Terbaik Dari Langit: A little film with big ambition
By Patricia Hului
MALAYSIA’S ‘TERBAIK DARI LANGIT’ made headlines a couple weeks ago when it won the award for best film in Asean Film Festival and Awards (Aiffa) on April 11.
It was up against ‘Homostratus’ (Vietnam), ‘Bendor’ (Pilippines), ‘Cahaya Dari Timur’ (Indonesia) and ‘Nuwebe’ (Philippines).
The competition was tight. ‘Homostratus’ was an award-winning film prior to Aiffa; it had also won the Best Unique Vision Award in Queens World Film Festival 2014 in New York.
‘Nuwebe’ was also a heavy contender, already bagging the Internet Award for Best Feature at the 12th Tirana International Film Festival in Albania last year.
Adding to the competition was Cahaya Dari Timur, which was awarded the Best Picture award at the 2014 Indonesian Film Festival (FFI).
‘Terbaik dari Langit’ success was made all the sweeter when it walked home with Aiffa’s Best Film Award.
The story follows Hafiz Sufian nicknamed Berg, an obscure filmmaker who convinces his old school friends Ijam, Toyu and Ali to hit the road with him and chase a UFO across the Malaysian Peninsula.
The English title is NOVA, referring to a star that suddenly explodes into the brightest light, magnified thousands of times before returning to its normal state.
Conceptually, it speaks of that one moment in every human’s life when they shine their brightest before eventually returning to a state of normalcy.
The budget was approximately RM1 mil, taking 35 days of shooting around Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Perak.
“It is about philosophy” – The Director
He directed his first film ‘KIL’ in 2011 when he was just 26 years old.
Nik Amir Mustapha also produced and wrote the film under his production company Flux Visual which was first released in May 2013.
It was intended to be an indie film before it caught the attention of Malaysian studio Grand Brilliance who then distributed the film.
‘KIL’ went on to grab four out of seven awards during Malaysian Screen Awards 2013 including Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Film Actress (for Cristina Suzanne Stockstill) and Nik Amir himself bagged the award for Best Film Director.
For the 26th edition of Malaysia Film Festival (FFM), once again the then 30-year-old director who holds a BE in Electrical Engineering from Sydney University won the Best Director and Best Fil for ‘KIL’.
‘Terbaik Dari Langit’ was his second feature where he found himself wanting to make a film that focused on matters close to his heart.
“Usually people ask what kind of message you want to portray through your film but I think films are really about philosophy such as what is the idea you want to share through your films,” he said.
Nik Amir pointed out that ‘Terbaik Dari Langit’ was mainly about friendship, not conforming to society’s expectations and being true to yourself.
He continued, “These are the philosophies that we want to bring out and let the audience discuss on these themes.”
Initially named ‘Bikin Filem’, which means ‘making movie’ in English, Nik Amir also explained that the film in its totality is a homage to film-making. He makes a special tribute to the late Yasmin Ahmad by including a scene of her 1997 film ‘Talent Time’.
Nik Amir shared that his biggest challenge in directing ‘Terbaik Dari Langit’ was its scale.
“In my previous movie ‘KIL’, it was a small scale production. We shot it in 11 days with minimal crew,” he recalled.
‘Terbaik Dari Langit’ had almost 50 members in the production team which Nik Amir found hard to adapt to at first.
“But I had a strong team. Everyone was into it. It was teamwork. Although it was a bigger scale and it was scary to me but everyone pitched in and helped.
“It all goes back to the material. When everyone believes in that, my job becomes easier,” he said.
With only two movies under his belt – both critically-acclaimed and award winning – Nik Amir seems to have tapped into the secret to success in filmmaking.
But there is no secret, he argues. “Basically we just focus on making an honest movie.”
For Nik Amir, awards are bonuses and his first target is to get as many people to watch it as possible.
“A little film with big ambition” – The Executive Producer
The production company responsible for ‘Terbaik Dari Langit’ is none other one of our nation’s filming powerhouses Astro Shaw.
Established in 1996, the company had produced more than films and distributed approximately 100 titles in Malaysia.
