Singapore. After winning Best Short Film at Indonesia’s Citra Awards last month, "Ruah" or "The Malediction" by Makbul Mubarak scored a Special Mention award at Singapore International Film Festival's Silver Screen Awards in Singapore on Saturday (02/12).
The Silver Screen Awards is one of the key events at the Singapore festival (SGIFF) to promote talented filmmakers from Asia.
It has two main competitions: Asian Feature Film Competition and the smaller-scope Southeast Asian Short Film Competition.
Makbul took home a certificate, a trophy and SG$1,000 in cash from Chuan Pictures.
The Malediction tells the story of a rich Muslim man called Haji Halim who takes a young widow as his second wife despite his first wife's protest.
The haji then faces a series of unfortunate events after his first wife puts a curse on him.
The festival's jury said, "issues of corruption and craft associated with political and religious bodies are reflected in a quirky manner in this film. The bizarre take on gender inequality also makes this film very relevant today."
This is Makbul's second short film to win awards. The critic-turned-filmmaker's 2015 debut, "Sugih" (Dog’s Lullaby), scored the Best Film award at the 2016 XXI Short Film Festival and a Special Mention at the 2016 Thai Short Film and Video Festival 2016.
The Malediction lost to Carlo Fransisco Manatad's "Jodilerks Dela Cruz, Employee of the Month" in the Best Southeast Asian Short Film category, but Makbul said earning the Special Mention award was more than he ever expected from this film.
He thought the 27-minute short was too long and too "localized," being set in Yogyakarta and featuring mystical elements unique to the area.
"I thought only Indonesians, or even Yogyakartans, would understand the movie. But I’m happy people from other parts of Southeast Asia seem to relate to it as well," he told reporters.
He said mysticism is a common feature of many Southeast Asian cultures, so films that incorporate this element should have no problem finding an audience.
Another factor that he thinks contributed to the film's generous reception is its universal theme. The Malediction is essentially about a man whose desires are thwarted by religion.
Makbul received Rp 180 million ($13,30o) in funding from the Yogyakarta Cultural Office (Disbud DIY) to make The Malediction.
It premiered at last year’s Jogja-Netpac Asian Film Festival (JAFF) and its next screening in Indonesia will be at Jakarta's Kineforum on Dec. 17.
Touring Film Labs
Makbul is preparing his first feature film, tentatively titled "The Autobiography," which will tell the story of a retired military general called Purna who makes a film about himself and his glorious past in the New Order era.
The filmmaker, along with producer Yulia Evina Bhara ("Solo, Solitude"), has traveled to film labs around the world to find funding partners.
"We want this to be a co-production with other countries," said Makbul, who also teaches film studies at Tangerang's Multimedia Nusantara University (UMN).
The Autobiography was selected to participate in the prestigious Torino Film Lab this year. The project was also workshopped at SGIFF’s Southeast Asian Film Lab.
The next stop for Makbul is the 2017 Luang Prabang Film Festival Talent Lab in Laos this month.
The film is currently still in its script development stage. Filming is expected to start in 2019.