The Return of the Brunei Superhero Story

Back in 2012, I started writing a Brunei superhero story titled ‘Guardians of Darussalam’ and published it online.

I’ve published several chapters sporadically between 2012 and 2014 in my spare time. I stopped because of several reasons (writer’s block, lost of interest, day job workload, etc). I said that I’ll return to it someday.

dotzauer-parliament-brunei-03

It has been three years and now I am re-editing and re-publishing the chapters I’ve written back then.

I am hoping to re-publish the chapters every week (one chapter per week).

https://guardiansofdarussalam.wordpress.com/chapters/

I’m open to any constructive comments/suggestions.

Hope you all enjoy!

GUARDIANS OF DARUSSALAM is a homage to the superhero genre with a local flavour.

Set in a heightened reality / fictional / alternate version of Brunei, it is a story of an ordinary boy named ADAM who gained super strength after an encounter with a magical giant archer fish – just like the legend of Brunei’s mythical hero, Awang Semaun. Initially reluctant, Adam soon finds the hero within him and set out to become a superhero for Brunei.

When dark forces rises and threatens the peace in Brunei, it is up to Adam and his allies to stop it and uphold the country as a DARUSSALAM – an Abode of Peace.

Click the links below to the read the chapters so far:

CHAPTER 1
6 Jan 2017
Adam encounters a magical giant archer fish that granted him extraordinary strength – the same ability as the legendary Bruneian folk hero Awang Semaun.

CHAPTER 2
15 Jan 2017
Liza helps a victim of physical abuse. Adam gets involved in a car accident.

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My thoughts and ramblings on ‘Yasmine’…and other stuff

Just saw the movie ‘YASMINE’. In short, I enjoyed it. For a first feature length movie from a Bruneian director, I thought it was generally good and it kept me engaged throughout.

Now for some random thoughts:

SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T SEEN IT YET

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So how’s the Plot

It’s a typical story of the hero wanting to do something that her father disapproves but all is well in the end as she learns about true friendships and reconcile with her father. And there is a love triangle subplot too. Is it groundbreaking? No. Is it bad? No. It’s like any other story. It is what it is. So I’m not complaining about the plot.

What about the Language? They sound weird in the trailer

This one took a bit while to get used to. It sounds like a patchwork of Bruneian, Malaysian and Indonesian accent. It is not that surprising considering the inter-regional cast and crew of the film. It bothered me in the beginning but you quickly forget about it because you get engrossed in the story.

Heck, there are scenes where the indonesian actors just couldn’t be bothered trying to sound Bruneian but I just rolled with it….it’s better than butchering a Bruneian accent right? One of my favourite scene in the movie was when the dad meets the master in the wheelchair. At that point, I thought “Screw the accent and dialects! These guys acted out a good scene. Doesn’t matter”

But the movie is still recognizably set in Brunei, right?

What I really really love about this movie was seeing the local landmarks on a big screen. Yes, Masjid SOAS looks cool on the big screen and so does Kampung Ayer.

Best of all, seeing a typical Kadai Runcit on the big screen (with a strategically placed shot of Indomie Mee Goreng packs as well!!) Kadai Runcit should be seen more on the big screen….heck, you know what?! they should make a whole movie set in a Kadai Runcit. Good guys trapped in a Kadai Runcit fending off bad guys Assault on Precinct 13 style! Someone make that happen!

Then there are those little Brunei stuff that they try to shoehorn into the script like Nasi Katok and Ambuyat. No comment.

And there are the ‘less realistic’ part of Brunei showing up in the movie but hey, who cares….It’s a movie. It’s a form of escapism. What you see is a Brunei that exists in a movie world…

…a Brunei where Shahbandar College exists (those Origins Films people or whoever else involved in the production better start selling Shahbandar College t-shirts)

…a Brunei where RTB actually mob someone at the airport for an interview (RTB don’t do that kind of thing hahaha)

…a Brunei where there are 10 Silat Masters scattered throughout the country. Well, 11 if count the wheelchair master….ok 12 if you count the dad….no wait, 13 if you add M. Nasir.

M. Nasir?!!

At one point in the movie, M. Nasir briefly showed up as a Sith Lord luring Yasmine to the Dark Side (I like to believe he was a Sith Lord).

There were also other cameos as well (HEY! It’s Uco from RAID 2!) but the best one was the familiar local RTB actor playing a teacher scolding Yasmine for not wearing tudong in school. So happy that he’s involved in this somehow.

