THE name Darius Shu hardly rings a bell in Kuala Lumpur but the 24-year-old is making waves internationally due to the success of his first major film, Secret Child.
In fact, Shu’s work as director of photography for the film set in Ireland has been honoured in several international film festivals this year.
His work was nominated for Best Cinematography at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards 2018, London Gold Movie Awards 2018 and Oniros Film Awards 2018 in Italy early this year. The 20-minute film won Best Short Drama at these events.
Shu is based in the United Kingdom but was born in Petaling Jaya.
“Secret Child had me team up with a great film crew and brilliant actors. It’s been screened in 30 international film festivals,” said Shu in a recent interview in Kuala Lumpur.
The film’s youngest crew member and the only Malaysian, Shu said Secret Child is based on the bestselling book by Gordon Lewis, and stars Fiona Glascott (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald), Aaron McCusker (Bohemian Rhapsody) and Austin Taylor (My Cousin Rachel).
Directed by Yew Weng Ho, it is the true story of a young boy who grew up in a hostel in Dublin, Ireland, and who is the product of a forbidden love between a catholic mother and a protestant father in the 1950s.
“Having a film shown at prestigious festivals in Los Angeles, Italy and London is a great way to showcase my work. I want to make films that tell stories that are out of the ordinary,” said Shu, adding that there were plans to turn Secret Child into a Netflix series.
“The film has been submitted to almost 50 festivals and by the end of the month, we’ll find out if it makes it to the Oscars.”
EYE FOR PERFECTION
Shu, an only child, has been interested in all forms of art — painting, songwriting, playing the piano and photography — since his school days at Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Seri Permata, SS3, Petaling Jaya.
After buying his first camera at 18, he developed a knack for taking pictures of people and ventured into fashion photography.
“I simply loved making people look good. My clients often told me, ‘Wow, I never knew I could look that good’,” he said, adding that it motivated him to become a cinematographer and filmmaker.
Shu subsequently pursued a broadcasting degree at Taylor’s University in Subang Jaya, graduating in 2015. He decided to migrate to the UK the following year “for better job opportunities”.
“It was also to further my studies and I did a masters in film production at the Arts University of Bournemouth.”
Prior to Secret Child, Shu was the photography director of British-Indian short film Pardaa, a semi-finalist at the 44th Student Academy Awards, a spin-off of the Oscars.
“Pardaa, my first short film, was about a woman who works as a stripper to raise funds for her sick younger brother's treatment,” he said, adding that it was screened at the Sydney International Film Festival 2017.
The film, directed by Kajri Babbar, also won Outstanding Achievement at the Kolkata International Film Festival 2017.
When asked about his favourite films, Shu listed Blade Runner 2049 and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and Interstellar.
“Nolan is a brilliant storyteller and he’s my all-time favourite filmmaker. I also admire Roger Deakins, cinematographer for Blade Runner 2049, and its director Denis Villeneuve,” he said, adding that he enjoyed thought-provoking movies.
Shu does not regret building his career in the UK because it “opened a lot of doors” for him.
“I’m an ambitious person who wants to take on the world. I see the UK as a global player in the film industry and it is always best to gain experience there.”
He hopes to make a British-Malaysian film one day and is happy to share his journey with aspiring filmmakers.
“I visit KL every year, spending a good two months with my parents. I may be quite ‘alien’ to the Malaysian film industry but I hope to collaborate with good independent filmmakers from home.”
Shu, a fan of stories about “people who overcome the odds”, and poignant tales about family, hopes to create a British-Malaysian feature film about Malaysians who “live between KL and London”.
“That’s going to be my tribute to relatives who have migrated to the UK, and come home every two to three years.”
Shu is currently working on advertisements and music videos, a talent he developed during his years in KL. “Back then, I did simple ads for social media, about 10 of them.”
A silent thriller, His Hands, is his next project. “I won’t reveal much about it for now, but it’s my first film as a full-fledged director,” he said, adding that he planned to make his own film soundtracks.
“I believe in making good films with a small budget. I always believe small is beautiful.”
Shu’s works can be seen at www.dariusshu.com.