Syafiq’s new films Desolasi and Villa Nabila will premiere early next year.
Syafiq Yusof (left) with his father, Datuk Yusof Haslam, and brother Syamsul Yusof.

Faisal Asyraf hears about the latest productions from the youngest filmmaker in Malaysia

HE’S been in the film industry for a couple of years now, but 21-year-old Syafiq Yusof has already achieved quite a bit.

The son of renowned producer-director Datuk Yusof Haslam and younger brother to KL Gangster director Syamsul Yusof, the young filmmaker is now expanding his list of films produced, — the big-budgeted Desolasi and Villa Nabila, slated for screening early next year.

THE YOUNGEST DIRECTOR

Syafiq debuted as a director at 18 years old through his 2011 romantic psychological thriller SAM. It starred Shaheizy Sam, Lisa Surihani, Azad Jasmin and his brother Syamsul. It tells of an ordinary guy called Sam (Shaheizy) who just wants to live happily with his soon-to-be wife Lisa (Lisa). However, Lisa is desired by many, and one of them is a mentally disturbed guy named Haikal (Azad).

The film took home RM1.88 million at the box office, and Syafiq is listed in the Malaysia Book Of Records as the country’s youngest film director.

“As a young filmmaker, I don’t want to restrict myself to just one particular style. I am experimenting with various genres, and am learning and improvising,” said the soft-spoken Syafiq who won the Promising Director award at last year’s Malaysia Film Festival.

When met recently at his father’s Restoran Haslam during the launch of his upcoming films, Syafiq, also a visual effects artist, said he likes to use Computer Generated Images in his work,

His second film, Abang Long Fadil (which premiered earlier this year), had a good amount of CGI. A box-office success with a collection of RM4.6 million, the movie was a spin-off from his brother’s box-office action flick, KL Gangster. Starring Zizan Razak, Aaron Aziz, Soffi Jikan, and Kamal Adli, it tells the story of Fadil, who dreams of joining a gang.

DESOLASI

With his sufficient knowledge of CGI, Syafiq continues to use it extensively in his upcoming mind-boggling mystery film, Desolasi.

In the movie, Aiman is a character on the verge of depression because of frustrations in life. One morning, he wakes up to find that he is alone in this world. “I have experimented with action, comedy and horror (Villa Nabila). Desolasi, on the other hand, sits heavily on the spiritual side,” explained Syafiq.

Filming began on Nov 13 with Syamsul playing the lead role. Co-stars included Pekin Ibrahim, Bella Delly, Datuk Jalaluddin Hassan and Aida Khalida.

Syafiq confided that he had other people in mind to play the leading role. “My brother was not my first choice. However, I had a dream one night where I was begging my brother to take up this role. In that dream, I told him about the character in this film, and how this character would resonate with him. When I woke up, I knew it was a revelation of sorts.

“I believe that Syamsul can portray Aiman because Syamsul himself went through a low period last year when his film KL Gangster 2 was leaked on the Internet a few days shy of the premiere date.”

The storyline of Desolasi has been in Syafiq’s mind since he was a kid. He said: “I often wonder, what if we wake up one day and find ourselves alone in this world? What do we actually do if we are put in that situation?”

Under his newly established production company Viper Studios, Desolasi will contain 60 per cent CGI effects. “It’s a big challenge for me and the team. In Abang Long Fadil, we only used 40 per cent of CGI.

Half of Desolasi’s RM3.2 million budget was for CGI.

“Before we decided to shoot this film, my CGI team and I went to Pavilion KL to experiment. As you know, Pavilion is located in a bustling area, but we managed to ‘erase’ the passers-by and made the character looked as if he was walking alone on the streets. From there, we knew the film would work,” said Syafiq, who also had a hand in incorporating CGI in the TV drama Evolusi KL Drift: The Series.

VILLA NABILA

While Desolasi is still in the making, Syafiq’s debut horror film, Villa Nabila, is currently awaiting approval from the Film Censorship Board. Slated to premiere on Jan 14 next year, it features Pekin Ibrahim and Tisya Syamsir in the lead.

The title may sound familiar to some, as the film is inspired by the recent disappearance of a group of teenagers at an abandoned mansion in Johor Baru, which was highlighted in the media.

Rumour has it that a long time ago, a girl named Nabila and her family were living in the mansion. Nabila was found murdered and the mansion has been unoccupied ever since.

“There are burgeoning versions to the story, especially on how Nabila was murdered, as well as the versions on the disappearance of the teenagers. Everyone has his or her own version of the story, but surely most are not reliable,” explained Syafiq, adding that the film was inspired by the documentary by indie filmmakers Daniel Martin and Rosalli Azrin.

Syafiq’s version is based on an interview with a contractor who was assigned to demolish the mansion. (At Press time, the mansion is still standing).

“We interviewed many, but it was this contractor’s first-hand experience at the place which sparked my interest. So, we incorporated his experience into the film but we spiced up the story a little to make the film more interesting.”

Asked whether he was trying to unveil the real story behind the haunted mansion, Syafiq said: “We made the film for entertainment. We are not trying to prove anything.”

Syafiq says that his father does step in to assist in his productions. “I have no qualms about working with my dad. I still consider myself a greenhorn. There’s a lot that I still need to learn from him.

“When directing SAM, at times I was too confident with myself. I was reluctant to listen to dad’s advice because I thought I knew what I was doing. I realised that a lot of things I’d done was wrong,” says Syafiq.

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