Yasmine still-thumb-630xauto-48439

I don’t care about the story. Was there a lot of ass kicking?!

The fight scenes were definitely well done and exciting. For those of you who may have found the dramatic scenes boring or cringe-worthy for your taste then I’m sure the fight scenes made up for it. Kudos to the director, choreographer and the editor.

And Yasmine did beat up a bunch of douchebags at Kampong Ayer. Disappointingly, she didn’t kick any of them onto a pile of durians.

(Note: If you have someone kick another person onto a pile of durians in the sequel then you will definitely have my money!)

So What’s Next?!

The film has been generally well-received in Brunei and Indonesia and there have been talks about a sequel. The director even mentioned about having ideas for a 2nd AND 3rd movie.

I don’t know what she has in mind but as long as it’s not something stupid like Yasmine getting recruited into a special force team fighting terrorists or her dad gets killed and she seeks vengeance.

Just imagine the trailer for that *Trailer voice* They Killed Her Father. They killed her best friend. This Summer. Yasmine is back. This time, it’s personal! Yasmine 2!

But on a serious note, I could see Yasmine joining a regional Martial Arts competition for the sequel facing different opponents with different styles of fighting. She could be part of a larger contingent and has to work together with that rival of hers from the international school. Enemies turned friends. Throw in other actors from the region and there ya go!

articles300514AN-yasmine_300514AN-yasmine-001.transformed

So What’s Next?!

I already told you, they could do a sequel…

No. I mean, what’s next for Brunei?! There is a lot of hype, not just about the movie itself, but this whole idea that it could jumpstart an actual local film industry

It would be damn great, wouldn’t it?! But it is definitely easier said than done. Here’s a quote from Brunei Times: “Indeed, there is a lot of room for this industry to grow. It needs more producers, directors, actors, screenwriters, artistes, technicians, animators and musicians.” Do we have those people? Oh we have plenty of them. A locally produced feature length film could be done. Actually, it has been done!

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Before Yasmine came out, there was a local movie that was released in cinemas called ‘Apa Ada Dengan Rina‘. Unlike Yasmine, it was made up of mostly local cast and crew. It did get favourable reviews from the locals and in the regional film festivals.

I remember how one person wrote to Brunei Times last year in April complaining about how ‘un-Bruneian’ Yasmine was due to the cast and crew. I couldn’t find the link to the article because somehow Brunei Times lost all the ‘Letters to Editorials’ between September 2013 and 2012 BUT thanks to web archive, you can read here:

https://web.archive.org/web/20130409032913/http://www.bt.com.bn/letters-editor/2013/04/05/need-recognise-local-talent

Or you can read it below

Need to recognise local talent

Friday, April 5, 2013

Dear Editor,

IT UPSETS me to see how a Bruneian movie is about to feature only one or two Bruneian casts. I understand that it is going to be shot entirely in Brunei, but what is so Bruneian about a movie full of casts from Malaysia and Indonesia?

The funny thing is, there are a whole lot of talented Bruneians and they will not event try to audition anyone. What is the production company saying? Are we not good enough? Are these foreigners better than us?

I respect the fact that they want to make a movie in Brunei but what is Bruneian about this movie? I support all locally-made products be it food, drinks, dramas, songs, whatever. As long as it is Bruneian, I have to vouch for it. But in this case, it is a shame.

One production company had released a full-length movie and the cast and crew members were all Bruneians and it was well received, with rave reviews and comments.

This other movie that is about to be filmed needs to feature more Bruneian actors and actresses because this could be their chance to make it big in this industry.

Until the day the locals have faith in the locals, that is the day when Brunei will have successful individuals.

But until that day comes, Bruneian artistes will have to shadow these foreign celebrities to get a small piece of the cake.

Lo-Cal

I remember this article because I actually left a comment on it:

As much as I ideally want a good pure 100% Bruneian film production, I’m not too offended that ‘Yasmine’ (I assume that this is what the writer is referring to) has a sizable foreign cast and crew especially since our local film industry is still in its infancy. I personally look at it this way – if this project can help us get exposed and recognition in an international stage then a having a largely foreign cast/crew is a price worth paying. It will make film industries in neighbouring countries take notice and see Brunei’s potential as a place to do film business. Then hopefully, we will have more local film productions once we gain that confidence and experience from working with foreign productions.

