14 States. 14 directors. 14 stories. Loong Wai Ting talks to some young directors of Astro’s My Hometown Short Films
DO you remember what it was like growing up in your hometown? Your childhood friends... the familiar sights and sounds? The short walks to the sundry shops, a game of five stones or marbles?
“I spent most of my formative years in a small town in Malacca. Those years shaped a lot of my beliefs and how I see myself,” said Lina Tan, the founder of Red Communications, who eventually formed a subsidiary company called Red Films.
Her company is also responsible for conceptualising Astro’s My Hometown Short Films, with her as executive producer.
The programme celebrates the beauty and diversity of all 14 States through the eyes of 14 young directors, in conjunction with the country’s 55th National Day and Malaysia Day. Each tells an inspiring story of the State they’re from. The directors are Shamyl Othman (Selangor), Sharifah Amani (Kuala Lumpur), Rewan Ishak (Perlis), Adrian Lai (Malacca), Shanjey Kumar Perumal (Perak), Shuhaimi Zulkefli (Kedah), Nadiah Hamzah (Penang), Yati Kaprawi (Johor), Mahen Bala (Pahang), Nadira Ilana (Sabah), Uzair Sawal (Sarawak), Ariffin Zulkarnain (Terengganu), Brenda Danker (Negeri Sembilan) and Ramdan Che Hassan (Kelantan).
“It’s an exciting project for all of us. We want to show the country’s diversity, and what makes us so unique. Shooting started a month ago and it took us to three states (Perlis, Selangor and Penang). Some of the stories are very personal to the directors as well,” says Tan.
“We’ll travel to Sabah and Sarawak some time this month. Currently we’re shooting in Pahang. It has been an amazing experience so far - we’ve met friendly people who are very generous too. Some even bought us lunch!”
For award-winning actress Sharifah Amani (Sepet and Gubra), this is not her first time sitting in the director’s chair. “I did Sangkar in 2010. There are always plans for me to make new movies. It is part of my plan as an actor,” she says.
“There are a lot (stories) that the late Yasmin Ahmad (her mentor) has not done. So it is up to us to continue her legacy. But I’ve never thought of replacing her — there is only one Yasmin Ahmad. Her understanding of life was so deep that none of us can be compared to her. She did her first film, Sepet, when she was in her 40s. I am 26 this year and the road is still a very long one for me. There is plenty to learn.
“In most of my works, I want to educate women as well. They too have a place in society and are not weak with no choices as previously portrayed in movies.”
In My Hometown, she will be presenting her story titled Kampung Bangsar. Amani, who was born and bred in Bangsar, wants to clear misconceptions that typical Bangsar-ians “know only about Starbucks and speak English”.
“It’s a story about muhibbah (togetherness). There comes a time when we celebrate Deepavali and Hari Raya at the same time. So my story is that Fati, who grew up in Bangsar, is made to feel kampung-less again. Somewhere in London is Vidhya, whom Fati misses dearly.
“So when the “takbir” comes on their television set and Skype on her computer, it has the same echo of longing and celebration,” she added.
Then there’s Ramdan Hassan, who comes from a family of traditional arts practitioners (wayang kulit, dikir barat and mak yong). He wants to tell a story about unity through a trilogy, Hassabiyah.
“The three stories revolve around two main characters — Naqi and Medey — who represent the majority of Kelantanese youth these days. The essence of Kelantan and the lifestyle are in these characters as well. My idea is to show youth today that they can be successful even though they come from a small town. As the saying goes, you can bring a person out of Kelantan, but you can never bring the Kelantan out of him,” he says.
Astro news controller, Vincent De Paul, who is also the project champion for My Hometown, says it’s refreshing to see young people reconnect with their roots and showcase their creativity by remembering their hometowns.
“We are also asking fellow Malaysians to show us their My Hometown Story,” he adds.
You can send in entries of your hometown stories in a video format (no longer than five minutes). The video can be delivered to the Astro Broadcast Centre at Bukit Jalil or can be uploaded online before Aug 8. Details at www.astro.com.my/myhometown
My Hometown Short Films will be aired on My Hometown (Astro channel 318) from Aug 31 to Sept 17.