And out of the ashes of Malaysian Cinema, rises Bunohandirected by Dain Said Iskandar, like the proverbial phoenix. The phoenix, by the way, makes a (disguised) cameo appearance as Yuhang’s pet parrot in the film that has the power of speech (c/o some great CGI). I dare say the parrot’s acting was better than his master’s. And thankfully, his life on screen was short - he gets his throat slit! No, not the parrot’s. His master’s - a well-deserved end, not least for his performance in Chantek directed by – I think this guy is French - Pierre Andre. Arrgh! Talk about Mat Salleh sesat!!
This particular minion – the Chinaman – keeps popping up in Malaysian cinema. We saw the likes of him in Kala Malam Bulan Mengambang (Mamat Khalid, 2008), played by – who else – this scourge of the Malaysian film industry who has infected the mainstream with a disease unseen in the almost 90 years of its history. In Kala, he is seen inhaling on opium. Likewise, another Chinaman is seen doing the same thing in U-Wei’s Hanyut, this time played by Patrick Teoh. There was another one in Anuar Nor Arai’s Johnny Bikin Filem(1995) who dies with a shot directly to his forehead. Hmmm, what’s with these directors? What are they saying? Ah, but that’s the art of cinema, being quite inscrutable!
With Bunohan, Dain Said has purposely made a mainstream cinema that has strong entertainment values. Bunohan above all, entertains. It then has something very important to say and it goes on to reflect the culture and mores of the Kelantan Malay community. Now that’s what a good film should be.Dain’s viewpoint is very objective. He makes no judgments but allows us to formulate our own (unlike Yasmin Ahmad who used to play with our sentiments. I don’t know if that’s good or not but there’s a segment of us cineastes who also love that kind of thing. Sob, sob!).
Dain Said truly understands cinema as can be seen by the stunning cinemato-graphy of the landscapes that function in the film as mindscapes. The barren land, dilapidated dwellings, overcast skies and leafless mass of trees and reeds reflect the characters and their noirish lives. And what marvelous characters they are! The actors disappeared into their roles, emerging only as their portrayals. Kudos to Dain Said for being among the few Malaysian directors who are shaping a new breed of actors for the industry. (they won’t be recognized in the Malaysian Film Festival but that’s no big deal. It’s not a real festival, anyway, judging by the last few years’ awards. They just need to be thankful that they were given the opportunity to work on a real film!). These young people are the ones who can be called actors in the truest sense of the word. Khir Rahman, actor/director, remarked at a seminar that Dain Said is one of only two directors he had worked under who can truly be called directors (the other being Yasmin Ahmad)..
Thanks, Dain Said. You make us all proud that there is a Malaysian cinema!
We wait tremulously for U-Wei’s Hanyut.
(BUNOHAN explodes on cinema screens of TGV beginning March the 8th)