It is also interesting to see the different ways these ‘Brunei films’ are made: Apa Ada Dengan Rina is mostly local based while Yasmine takes a more international approach. I believe there is one more local film in production that is based on a web series. I’m not aware if there are others but it would be cool if there are. To me, they’re all for the common goal of jump starting our film industry and we should support them all.

If the writer is still upset by the foreign cast in the movie, at least think about it this way: The foreign cast will be directed by a local woman director. That counts for something 🙂

Note: The local webseries I was referring to was ‘Break’ by Adam Grove.

I still stand by what I wrote. They’re all for the common goal of jump starting our film industry and we should support them all. You know what I hope? I hope that guy who wrote that back in April (who went by the name ‘Lo-Cal’) I hope he’s an aspiring local director that sees Yasmine and goes ‘That was good but I can do it better…with local cast and better script’ If that’s the case, then more power to him.

That was exactly how James Cameron got motivated to make movies. He saw Star Wars and said ‘That was cool but I can do better’ and he went on to push (and continue to push till now) technological boundaries to bring awesome cinematic experiences for the audience.

I’ve also been hearing rumblings about local animators

Yes and I’ve written about this early last year when I was talking about local Bruneian legend.

“..I hope one day we can produce ‘Perang Kastila’ or ‘Kastila War’ (war between Brunei and Spain in the Philippines) for television viewers and animation will make such an epic production possible,” said someone from RTB

And like I’ve mentioned in my post last year, there were many more local legends that we can make a movie or an animation on. And others feel the same way as well.  A University professor have said that we should use our culture as an ‘asset’Our Minister have said that our unique culture can be seen as niche in the creative industry; A visiting former BBC executive have put forward the idea of our culture and history as a selling point.

Yeah but….I don’t like period piece. I want modern stuff.

True, it doesn’t have to be restricted to local legends. As long as it feels ‘Bruneian’.

My feature film is a movie about Bruneians. It will show the interactions and communication among Bruneians. The reality of Bruneian society,” said local filmmaker Adam Grove few years ago.

That’s what I hope to see someday. Something similar to that.

Let me rewind the clock a bit. I dug up this one right after watching Yasmine and was thinking about this whole local film industry thing

Three Years ago. 2011.

I was the wide eyed recent graduate optimist who had more free time posting stuff on the internet (some say I still do)

I wrote in this blog about how THE Brunei Film – the ONE that would jumpstart a local film industry – should be an anthology of three short interconnecting stories each based on the theme of Melayu, Islam and Beraja. You can read my ramblings about it here if you want:

https://trylobyte.wordpress.com/2011/07/14/creating-the-brunei-film-a-trilogy-based-on-melayu-islam-beraja/

But there was a point I made in the end that I still believe in:

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’.

A scene from Yasmine, about a girl who wants to be a silat champion

BUT personally, I think the beauty of this movie was that it was the story/characters first, a showcase of Brunei second. That’s the key to its crossover appeal. It wasn’t trying to be THE ‘Bruneian’ movie but just a movie that tries to tell an engaging story. That’s it.

I’m not saying Yasmine should be a 100% ‘Bruneian’ movie. I’m saying that Yasmine could be a springboard towards an eventual production of a high standard pure ‘Bruneian’ movie. See the film as if it’s a test reel for Brunei…a movie with enough Bruneian elements that acts as a proof of concept to show that a quality and well-produced movie could be set in Brunei and be about Brunei and Bruneians.

And that is a hope that Yasmine (and Apa Ada dengan Rina) is helping to realize.

Related:

YASMINE – BRUNEI DIALOGUE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYYJkqkDwmQ

Brunei shoots for the stars with trailblazing first commercial film

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/18/brunei-trailblazing-first-commercial-film-yasmine-silat

Sutradara Ingin Film `Yasmine` Berlanjut Jadi Sekuel

http://showbiz.liputan6.com/read/2094806/sutradara-ingin-film-yasmine-berlanjut-jadi-sekuel

Brunei’s film industry has just begun

www.bt.com.bn/breaking/2014/08/22/brunei’s-film-industry-has-just-begun

What’s so special about Brunei films?

