Presented by students from SMK Seri Mahkota, ‘Muniyah’ bagged the Best Film Award at the 16th Asian International Children’s Film Festival last month.
PETALING JAYA: Students from SMK Seri Mahkota in Kuantan, Pahang, recently made the country proud by securing the Best Film Award at the 16th Asian International Children’s Film Festival in Japan.
Their winning five-minute short, titled “Muniyah”, conveys an important social message while shedding light on the indigenous peoples of Malaysia.
The festival last month showcased over 30 short films from youths aged 15 to 18, representing countries across Southeast Asia as well as China, Japan and South Korea.
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“We didn’t even think we could win because, while we were watching all the other countries’ films, we felt very insecure. Theirs were equally impressive,” said Aira Ameerah Mohd Afandi, who portrays the title character.
“For me, the most important message in our film is to not forget our origins, no matter how far you go.”
Directed by 18-year old Nur Nadia Shahirah Mohd Sharizam, the story highlights Muniyah’s shifting perspective from being a village girl to a modern city dweller.
Now a privileged teenager used to the luxuries of city life, she has to make a difficult decision when she learns of her father’s illness and is forced to confront the prospect of returning to her village.
Speaking with FMT Lifestyle, the team revealed that the journey to Japan had begun with a local short-film competition organised by the education ministry last August, on the theme “Culture Honoured, Tradition Respected”.
“We brainstormed about prominent customs and cultures of the people in Pahang, and the idea to focus on the Orang Asli community emerged,” mentor teacher Haizatul Zulaiha Zakaria recalled.
Presented with the opportunity to represent Malaysia at the children’s film festival, they decided “Muniyah” would fit the bill, with just minor edits to align with the new theme “What I Want”.
According to Haizatul, the Japanese jury lauded the visually compelling uniqueness and authenticity of the film’s setting, and a storyline that, while easy to grasp, resonated profoundly.
Speaking about the filmmaking process that took place in June, the team shared that they faced several challenges, beginning with the medium.
Luckily, they had the help of former SMK Seri Mahkota students Abdul Hakim Yusof and Siti Zulaika Adam, who both work in the film industry and played crucial roles in scriptwriting and assisting with the technical aspects of filmmaking.
For Jesica Emily Alexander Midan, who plays Muniyah’s best friend Jess, their input was invaluable: “I’ve never acted before, so they taught me everything from the ground up.”
Director Shahirah concurred: “Filmmaking can be quite exhausting because we have to shoot many times from different angles, and if it doesn’t work, we have to shoot again.
“I learnt all these technical aspects for the first time because of Mr Abdul,” she said.
Despite its brief duration, the entire film, which includes montage scenes, extended dialogue, and drone shots, was accomplished in a single day of shooting because they had rented an Orang Asli house in Kampung Gedung Siam in Gambang.
Moreover, the students were in the midst of preparing for their upcoming SPM examinations – now mere weeks away.
And although only three students travelled to Japan, Haizatul pointed out that all in all, around 10 students had been involved in the making of the film.
“Those working in the crew took on various roles and had to learn about editing, using the camera, and handling props, mostly for the first time,” she said proudly.
Haizatul and her fellow educators at SMK Seri Mahkota aspire to nurture more creative talents within the school, fostering artistic and academic excellence year after year.