Saturday, July 17, 2010

Dare to document

Life and Times, NST, July 17, 2010

A film proposal to unearth the real story behind last year’s protests over a temple’s relocation in Shah Alam has won two journalists top honours, writes DENNIS CHUA

JOURNALISTS Sheridan Mahavera Shakir and Siti Nurbaiyah Nadzmi have come out tops in the Freedom Film Festival 2010 for Kuil, their proposal to unearth the real story behind the protests over a temple’s relocation in Shah Alam last year.

The annual film-making competition, themed Dare To Document, is organised by Komas (Pusat Komunikasi Masyarakat), a human rights and media organisation.

It’s now in its seventh year.

Former student activist Loo Que Lin and Semai Orang Asli activist Abri Chupil are also winners.
Loo’s Campus Elections takes a closer look at student council elections in universities while Abri’s Hak Dinafikan documents the Semai battle to preserve customary land rights in Bidor, Perak.

The winners were selected from more than 30 entries by a panel of four judges, including Universiti Sains Malaysia Department of Communication Associate Professor Dr Mustafa Anuar, Sunway University College Department of Performance and Media head Leow Puay Tin and Komas board member Anna Har.

The winners get a grant of RM6,000 each to turn their proposals into film. Komas will assist in the production. The film screenings will be held in the Klang Valley, Penang, Johor and Sarawak throughout October.

For details, visit

Friday, July 9, 2010

A day out with Malek Abdullah

Today is our third day of filming. Malek Abdullah, an award winning cameraman, helps us film under more challenging conditions including night shots of the temple, Friday prayers and the general shot of Shah Alam. As I do not have to do filming I took this 'break' to take a series of stills on the making of our documentary.

9am Call time: Malek arrives in a pair of shorts, which he termed as 'seluar pendek tapi menutup aurat'. Yeah, but since we will be filming mosques and temples and religious rituals, he has to be 'properly' attired. Here is the briefing session after Malek got himself a pair of long pants...

10am Shah Alam MP office: Malek expertly sets up the tripod, slid the foot and lock the camera in position. Push some buttons, adjust dials, switch this and that, clips and attaches cables and finally puts on the headphones. Like clockwork, his action is mechanical and precise. Malek waits for directions from two first-time directors. I was in awe.

10am Shah Alam MP office:  While Malek sets up the camera, Director One briefs MP Khalid Samad on the questions that we are going to ask, and how he should pause between answers and what the director will do to him next...

10am Shah Alam MP office:  .... Director One gracefulling swirling and dusting beige compact on Khalid Samad. An essential filming process.


1.30pm State Mosque: After filming Khalid we followed him to a mosque at Section 17, before rushing to  set up the camera at Masjid Negeri Shah Alam, the iconic mosque of the city. It is here that the cow's head protesters started their demonstration before marching to the State government building toting the severed cow head.

4pm MBSA: Filming aerial shot of Shah Alam from the tallest building in the city. Malek in action.

4pm MBSA: Director One holding the window for Malek, at the same time peering at what Malek is picking up.

4pm MBSA: And this is what Malek took.

5pm from inside a moving car: We are taking pick-up shots for the film and here we are re-tracing the route taken by the cow's head protesters from the State Mosque to the State Government Building. Of course Malek continues to amaze us with his steady hold of the camera.

6pm outdoor: At the public area between the MBSA building and State Museum. Malek is getting the best shot of MBSA building while Director One strikes a pose.

About 6.30pm: We are already losing light. Moving on to the next location, Kuil Sri Maha Mariamman Section 19. At the next location we manage to film devotees praying at the temple and interview them. Malek again takes some really beautiful shots of the religious rituals, the mingling of the bells and the azan from a nearby mosque, and makes excellent pick-up shots for the film, even under low light. I didn't take any pictures at the temple.

At 9.30pm: Before calling it a day, it is terribly important to keep tabs of the days' filming. I will log and mark the footage, remarking on what we have or missed. While waiting for dinner, Malek takes this picture of me labelling the tapes. Shortly after dinner, Sheridan and I sit to prepared the following day's schedule.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Getting the opening scene

Second day of filming and just before we started, one of our contacts pulled out from the interview. He had asked for payment to appear on the film.

"You do not have budget? Impossible," he said, after I explained that our were independent filmmakers and we were on a shoe string budget.

I felt cheated. Wasn't it two days ago we sat on his posh and lush sofa listening to him bragging about the family trip to South Africa catching the momentous Germany vs England match? He had agreed to do this interview then, but changed his mind just hours before the shoot.

We dropped him like a rock. Biar terbenam.

Near Masjid Ubudiah Section 19, while waiting for Maghrib. We recorded the muezzin call for the opening scene of the film.