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/life/Whats-so-special-about-Brunei-films-30222522.html

Need to recognise local talent

https://web.archive.org/web/20130409032913/http://www.bt.com.bn/letters-editor/2013/04/05/need-recognise-local-talent

Make way for Brunei’s independent film director

bt.com.bn/art-culture/2012/04/25/make-way-bruneis-independent-film-director

Thoughts on Local Brunei Legends

https://trylobyte.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/thoughts-on-local-brunei-legends/

Bruneians called on to explore 3-D animation

http://bruneiembassy.be/bruneians-called-on-to-explore-3-d-animation/

Identify cultural assets to develop creative industries

http://www.bt.com.bn/news-national/2012/05/29/identify-cultural-assets-develop-creative-industries

MIB a catalyst for creative industries

http://www.bt.com.bn/news-national/2012/05/31/mib-catalyst-creative-industries

Brunei can carve own creative niche

http://www.bt.com.bn/2013/01/15/brunei-can-carve-own-creative-niche

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

https://trylobyte.wordpress.com/2011/07/14/creating-the-brunei-film-a-trilogy-based-on-melayu-islam-beraja/

YASMINE, CINTA REMAJA YANG TAK MENYE-MENYE

http://fanabis.org/2014/08/yasmine-cinta-remaja-yang-tak-menye-menye/

Melihat Brunei Lewat `Yasmine`

http://showbiz.liputan6.com/read/2097274/melihat-brunei-lewat-yasmine

YASMINE : BRUNEI’S FIRST PUNCH FROM THE HEART

http://danieldokter.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/yasmine-review-2014/

 

Digital Scrapbook – Bruneian Students in UK

It’s Summer time and some of the young Bruneians here are probably thinking/preparing themselves to study overseas by September/October with UK being the traditionally the popular choice for young Bruneians (Australia is another popular choice. The US is also starting to become another popular destination).

This is also the time when these young Bruneian students would start asking bunch of questions like How’s studying in UK? Do you get homesick? How do you deal with the academic difficulties? How are the Bruneians there? etc.

I’m sure you can find stuff on the DOs and DONTs and other advices from those booklets or presentations that you get if you visit any of those UK Education exhibitions that they usually organize.

Those things are useful. But I like personal stories from actual students.

For the past few years, the UK High Commission have organized an annual ‘Digital Scrapbook’ competition where Brunei students would upload videos of their experiences studying and living in the UK as an international student (Although this year the competition moved away from the video format to picture collage).

What I love about these videos is that they are diverse in style yet you can still spot some of the common issues and themes being touched on as well.

I probably have missed some of the videos especially from the first competition in 2011 because the UK High Commission have changed their website and removed the Digital Scrapbook page. So feel free to comment if I missed any videos.

2013

Ijjojji Bin Nordin
Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton

Mohamad Rusydi Haji Roseli
Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton

Siti Amalina Haji Mohd Jaafar
University of Surrey

Haji Mohammad Alimin Haji Matyassin
University of Kent

Mohammad Khairi Ihsannudin Isnon bin Ismail
University of Sheffield

Hj Ahmad Faiz bin Hj Abdul Rahim
University of Nottingham

Dk Nur Amrina Bte Pg Abd Aziz
Headington School Oxford

Nadzuan Bin Narawi
University of Nottingham

Click More for older entries from 2012 and 2011

Continue reading

Brunei Darussalam – From Constitution to National Day

In between watching the teaser for Chris Nolan’s Interstellar and participating in the Brunei National Day celebration, I had an idea for this little video in my head where we would go on a quick journey from the old days to the present time where we celebrate our national day every year.

So I grabbed whatever clips/footage/videos that I can quickly find online and edited this short video. If only I could access the treasure trove of historical footage in the archives of RTB.

Music: Interstellar Teaser Trailer – Hans Zimmer(?)

Footage:

Brunei Celebrates – Malay Film Unit (1958)
youtube.com/watch?v=_xH3J8yQBPE

50 Years Brunei’s Written Constitution – Balai Berita RTB (2009)
youtube.com/watch?v=6x4ToNExtac

BRUNEI – 29th National Day Film – Reza, Arif Sablee, Ajek30, Adi A Sarbini (2013)
youtube.com/watch?v=s9KUgY-9RHg

Brunei Tourism Promotional Video – Brunei Tourism (2012)
youtube.com/watch?v=2uDtmtGtjBY

Giant national flag rises 110 feet above the capital – Rudolf Portillo & Saiful Omar, Brunei Times (2014)
youtube.com/watch?v=fm7WKtjq_HY

***

Inspiration/based on the brilliant Interstellar teaser trailer

New chapter to my Brunei superhero saga

A bit overdue but the NEW CHAPTER to my superhero story is here!

