While Malaysia has always been known as a multi-ethnic country, many only associate the nation with its three major races – Malay, Chinese and Indian. Hoping to bring attention to the indigenous people, "Courage of Dream" director David Liew now brings us his latest movie "Asli" that puts the focus on this otherwise forgotten community.
The movie follows Anggun, a mixed-ethnic Semai girl who goes on a journey to seek out her true identity. A fateful encounter with a young man named Keong leads to the latter giving her a hand in finding the key to her past.
If you haven't seen "Asli" in cinemas, here are 5 reasons why you should watch this currently showing locally-produced indigenous movie.
"Asli" is the first of its kind to feature a script in the Semai language, with almost half of its dialogues set in it. Rarely heard and talked about, the Semai language is spoken by the Semai people who mostly resides in the states of Perak and Pahang. An Austroasiatic language that is closely related to Temiar, there is no standardised version of the language with different villages having their own dialect. This movie utilised the dialect spoken by the community in Batu 8 Village in Tapah, Perak. Some examples of the language include Eng (I), Bor (Good), and Jalek (why).
Asyik FM Katie Bah helps with the script
Having an actual person who speaks the language definitely helps with the writing of the movie's screenplay, and director Daniel Liew did just that by having Asyik FM's deejay Katie Bah lending a hand with the characters' dialogues. An actual orang asli, Katie Bah can be heard in the segment "Yeh Yah N Asyik/ Salam Ma Egah" in the radio station that specialises in the aboriginal peoples' way of speaking and music.
Lee Yuan Yi
Having collaborated in "Courage to Dream", director Liew looked no further for his "Asli" lead, even more so after Yuan Yi managed to successfully balance both his acting and education during the shooting for the 2015 movie. The actor does not disappoint this time as well, with him able to memorise all his Semai dialogues within a month. He also surprised the native and fellow crew with his fluent pronunciations despite not having any cue notes throughout the filming process.
Newcomer Gina Wong
This movie also features the acting debut of newcomer Gina Wong Sie Suen who hailed from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. A chance encounter led Gina to the casting audition for "Asli", where Liew deemed her to be suitable as his female lead at first sight. While conversing, the director then discovered that she is from a mixed ethnicity, making her the perfect 'Anggun' in his eyes.
The best way to act out a role is to actually be the role. Playing a village chief in "Asli", Amit Joyo a/l Bah Chu Hong is a real life native village head in Batu 8 Village in Tapah, Perak. While hesitant to play the role initially, he eventually agreed on it after seeing the many similarities between him and the character.