it becomes interesting for "Lelaki Harapan Dunia" as the film can create so many dialogues between us. And I think that what's lacking in this country is communication – we need to talk more, we need to discuss more. I'm very happy that "Lelaki Harapan Dunia" created this platform, because the more we talk, the more we understand each other.
Would the theme of your next film be similar to "Lelaki Harapan Dunia"?
No, it's going to be very different. If you look at "Flower in the Pocket" – my first feature and "Lelaki Harapan Dunia", they are two entirely different films. The next upcoming film would also be very different because I believe in challenging myself.
The "Lelaki Harapan Dunia" team went on stage to receive their Best Film award.
What is your next film?
It's tentatively called, "The Girl with No Head".
Will it be a horror?
Not exactly a horror. It's a mixture of romance, family drama and a bit of a zombie plot.
It's currently in production?
No, it still in script development stages. I'm currently looking at the script.
Do you already have a cast in mind?
Not yet, as it is still quite premature. Usually all these details on casting will only be decided after the script is developed.
How do you usually pick your cast for your film?
It depends on the story and the characters. Sometimes I write certain characters in mind if I know that this actor or actress can play the role very well, if not, then we go through the whole process of casting and auditioning.
What is your view on this year's trophy which has gold pieces?
I think that it's a really beautiful trophy.
Liew shows off his trophy!
What do you think of FFM replacing the cash prizes with a trophy with gold pieces instead?
Actually, I've just been told about this because I didn't realise that FFM has actually given out cash prizes previously. I think trophies or cash prizes don't matter, but their existence still matter to us. Because after getting this I feel so inspired and motivated. And it is not just for me, but my team as well.
Cinema Online, 07 September 2015