Set in a heightened reality/fictional/alternate version of Brunei, GUARDIANS OF DARUSSALAM is a story of an ordinary boy named ADAM who gained super strength after an encounter with a magical giant archer fish – just like the legend of Brunei’s mythical hero, Awang Semaun. Initially reluctant, Adam soon finds the hero within him and set out to become a superhero known as CAPTAIN BRUNEI.

Together with his allies, they plan to stop criminal forces and uphold DARUSSALAM – the Abode of Peace

This latest chapter is the sixth entry in a still on-going story.

Guardiansofdarussalamnisa

Titled ‘NISA‘, it is set four months after the previous chapter.

A rape case involving a young girl sets off a chain of events that led our heroes – the two local superheroes (Captain Brunei & Balau Man), the police and others – to uncover an underground criminal operation.

Rated Mature for violence, profanities and theme

You can read the chapter by clicking HERE or the image above.

***

NOTE: This is the Sixth Chapter of an ongoing story with many characters and events. It would be useful to read the previous chapters. Don’t worry, the first four chapters are really short.

You can find more on the Guardians of Darussalam site.

MAYAT BERJALAN

MAYAT BERJALAN – Bruneian The Walking Dead style opening

Had this thought about what an opening for a Walking Dead style series set in Brunei would look like. So I quickly made this, admittedly, really rough version of a Bruneian Walking Dead style opening. I may or may not do a better version in the future….or perhaps someone else out there would make one.

The aim was to present an idea of a zombie apocalypse happening in Brunei without showing any zombies. So I rounded up real images that can imply such event:

  • the recent massive tyre burning at Bukit Udal
  • car caught on fire at Menglait
  • RIPAS ambulance
  • UBD paramedics in training
  • News headline on H1N1 pandemic
  • Boy wearing a mask in the mosque during SARS outbreak
  • The huge crowd trying to get into the stadium during the Brunei vs Indonesia football tournament final
  • Lastly (my favourite image courtesy of Ranoadidas), two police guarding the stadium gates with a lot of people still outside.

Footage:

  • The Bruneian Flag at my front yard – shot with a FLIP Camera
  • A clearing filled with litter near a dump site. Shot with a phone camera
  • Me walking with a hammer and ‘attacked’ by a ‘zombie’. Shot with a phone camera

The last two footage were unplanned. I was clearing the area with my dad and I was randomly thinking ‘hmmm, what if I try to shoot something for a zombie show intro here and see if I can get some cool stuff’. Hence the use of a camera phone.

Music: Walking Dead opening title – Bear McCreary

PS: “Mayat Berjalan” is the best translation I could come up with

Thoughts on Local Brunei Legends

So the headline on Borneo Bulletin the other day caught my eye:

LOCAL LEGENDS CAN BE TOURIST MAGNETS

The Minister of Home Affairs officially opened the Bukit Tempayan Recreational Park and it is said that there is an interesting legend behind the location. Legend has it that it was the site of an epic battle between the ‘Bunian’ Princesses (Bunian is equivalent to fairies/forest spirits) and the guardians of Mount Kinabalu (I’m not sure if these guardians were humans or bunians). The battle was fought – with mortars and other magical weapons – over the control of these seven magical stones. The guardians eventually took five while the other two remained with the Bunian princesses.

I don’t know about you but I think that is some epic Lord of the Rings style tale. It’s also a shame that a majority of us Bruneians have not heard of this story (including myself).

Which brings up to the fact that there are probably tons of interesting local legends that we shamefully don’t know about.

These stories are essential to our heritage and cultural identity. They may not be historically accurate but they do tell us a lot about the mindset, the traditions and language of Bruneians in that period of time. Perhaps the most famous one is Syair Awang Semaun.

Syair Awang Semaun

We all have heard about Syair Awang Semaun – an epic poem that tells the story of the founding of Brunei. We all know the basic story of it:

An egg from the sky dropped to earth and hatched a being known as I-pai Samaring. He married a local princess and fathered Awang Alak Betatar. One day, I-Pai went on a hunt for a tembadau (wild cow) and stopped at several villages along the way. At each of the village, he married a daughter of the village chief and fathered a child. Alak Betatar later united all of his 13 brothers and discovered the Brunei River – establishing a settlement there.

