Monday, May 20, 2013

Home for Hari Raya-first look at film by Ohio University



Finally got to see a screening of Home for Hari Raya, based on my short story from Lovers and Strangers Revisted, when a private viewing was sent to be via vimeo.  (*Update: HHR was posted on YouTube in October 2013.) Frederick Lewis, associate professor, School of Media Arts & Studies, reported that when Home for Hari Raya was premiered on 27 April at Ohio University, it was well received.  For most of those in attendance, it was their first real glimpse of Malaysia, or even Southeast Asia other than the news.
   
As the author of the story, I didn’t quite know what to expect from the film.  I was cautiously optimistic, but then I quickly became mesmerized from the opening motorcycle ride through a serpentine road leading to Rina who is waiting for her brother at a bus stop.  Visually, I found the film stunning, a lot was going on; they really caught rural Malaysia, the details.  For me, it brought back all these memories that I have of visiting kampungs in Perak and Kedah, from the kampung house, to the villagers, to their traditional clothes, and even Rina sweeping away a dead gecko from inside the house.  The film was rich with sounds too, from the opening call to prayer, to various birds chirping, to wooden wind chimes.

The story had several brief flashbacks of Rina, as a child crying, not in the original story, though it seemed to work as she kept reflecting back to her childhood, to her father who had taken a second wife.  I admit that when her sister Sharifah slapped Rina, I felt it too.  Having worked extensively on the script through numerous drafts with the director/screenwriter, William Holzer, I knew that slap was coming; still it caught me by surprise.  It worked.  I was impressed with the caliber of the acting, particularly the three sisters; the close-ups, the nuances of their facial expressions, their comraderie; and even their closeness when they weren’t getting along.  It was palpable.  This felt like a professional effort, and it was under the guidance of Frederick Lewis, who brings his vast experience to the student-led project.
                    
Home For Hari Raya, as I blogged about before, and as noted in the article from Ohio Education, is the first international production effort by students from the School of Media Arts & Studies, the result of a cross-cultural collaboration. Fourteen students travelled to Malaysia with Frederick Lewis from December 15 through January 9, immersing themselves in the culture of the region.

According to the article, many of them prepared for their experience in Malaysia by taking a Malaysian culture seminar with Tun Abdul Razak Chair Habibah Ashari of Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), whom I had once had the privilege of skyping with in a session with her students. The students raised more than $3,000 and contributed their own travel expenses to fund the film.

While in Malaysia, the students joined forces with 12 students from UiTM’s School of Film, Theater and Animation on location. The dozen UiTM students assisted with lighting, casting and art direction and rented a kampung (village) house, which served as the film’s primary set location.

Home for Hari Raya, 24 minutes in length, ideal for a half-hour time slot on TV, was premiered with three other short films, Asleep in the Deep, Monhegan Light and Julie in the FunHouse all adapted from short stories set in the US.

Frederick Lewis stated that Amir Muhammad is going to screen Home for Hari Raya at his Malaysian Shorts screening in June.  I approached a film festival in Sabah, also in June, but it looks like the slots are already filled for 2013, a shame we didn’t contact them sooner.  The film will be sent to other film festivals in the US, and possibly around the world.  Hopefully, RTM Malaysia will pick up on it in time for upcoming Hari Raya, 8-9 August, or even for next year.

Joe Battaglia, a director of one of the other films premiered at Ohio University, and also involved with Home for Hari Raya is quoted as saying, “Time, money and effort may make something good, but people, passion and persistence makes things great.” 

I couldn’t agree more, and I feel proud to be associated with this film and honored that my short story “Home for Hari Raya” was adapted by Ohio University into a movie, a first for me.

**Update, the 20th anniversary of Lovers and Strangers Revisited

3 comments:

AyatKursi said...

Great to read the blog, Robert. Frederick and I are writing about our experiences with HFHR, and we hope we could contct you for comments.

AyatKursi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Borneo Expat Writer said...

Sure. No problem. I wrote a few blog posts about this, including the link: http://borneoexpatwriter.blogspot.my/2012/12/ohio-university-in-malaysia-shooting.html
Good luck with the project. Robert