Creating The ‘Brunei’ Film – A Trilogy Based on ‘Melayu Islam Beraja’

I like movies. Even more, I like wasting my time coming up with movie ideas. I write them down in my spare time (I have a few saved in my computer) but there is one idea that I like to share with everyone particularly with my fellow Bruneians.

But let’s start with a little background:

At HMV, I spotted ‘The Three Colors Trilogy’, a series of films directed by  Krzysztof Kieślowski with each story loosely representing the three ideals of France (Liberty, Equality and Fraternity) and the three colours of the French flag (Blue, White and Red). I felt inspired by the cool concept and immediately thought about the ideals of my own country, Brunei Darussalam. Our national ideology is ‘Melayu Islam Beraja’ (MIB) or in English, ‘Malay Islamic Monarchy’. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if they make a trilogy with each film focusing on each of the components of that philosophy.”

That idea stuck and grew on me because of several things that happened such as the recent visit of the Sultan of Brunei to London and all the Bruneian students in UK (there are A LOT of us) gathered together at Hilton hotel; the fact that I’m graduating in the next few weeks and start thinking about my future.

Why this project?

So here’s my idea for this so-called ‘trilogy’ and I’m leaving it to anyone in Brunei to develop it. I also think that this could be the perfect time for this type of project because:

– There is a rising number of movie fans in Brunei now. The Cineplex at the Mall and the Empire have made Bruneians more savvy with films. Cinema-going have also become a popular leisure activity for Bruneians. Most young Bruneians are now reviewing films (Recently, I was surprised at how a lot of Bruneians criticized the poor plot of Transformers 3. I was like “WOAH! Since when Bruneians give a damn about depth? They are now trying to be proper movie critics now?!?!”). In short, Bruneians LOVE and KNOW movies.

– However, local film industry in Brunei is almost non-existent. I’m pretty sure there are many talented filmmakers in Brunei and all we have to do is give these talented people the right push.

So how do we push the local film industry and appeal to Bruneian movie lovers? By making our own movie that are relevant enough for Bruneians. Hence why I think a series of movies revolving around the theme of MIB and its relations to modernization would be a good idea.

So here’s a rough idea of this ‘trilogy’. These are just ideas that could just start things up and lead to better ideas.



There are several ideas that could be spun out of ‘Malay’ as a theme. You could do a family drama focusing on the relationship between a young Bruneian and his father; two people from different generations with different mentality. You could also do something on racial theme about the relation between Malay, Chinese and Indians.

What I have is a story idea that focuses on the social divide among the young Bruneian population between the Western oriented and Malay oriented youngsters. Here’s a possible storyline:

A young Malay man returns to Brunei after staying overseas for quite a while. Full of ideas and energy, he attempts to open a Centre of sort to promote the Arts (art, music, drama, etc). He found success among the upper middle class and their more western oriented children. However, he could not reach out to the lower middle class Malay oriented masses that he’s simply out of touch with.

One day, he sees a performance of a traditional Malay dance by a group of girls. Feeling really inspired, he embarks on a journey to discover the rich Malay traditions that he sadly didn’t know much about. In the end, he holds a special showcase at the Arts centre with the main theme being a fusion of modern and traditional arts.

You don’t have to follow this exact plot but the social theme it touches upon is personal for me. As someone who had spent a considerable amount of his childhood overseas and met young Bruneians from both social sides, I just think that this is a story idea with a message that will resonate with a lot of young Bruneians. The protagonist’s journey of re-discovery of the Malay traditions is the perfect opportunity to showcase the rich Malay Bruneian traditions.

The moral of the story is – It’s good to be open to new and modern ideas but never forget your roots.


Here’s what I came up with but I’m sure this would be a bit controversial:

It’s about three close friends whose friendship is torn apart due to the different paths they took in their lives. One is exposed to Western philosophy which led him to question his Islamic faith. The other is into the dangerous extremist views of Islam. And the one is in the middle and tries to keep their friendship together. As both men became more convinced that they are correct, only their third friend can see how so far lost those two have become.

The story could have a happy ending where they both see the errors of their way and be friends again. BUT I prefer to have a downer ending where they both have an empty life because of the respective path they chose in their lives.

Moral of the story – It’s ok to open to new ideas but don’t get easily influence by it. Being ultra conservative may not necessarily make you a better Muslim.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with deepening your knowledge and practices in Islam, as a matter of fact it is GREATLY encouraged to do that (Alhamdulilah). But we need to know the difference between what is correct and what is extremist ideas especially in today’s world. And I see these thing happening to a lot to people especially those who stay abroad. It’s not about being liberal or not….it’s about being sensible and knowing to use your conscience.

Like I said, this would be a bit controversial. There are several possible ideas that are less controversial. Again, you could do a family drama about a father who tries to instill Islamic values on his family. A story focusing on the journey of a person towards the Khatam of the Quran would be interesting as well.

Perhaps a more relevant story could focus on a Sekolah Ugama/Religious School. I’ve always have the feeling that these Sekolah Ugama get sidelined by the more regular schools. It would be a nice and interesting change from what would be a typical plot setting of a normal secondary/highschool.


It gets trickier now. I don’t have any concrete plot ideas for this one. But if we like to follow a ‘political’ theme, something that touches on the LegCo would be interesting. I have to say that I’ve been impressed with how far our parliament have gone so far since its reinstatement  in 2004. When I say ‘Political’ theme, people would immediately assume something negative. No, I always see ‘politics’ in Brunei as much more about the relation between the community and the government; the LegCo is the center and the embodiment of that.

Here’s one suggestion:

Have a story revolving around an issue or a problem. Then focus on a few characters ranging from someone working in the ministry to someone on a village level eg. Ketua Kampung. We would then see the issue from different perspectives and the whole story would be about them working together to solve it. The LegCo could be involved in the middle of the story perhaps. In the end, the issue/problem is solved thanks to a cooperation between the community and the government.

You could even throw in a character representing the country’s media as the main character who could serve as an anchor to the various story threads.


There are tons of story ideas that can utilise the themes of Melayu, Islam and Beraja. But the main point that I want to put across is that the story(ies) that we should make must touch on a topic that is both contemporary and relevant to Bruneians. If we want to start some sort of Brunei film industry then we must simply start with a bang:

  • It may not have to be high standard but definitely don’t aim for a low one
  • Must appeal to Bruneians from various age groups
  • Most importantly, a movie that actually MATTERS. We can’t make a mark with our film industry by producing superficial films. It must at least have some depth/thought to it.
  • It must be Bruneian. So that means it’s about Bruneians, deals with Brunei and is intended for Bruneians. And other people that would watch this movie would know it as a ‘Bruneian movie’.


If all of this doesn’t appeal to you….then we could always fall back on my TV series idea or my ‘Bruneian Superhero Idea’ 😉

But that’s for another post if anybody wants to hear it.


4 thoughts on “Creating The ‘Brunei’ Film – A Trilogy Based on ‘Melayu Islam Beraja’

  1. Hi – I’m a UK consultant preparing a 2-day workshop to be held in BD on 14th and 15th January. It’s one of their IMMerse series of talks organised by the iCentre It’s for a small group (about 30 people) from organisations like BEDB, UBD, RTB. The second day is a ‘creative’ day at which I want to encourage the participants to come up with creative ideas of their own. Would you mind if I showed your page with the idea about a Brunei Trilogy as an example of ideas emanating from Bruneian culture? I’d just be showing it briefly on a powerpoint slide.

    You’re welcome to contact me on, or connect on Linkedin

    all the best

    Krishan Arora

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