But here are several things that a lot of people don’t know about Syair Awang Semaun:

1) It’s not just about the founding of Brunei. The poem is episodic in nature. The part that we all know about – the one I just summarized – was just one part of the poem. The story went on to tell about the conquest of Borneo and Sulu by Bruneians led by three generals/warrior/heroes – Awang Semaun, Damang Sari and Awang Jerambak.

Other popular stories like the Princess of Johor, the cockfight with the Majapahit Empire, the legend of Chinese adventurer Ong Sum Ping were also from the Syair.

And then you have the lesser known ones like Awang Jerambak and his equally badass son and grandson (Awang Sinuai and Awang Mawar).

Not a lot of people know about them because I don’t think a full version of the Syair was ever published and made available to the public. It’s made much more complicated when…

2) There are different versions of the Syair. There are at least six versions of the Syair. Each one has different lengths and different ‘episode’ structure (eg. some stories are missing in some version). You can read more about the different versions of the Syair in this academic study by Maxwell: Assessing the Epic Status of the Brunei Malay Sya’ir Awang Simawn: Place Names and Toponyms

Different versions also have different set of characters. We all know about the standard list of 14 ‘saudara’ (eg. Pateh Berbai, Pateh Malakai, Damang Sari, Pateh Malakai, Damang Lebar Daun, etc). But other less well known version of the Syair apparently included other characters with interesting names like Pateh Bulu Mata Gajah, Harimau Taring, Panglima Kujal among others.

3) Chronology Issues. The fact is that these legends mixed historical facts and fantastical story telling – so don’t be too bothered with the historical accuracy of it and just enjoy them as a great cultural tale. I’ve touched on some of the historical issues of local legends in another blog post.

The main one issue is between the Salasilah and the Syair regarding Sultan Bolkiah (1485 – 1524). The Salasilah stated that Sultan Bolkiah is the fifth Sultan – son of Sultan Sulaiman, who was the son of Sultan Sharif Ali whose father in law was Sultan Ahmad who was the brother of Sultan Muhammad Shah, the first Sultan.

*Takes a deep breath*

But the Syair also told a story about a Sultan Bolkiah who was the son of Damang Libar Daun – the brother of Sultan Muhammad Shah who emigrated to Java. The story has it that Sultan Bolkiah returned from Java and had adventures with Awang Mawar – the grandson of Awang Jerambak.

*Pause to take that all in*

But the Salasilah version is the one that is widely accepted probably due to the fantastical nature of the Syair – making the latter less likely to be historically credible.

LEGENDA

Ironically, just like some of the interesting local legends that people may have never heard about, there are interesting shows that aired in RTB that many Bruneians may have never seen before. One of them is a show called LEGENDA. It’s a documentary about our local legends retold by elders and re-enacted by local actors (probably the most entertaining part).

I never got to catch it on TV but there are some episodes that you can watch on Youtube.

The episode below is about a warrior from Belait named Panglima Galis.

I have never heard of Panglima Galis before. After watching this video, I must say that I find the story really interesting. It’s about a warrior that started as a hero that defended his village from foreign invaders. But he eventually got power hungry – started beating people up and harassing the women. In the end, the villagers had enough and killed him – by burying him alive no less!!

It’s an interesting story about a rise and fall of an anti-hero. And not a lot of people know about this! I find this story way more interesting than the well known ones.

There are other local stories that I’ve heard or read about which some of you may or may not know (Correct me if I’m wrong about any of these tales).

There was one about Buaya Putih. It’s About a Giant White Crocodile from the Brunei River who took a young boy to Kinabatangan (present day Sabah) so he can witness first hand how stronger the Bruneian Crocodile is compared with the Kinabatangan crocs.

Then there was the story of Jong Batu which I’m sure is much more popular than the Buaya Putih story because this one had a stronger moral. It’s about a man known as Nakhoda Manis (the ‘Sweet Captain’) who was ashamed of his poor looking mother and refused to recognized her. The mother cursed him and he turned into a rock that can still be seen at the Brunei river. Yes, there are many version of this story from different countries like Si Tanggang in Malaysia.

And then there was Hikayat Awang Kamaruddin. This local legend gained popularity when it was published as a book about 10 years ago. The story is basically divided into two parts.

In the first part, Awang Kamaruddin goes to Java to prove his worth in a fight against a strong Javanese warrior. He was also trying to win the heart of a princess who was about to marry that Javanese warrior. The second part involves Awang Kamaruddin trying to fulfill his mother’s wishes and marry a childhood friend (If I’m not mistaken).

