Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ohio University to Adapt “Home for Hari Raya” into Screenplay and Film!

My Leap Year just took a leap forward after meeting someone new, Frederick Lewis, a professor of film/video at Ohio University who contacted me last week regarding the possible filming of one of short stories. We discussed on the phone what they were looking for and I clarified which book he had read the story from—it was the original collection of Lovers and Strangers (1993 Heinemann Asia) that they had at their library (just as I had blogged about), and not the 2009 Popular Reader’s Choice Award winning Lovers and Strangers Revisited (2008, MPH) 

Lewis, who has received numerous grants, awards and nominations for his independent documentaries, has also received praise from film festivals for the full-length feature Trailerpark based on a short story collection by acclaimed author Russell Banks, which was made by 70 of his students for an advanced narrative production class. 

Lewis had previously brought some Ohio University students to Kuala Lumpur a few summers ago, and, coincidentally, to Sarawak, on the island of Borneo where I happen to live, though we never met.  He told me via email and also on the phone that he is trying to bring students back to Malaysia in December 2012, during their break, to shoot a short film.  He said that my stories from Lovers and Strangers have come up in their research and conversation while looking for a short story to adapt into a screenplay and film.  

After discussing what he was looking for, I suggested that “Home for Hari Raya” instead of their original choice “Mat Salleh” might be a better fit.  So I sent him the link from Istanbul Review, which had published it online in May 2011 (I blogged about that too) and the link to the story behind the story.

Four days after receiving the revised Lovers and Strangers Revisited version of my story, Lewis emailed and said, “My students love ‘Home for Hari Raya’.  They are going to begin work on adapting it into a screenplay.”   He then added, “The story contains all of the elements we agreed we wanted more than 6 months ago when we started the search.”

He said the screenplay has been assigned to OU student Margaret Babington, who will be contacting me as the screenplay progresses.  Jeremy Parolini, who is doing a degree in Media Management, will be the producer. Lewis will begin working on the Education Abroad proposal with a goal of shooting this in Malaysia next December.  This will involve working out the logistics—how much the trip will cost each student, where they will stay, and where they will shoot.  They will be working with the local film industry and liaising with Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM).

Ohio University, by the way, has strong ties to Malaysia, going back 30 years.  As many as 2,400 Ohio University alumni live and work in Malaysia—the University's greatest concentration of alumni outside the United States.  The present Tun Razak Chair in Southeast Asian Studies is Habibah Ashari, director of the International Education College (INTEC) at UiTM in Shah Alam.

The next 3-4 months will determine whether we get our proposal approved and can recruit students for the production phase,” Lewis added.  For some of the students and their parents, it’ll be a dilemma, since it may be the first time they’ll spend Christmas away from their families—half way around the world in Malaysia.  But it's too good of an opportunity to miss, not to mention that, well, Malaysia is the tropics and the tropics trump Ohio winters every time!

My fingers are also crossed.  Although this may not be Hollywood calling, I’m still looking forward to working with Frederick Lewis and this team from Ohio University.  The fact that I grew up in Ohio and attended Miami University (in the same MAC conference), gives the story—about three Malay sisters returning home for Hari Raya following the death of their father—an interesting twist for Ohio University, or as Lewis stated, “A very pleasant bonus!”

Not a bad way to end 2011 and kick off 2012!
                  —Borneo Expat Writer

* Update and Skyping with Ohio University and the filming in December 2012.  

**Update: Ohio University posted HHR on YouTube  
***Update, the 20th anniversary of Lovers and Strangers Revisited
Here are links to some of my author-to-author interviews of first novelists:

Ivy Ngeow author of Cry of the Flying Rhino, winner of the 2016 Proverse Prize.

Golda Mowe author of Iban Dream and Iban Journey.

Preeta Samarasan author of Evening is the Whole Day

Chuah Guat Eng,  author of Echoes of Silence and Days of Change. 


Beheaded on Road to Nationhood: Sarawak Reclaimed—Part I 


sintaicharles said...

I enjoyed the recent workshop and my stay at your house.

Your cheese omelet was superb, very light, moist and fluffy.

AST: Sabah said...

What an exciting development!

Ted Mahsun said...

That's a pretty neat way to end the year! Congrats!

By the way, any chance of Lovers and Strangers Revisited being released as an ebook in the future?

Borneo Expat Writer said...

-sintaicharles: Glad you enjoyed it and liked the omelet, too. Thanks for flying all the way in from Miri!

-AST:Sabah: Thanks--it sure is!

-Ted: Thanks! It's also a great way to start the New Year! I'm looking into e-books, too. This way readers can find it, even in Malaysia!

Ted Mahsun said...

That would be grand! Looking forward to reading your books on my ereader!