The Bruneian feature film Akademi has posted record box office numbers since its opening nationwide on January 16.
Akademi is the third feature film by Director Siti Kamaluddin. The movie stars veteran leading lady Liyana Yus as Hani, a young woman who desires to be part of an elite security company charged with protecting one of Brunei’s rarest natural resources, the Maharaja Durian.
This action-comedy is the third feature film by award-winning director Siti Kamaluddin after Yasmine (2014) and Hari Minggu Yang Ke-Empat (2018).
It is a film about Brunei for its people, but also exposes the local humour and culture to the global market.
The film marks the third collaboration between the director, Siti Kamaluddin and the female lead, Liyana Yus. They worked together for Brunei’s first international feature film, Yasmine and the festive film, Hari Minggu Yang Ke-Empat in 2018.
Liyana once again shares the big screen with her co-star in Yasmine, Nadiah Wahid. Also joining the cast are veteran actor, Shafiee Mostar of Hari Minggu Yang Ke-Empat and newcomers, Nasrul Nassir and Syafi Halim.
Together, they formed a solid onscreen squad of security guards tasked to protect Bruneian rarest treasures.
However, the Akademi’s instructors, played by funny-man from BruHaha, Zainal Bostaman and Ian Zulkifli, make their lives miserable by coming up with schemes to force them to quit.
The 100-minute film runs in Bahasa Melayu Brunei dialogues.
The film also featured a healthy dose of cameos from local celebrities and has captured the local identity (through local landmarks and popular dishes) into the silver screen.
Film producer Munji Athirah previously noted the movie was intentionally scripted in Bahasa Brunei and shot around the country to promote the Brunei identity.
“National identity is not just in the language, but in our culture, buildings, architecture and even colours of the film,” she added.
Akademi took six months to complete, from concept development to post production.
Another milestone was that the film provided employment opportunities to 400 locally based individuals and businesses, Siti said.
Akademi also provided training and mentorship opportunities for several young Bruneians.
“This outreach not only prepares the next generation of local filmmakers, but introduced a national standard of quality for motion pictures projects,” explained Siti.
The team has been busy promoting the film at schools nationwide to reach a wider market, and the strategy is yielding results.
Over 50 students from Tungku Primary School enjoyed the movie during a screening at the Times Cineplex at The Empire Brunei recently.
Siti, Nadiah and Syafi welcomed the students.
In her opening remarks, the director said, “You are very lucky to be able to grow up watching Brunei movies. So laugh, enjoy and celebrate our language on the big screen.”
Actress Nadiah remarked, “It is not every time you get to watch Brunei on the big screen. So I am so happy that you are here and able to watch Akademi with us.”
The objective in sharing Akademi with school children is to increase the use of Bahasa Melayu Brunei in daily communication.
Siti Kamaluddin highlighted, “There are many things in Brunei that we want to preserve – language, culture and locations. To capture that on film and to have thousands of people watching and enjoying it, is the greatest joy.”
Asked to describe Akademi in one word, the students said “Siuk!”
Siti Kamaluddin earned recognition on the international stage for her debut film Yasmine in 2014, making her the first female director in Brunei.
To build a “dream team” behind the Yasmine project, Siti Kamaluddin pulled strings and invited talents from Indonesia, Malaysia and Hong Kong to come to Brunei for 45 days of shooting.
Besides Liyana Yus playing the lead role, Reza Rahadian (Fahri – Yasmine’s father), Dian P Ramlee, Dato’ M Nasir and Nabila Huda shared the big screen.
Prominent Hong Kong martial arts choreographer Chan Man Ching (The Legend of Drunken Master 2, Rumble in the Bronx, Rush Hour, Hell Boy 2) who worked on Yasmine, also contributed his ‘magic’ to Akademi.
Prior to filmmaking, Siti Kamaluddin started her career as a writer and television host, and hosted a music reality show.
She set up Origin Artistic Management, alongside Munji Athirah, to produce and direct television commercials and documentaries.
For years, the pair felt the country had a strong talent for content creation, but lacked one key ingredient – proper training in the art of filmmaking. Thus, the establishment of the film school Mahakarya Institute of the Arts Asia in Batu Satu.
To unearth hidden talents, they host a competition inviting amateur and professional filmmakers for Brunei Film Blitz.
Last December marked the third instalment of the blitz. It has discovered talents including local comedian Babu Sinur aka Khai Anuwar (Hari Minggu Yang Ke-Empat).
Meanwhile, the director also hinted that an upcoming horror flick is currently in the works, but gave no further details, other than that, “There is a bright future for cinema in Brunei.”