Of course, the story isn’t as simple as I summarized it just now. It actually spanned several chapters – containing various characters and events.

That was a dramatic illustrated ‘trailer’ of Hikayat Awang Kamaruddin by Ajie GioNToji.

It got me thinking…if we can’t make a good live action film with these local legends, how about going for an animated film? You don’t have to worry about getting actors and finding a real suitable location to shoot it (ok, we still have to worry about finding the right voice actors though).

Creative Industry – animation with local flavours

Creative Industry is the hot catch phrase in Brunei right now. Everyone wants a piece of this potential market gap in our country. It’s also a really nice way to kill two birds with one stone – diversifying our economy while also engaging the growing youth population. You see it everywhere  – from big things like our education system opening up more opportunities for students to engage in the Arts to relatively minor things like ‘Pusat Sejarah’ holding a video competition – rather than the usual essay competition. Just recently, I saw a picture of our Minister spray painting at the Skate park – years ago graffiti was mostly considered as vandalism rather than art.

But there is this whole idea held by some people that MIB is hindering any potential for a creative industry. Actually, I have no idea where people get the idea that our national ideology are diametrically opposed to the Arts. As proven many times, our cultural identity is deeply rooted in creative arts. Not just in our local stories but in our music, songs, poetry, dances and fashion (yes, traditional fashion takes creativity as well). And we can use that to our advantage.

I’ve written a blog post before about using MIB as a jumping point for a possible Bruneian film anthology. But I wouldn’t pretend to be the only one who thought about something similar. A University professor have said that we should use our culture as an ‘asset’Our Minister have said that our unique culture can be seen as niche in the creative industry; A visiting former BBC executive have put forward the idea of our culture and history as a selling point.

We can use various outlets to re-tell classic legends and bring them to a wider audience. Or even better, tell an original story that are thematically linked to our cultural folklore. The latter can be done….actually, it has somewhat been done.

Last year, I was in London and watched a group of Bruneian students scripted and performed this stage play for their annual ‘Brunei Night’ event. What interested me about last year compared to the previous years was the inclusion a plot about a time machine to bring local folk hero Awang Semaun to present time. Time travel? Awang Semaun? A Hero with daddy issues? All in one? I thought that whoever came up with that story idea weirdly knows exactly my kind of taste in plot.

But the point I’m trying to make is that I liked how they tried to inject a bit of those Bruneian folklore into a contemporary story even if it was merely a plot device.

This goes back to the idea that I mentioned earlier: the potential of using animation to bring these stories (with cultural relevance) to life. The good news is that there are those that already made a head start towards this goal. BEDB/iCentre seems to be game for the idea when it established the Creative Arts Facilities (CRAFT) to train “young animators and multimedia developers.” UBD – and its Creative Industries Research Cluster (CIRC) – have also set their sights on nurturing students interested in pursuing 3D animation.

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“...I hope one day we can produce ‘Perang Kastila’ or ‘Kastila War’ (war between Brunei and Spain in the Philippines) for television viewers and animation will make such an epic production possible,” said one production personnel from RTB.

You know what I personally like to see? That epic battle where the Bunian princesses try to defend Bukit Tempayan Pisang against the onslaught of the Guardians of Mount Kinabalu. *Cue epic LOTR style music*

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You might also be interested in these:

History Centre
http://www.history-centre.gov.bn/eng-bookshop.htm

Tarsilah Brunei: The Early History of Brunei Up To 1432 AD
http://www.history-centre.gov.bn/book-tarsilah_brunei_early_history.htm

Awang Semaun: Tale of a Brunei warrior
http://www.bt.com.bn/life/2008/05/25/awang_semaun_tale_of_a_brunei_warrior

Tales from Syair Awang Semaun
http://www.bt.com.bn/golden-legacy/2011/08/01/tales-syair-awang-semaun

Brunei Sultanate expands empire
http://www.bt.com.bn/golden-legacy/2010/08/09/brunei-sultanate-expands-empire

Assessing the Epic Status of the Brunei Malay Sya’ir Awang Simawn: Place Names and Toponyms
http://www.sil.org/asia/philippines/ical/papers/maxwell-assessing%20the%20epic%20status.pdf

Creating The ‘Brunei’ Film – A Trilogy Based on ‘Melayu Islam Beraja’
https://trylobyte.wordpress.com/2011/07/14/creating-the-brunei-film-a-trilogy-based-on-melayu-islam-beraja/