Notable films coming out from Astro Shaw were ‘The Journey’ (the highest grossing Malaysian movie of all time), high box-office movies such as ‘Ombak Rindu’, ‘Hantu Kak Limah Balik Rumah’, ‘Papadom’, ‘Histeria’ and many more.
According to executive producer and head of film Najwa Abu Bakar, ‘Terbaik dari Langit’ was the last film Astro Shaw released in 2014.
She stated, “It is a little film and it had big ambition because it got its own voice and not your typical Malay film.
“I think the subject matter that it discusses is also more thought-provoking. It is about friendship, changing after your dreams, death, life and relationship.”
Commenting on the teamwork behind ‘Terbaik Dari Langit’, she said “I think I have never seen a team so close like a real family and so focused on the same vision in trying to make this film work.”
Najwa, who is also the head of Astro Shaw and vice-president of business development in the content group of Astro Malaysia Holdings (AMH) said the production company is looking into ideas on how making mentorship programmes and providing film funds in order to help young film makers.
“These are still in the planning and we have not made any official announcements yet,” she said.
Acknowledging the fact that in Malaysia there is a growing number of new underground filmmakers, Najwa shared that sometimes these undiscovered film makers don’t surface perhaps because they want to do things a certain way and they might not want to be associated with a big studio.
She is still optimistic, however. “To me we can compromise because at the end of the day you want the new talent to come out.”
Najwa believes that the Malaysian audience is getting tired of the same sort of story with the same sort of style.
“I think our film industry must have a balance. Yes, the commercial type of stories but also alternative stories that touch on human drama,” she said.
Astro Shaw makes a conscious effort to meet new film makers on a daily basis.
“What we would like to do is help people realise their dreams. Our job is to make sure at the end of the day the audience get their films and our job is also to help young film makers to achieve their dreams,” she stated.
“One of the best scripts I had ever read” – The Actor
When Bront Palarae who played Berg was first handed the script, he said it brought him to tears.
“It was one of the best scripts I had ever read,” he said, noting that ‘Terbaik Dari Langit’ was a fun movie with a big heart.
“After being some time in the industry, you will feel a good script is hard to come by.”
Bront was joined by Ledil Putra (Ijam), Amerul Affendi (Toyu), Megat Sharizal (Ali), Nadiya Nisaa (Sofia Jane), Sharifah Amani (Sara) and Siti Saleha (Zelda).
Asked, how it felt to be working with a very young director Bront answered: “That makes me feel very old!”
Jokes aside, he answered “It was not into any consideration because we were so focused into pulling it for him (Nik Amir).”
From Bront’s point of view, Nik Amir was all about trying to reach his vision and he had a definite vision.
He added he had been a big fan of the director since ‘KIL’, “I think he is very matur for his age as a director because I have worked with almost everyone in this country.”
Bront is known for his work in 2005 television series CInta Tsunami by portraying two characters and films such as ‘Anak Halal’, ‘Man Laksa’ and ‘Bilut’.
He shared that Nik Amir’s passion toward the film was so infectious and contagious that the cast and crew were working hard in making the director’s vision coming true.
“I think that is the most important thing about a filmmaker or a director. You don’t need to portray to certain kind of trait to earn that right to direct. You earn that right through being true to yourself as a visionary filmmaker.
I think that is what Nik Amir all about,” he said.
During the recent Aiffa’s category Best Actor Award, Bront was competing against Ario Bayu (Indonesia) for Soekarno, Allen Dizon (Philippines) for The Coffin Maker, Chicco Jerikho (Indonesia) for Cahaya dari Timur and fellow Malaysian Reza Minhat for ‘KIL’.
The lead actor ‘Terbaik Dari Langit’ bagged the award instead.
He shared that the win was unexpected, “Ario Bayu portraying Soekarno; that is a huge thing because it is biographical. In festivals, it’s always biographies that get the nod. In my head, I thought it was going to be Ario Bayu.”
In his acceptance speech, Bront dedicated the award to the late Datuk Aziz Satar who played his grandfather in the film.
Aziz passed away last year on May 6. ‘Terbaik Dari Langit’ was his last film.