Astro breaks new ground for Malaysian film with ‘Polis Evo’
By Patricia Hului
Photos courtesy of Astro
Frank Capra, the director behind critically acclaimed movies such as ‘It Happened One Night’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ once said “There are no rules in filmmaking. Only sins. And the cardinal sin is dullness.”
With Astro Shaw’s latest movie ‘Polis Evo’, dull was definitely not in its list of cardinal sins.
Directed by Ghaz Abu Bakar, the action movie sees Zizan Razak and Shaheizy Sam play police detectives Sani and Khai respectively.
Behind the scenes, scriptwriters Joel Soh, Kyle Goonting, Anwari Ashraf and Adib Zaini were the ones pulling the strings.
In 2012, Astro Scholarship Awards recipients Anwari, Joel and Kyle joined Astro Shaw and have since worked collectively on over 20 films in various creative and production capacities.
‘Polis Evo’ marks a huge milestone for them as it is their feature film debut and now they are looking forward to leaving their marks on the Malaysian movie scene.
From toilet paper to Lord of the Rings
His first short film was about a psychopath who kills a man and chops off his arm while his girlfriend watches on in agony.
He even taught himself a few things about make-up, wax and resin to bring the scene together but the materials were so expensive, he found himself using mostly just toilet paper and PVA glue.
“I shot it on a mini-dv cam and edited on Windows Movie Maker, if I remember correctly,” Soh said as he reminisced about his earlier work.
That was when Soh was 18. Now ten years later, he’s debuting as a feature film producer and writer with ‘Polis Evo’.
“I’m excited; being able to actually make a feature film especially at the scale of an action film is the true learning experience,” he said. “’Polis Evo’ is my first stepping stone also into the feature film realm. I gave it my 200 per cent along with everyone else and we sincerely hope the audience enjoys what we cooked up.”
Nonetheless, Soh admitted making an action film on a Malaysian budget is a near impossible task.
“We had to be realistic. There was no way we could cook up an Avengers or Iron Man so we looked to action films in the 90s such as Bad Boys and Lethal Weapon,” he said.
Since ‘Polis Evo’ was no Marvel movie, Soh said the biggest challenge was breaking the mindset ‘Oh we cannot make a Hollywood action film so why bother?’
The Emerson College graduate explained that nobody would learn or progress in terms of skill set or craftsmanship with this mindset, so there needed to be some sort of a yardstick to which he could hold everyone accountable to.
“Without this yardstick also, it was easy to fall into the trap of thinking what we produce is good enough when in fact it is not.”
Soh said after a while however, once everyone was on the same page and everyone knew that expectations were high, things went smoother during production.
In future, Soh is hoping to make something that involves more CGI (computer-generated imagery).
“Something epic like Lord of the Rings but within Malaysian folklore, (but) still a long way from it though,” he admitted.
Stressful but worth it
Sharing his experience working with Soh, Anwari and Adib in writing ‘Polis Evo’, Kyle Goonting (27) found it tiring and stressful.
“To be honest there were lots of times when my instincts acted against my better judgement and I actually considered quitting,” he admitted. “But the guys would always regroup and we would remind ourselves why we were doing this. So while there was a lot of tension through sleepless nights, it really felt that we were a passionate team and quick reminders of that really helped me through.”
It was the first time the group had written an action film and for Kyle and Soh; it was the first time they were involved in filmmaking here in Malaysia.
“We did not know what to expect but we had tremendous trust in each other and that was what I think was most important,” he said.
Although it was tedious, frustrating, tiring and stressful, Kyle said he would not have it any other way.
Kyle is now writing his second feature film, making a big leap in genres to a romantic dream which is still in Astro Shaw’s production pipeline.
“I always wanted to write a romantic drama so I was excited by the opportunity and I guess that itself helped a lot with the transition,” he said. “The actual struggle was picking myself up after such a tiring episode of writing the action film.”
He found it most useful to just start watching lots of films and talking to people about the idea while gathering information.
“Once I see the idea coming together, it automatically spurs me on to start writing again.”
In future, Kyle would like to keep himself flexible on the movie genres he works on as he thinks that’s the most important thing as a writer.
But there is one genre that Kyle would never dip his toes into which is comedy, “because I’m just not a very funny guy.”
Moving People through Film
When he was 14, Anwari Ashraf Hashim was involved in an Apple Malaysia initiative called ‘Video in Education’ which promotes video-making for educational purposes .
“I was handpicked to represent my school and was made the production’s director. I fell in love with the process immediately.”
Anwari then pursued his formal education in film at Middlesex University, London, graduating top of his class with Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Film, Video & Interactive Arts in 2010.
The 26-year old wants to inspire people through film, and believes the best way to do that is by being a director.
Defining his choice of inspirational movie, Anwari said, “A film that moves you in the right direction can change your whole life.”
The movie which serves that purpose for him is Gus Van Sant’s directorial work ‘Good Will Hunting.’
“As a teenager, going through the emotional torture that is puberty – I had a lot questions about the general concept of existence, mostly my own. ‘Good Will Hunting’ triggered the introspected study and acceptance of my own self, which for me, was the first necessary step in understanding the world,” he explained.
The Kulim native defined personal success in film-making as the ability to bring back the audience’s trust for the local film industry.
After finishing ‘Polis Evo’, Anwari learned his number one lesson which was that good did not happen on the first try.
“You have to take your first draft of everything – be it script, edit version, sound design – deconstruct it, recognise the flaws in it, and redo from scratch. Repeat,” he said.
In the meantime, Anwari is overseeing the post-production for ‘Aliff Dalam 7 Dimensi’ which is slated for a January 2016 release.
“On the surface, Aliff dalam 7 Dimensi will be a fun ride. But if you allow yourself to see it, it can offer the audience a deeper character study. How internal struggles can shape the psyche of a person.”
Anwari who is both writer and producer in this upcoming feature film stated, “Dare I say it, (it is) some of the best CGI work you’ve ever seen in a Malaysian film.”
‘Polis Evo’ opened in cinemas nationwide Sept 17 and has made RM8 million so far in box office sales.