Identify cultural assets to develop creative industries
http://www.bt.com.bn/news-national/2012/05/29/identify-cultural-assets-develop-creative-industries

MIB a catalyst for creative industries
http://www.bt.com.bn/news-national/2012/05/31/mib-catalyst-creative-industries

Telling ‘national story’ via creative industries a way to attract investors
http://www.bt.com.bn/business-national/2013/01/15/telling-national-story-creative-industries-way-attract-investors

Creative Industry Research Cluster
http://circubd.wordpress.com/about/

First Creative Industries Fest kicks off
http://www.bt.com.bn/news-national/2012/07/12/first-creative-industries-fest-kicks

UBD Major in Art & Creative Technology
http://www.ubd.edu.bn/academic/faculty/FASS/majors/artcreative.html

Workshop sparks animation ideas
http://www.bt.com.bn/news-national/2012/05/23/workshop-sparks-animation-ideas

Diversifying economy with multimedia dev’t, animation
http://www.bt.com.bn/news-national/2013/01/12/diversifying-economy-multimedia-devt-animation

Bruneians called on to explore 3-D animation
http://bruneiembassy.be/bruneians-called-on-to-explore-3-d-animation/

Ambuyart: iCentre’s first animator
http://www.bt.com.bn/business-national/2011/02/15/ambuyart-icentres-first-animator

Ambuyart Animations paving way for Brunei’s first-ever 3-D animated cartoon series
http://www.icentre.biz/Website/Contents/Downloads/News/2011/6-Ambuyart%20Animations%20paving%20way%20for%20Brunei_BB%2006.09.2011.pdf

Brunei must focus on quality in Animation Industry
http://borneobulletin.com.bn/index.php/2013/01/26/brunei-must-focus-on-quality-in-animation-industry/

Brunei Economic Development Board Partners with Autodesk to Develop Country’s Media and Entertainment Industry
http://www10.sharecg.com/nbc/articles/11/1153094/60a8bef4ab1add36397c42d802d0f84e/Brunei-Economic-Development-Board-Partners-with-Autodesk-Develop-Countrys-Media-Entertainment-Industry

Guardians of Darussalam

WHAT IF SUPERMAN AND BATMAN WERE BRUNEIANS?

dotzauer-parliament-brunei-03

That was the question that I’ve asked myself when I was a kid and I’ve pondered with the possible answers ever since.

So I have decided to try to write a SUPERHERO STORY SET IN BRUNEI.

guardiansofdarussalam.wordpress.com/chapters/

The aim is to take elements of the classic superhero myth – whether it be the Superman or Batman mythos – and try to fit it in a Bruneian setting. To me, a story about a Bruneian superhero should have elements from major superheroes such as Spiderman, Batman, Superman while tackling social themes relevant to Brunei (eg. sense of community, the power of media, social harmony vs individualism)

brunei superhero

Set in a heightened reality/fictional/alternate version of Brunei, GUARDIANS OF DARUSSALAM is a story of an ordinary boy named ADAM who gained super strength after an encounter with a magical giant archer fish – just like the legend of Brunei’s mythical hero, Awang Semaun. Initially reluctant, Adam soon finds the hero within him and set out to become a superhero known as CAPTAIN BRUNEI.

However, an ancient evil spirit and his forces rises and threatens the peace in Brunei. It is up to Adam and his allies – including RIDZUAN, son of wealthy family turned crime fighter; AKMAL, a young detective; the tough police officer RAHMAN and his daughter LIZA; VIVIAN, the journalist; ALI, the comic book geek – to stop it and uphold DARUSSALAM – the Abode of Peace

I’ve only written 5 Chapters and a prologue so far….I am planning on doing more (The whole story is probably 40% planned out…60% made up as I go along but that’s part of the fun).

3391811517_e41a73871e

Aside from the chapters, you can find written commentaries about the chapters on the main page:  guardiansofdarussalam.wordpress.com/

And a ‘database/reference’ page where I dumped few background info regarding the world and mythology of the story: guardiansofdarussalam.wordpress.com/database/

guardiansofdarussalam.wordpress.com/chapters/

Hope you’ll enjoy it and feel free to share it if you liked it. I accept any feedback or suggestions

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.

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PART I : ‘MELAYU’

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.

PART II: ‘ISLAM’

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.

PART III: ‘BERAJA’

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.

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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’.

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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.