Saturday, July 13, 2024
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Brunei Town

Tackling the tales of the Triangle

Izah Azahari

With a huge passion for storytelling and an interest that sparked from local folklore and legends through word of mouth, director Abdul Zainidi is back again with his latest feature film, Vanishing Children Triangle.

Following the local and international success of his previous feature film, The Worm and The Widow, Abdul Zainidi’s new and recently completed film follows a theme of mystery featuring 10 episodes in the span of an hour, shot in an atypical fashion, which he said will enthral viewers as he takes them to various locations throughout Brunei’s four districts. “I wanted to maintain the documentary-fiction style, a sort of mockumentary, with the subject matter being commented on by someone being interviewed,” said Abdul Zainidi.

He said the film will include a disclaimer at the very beginning, which will leave people thinking about the stories’ reality, as they are all based on true stories. “When people watch it, I do want people to have that sensation as to whether or not it could be something that could have happened. Some of the stories are very informative, you wouldn’t know about it until you’ve seen it, while some of it is based on events that actually happened,” added the director.

As someone who never shows the technological world in his films, Abdul Zainidi wants his viewers to feel that they are in a classical place, and much like his previous film, he purposely didn’t want people to see phones or cars so that viewers would wonder which era the film was set in.

“I wanted to show a universe that you could get stuck in and you would believe,” he shared, noting that the whole point is to encapsulate the audience into feeling that they are in a bubble – Brunei in a very superstitious place.

Photos show director Abdul Zanidi on set during the filming of ‘Vanishing Children Triangle’. PHOTOS: ABDUL ZANIDI

Talking about the origins of the idea behind his new film, Abdul Zainidi said he grew up with a lot of superstition; his grandmother told him stories that had then gotten him inspired to create The Worm and The Widow, as he had a hearing-impaired relative who was a loner and would sell chicken feed, and another story was about a widow, people were afraid of. “I’ve always hinged on that aspect of story-telling. To be different means you have to tell something differently,” he mused.

With Vanishing Children Triangle, he said his grandmother had also told him about people going missing around their neighbourhood, adding that as people enter the jungle for a long time it is believed that they would enter a different realm, which he has tried to cover in the film without showing the visual aspects of it. “There are monsters in the film, but that could be from the imagination of a child. I don’t like to give an appearance of what should be psychological, and I think that’s the important thing about the film.”

He believes that what pieces the film together is the mystery and the yearning to be part of that mystery, as people at times just want to escape from reality.

“I think that’s what a lot of the characters in some of the episodes are trying to find – to just escape – and they end up disappearing and we’re not sure where they went,” he said, adding that this is what he also tried to explore with the film without giving too much response to it.

The director then explained that some episodes in the feature film are good, while others would have its audience wonder what it was about, which he said are things that they would have to piece together as everything has a theme, centred mainly on what we don’t see.

Referring to the Vanishing Children Triangle, Abdul Zainidi explained that it was chosen in reference to the Bermuda Triangle which is often believed to contain a different realm when entered. “That’s the same with this film, a lot of the characters are coming inside and getting lost. A lot of the chapters deal with people experiencing a loss of time, consciousness and where they are, and they end up going somewhere else.”

When COVID-19 hit the Sultanate, the director said that it didn’t make it easier to film, but he took the opportunity to incorporate the pandemic, with many of the ‘ghosts’ based on what COVID-19 has done to our society, which is to take people away.

“This is also a metaphor about the COVID-19 pandemic because I do address the mask issue in the film, what happens if you don’t wear a mask, you get taken away by that ‘thing’, and we never see that ‘thing’, and that makes it a bit scary because we cannot see COVID-19 and it’s something that is lurking. It’s just as creepy as a ghost.”

Having only a small crew for filming who believed in what he wanted to do, Abdul Zainidi said that a person needs to be able to steer the ship when it comes to directing.

“I didn’t want it to just be a horror story; I wanted it to be a narrative. Something like the Bruneian version of the X-Files,” he shared.

The director added that it also helped that the crew and himself were scared during filming, and that this real fear as well as a low minimal budget helped compliment the film. “There’s a reason why I chose to present the film the way it is.”

As the film has just been finished, Abdul Zainidi is planning to create a tradition of first releasing it at the cinema in Seria, which he had done for The Worm and The Widow, and then to other local cinemas.

He believes that people can always find a story and appropriate it to make it their own, and the satisfaction of being a filmmaker is that you get to tell a story that others will be able to see, regardless of whether it is good or bad.

“You have to accept failure sometimes because people may not like the things you do. That’s part of life, but it also teaches you to persevere as it is a hard job to try to tell a story.”

Abdul Zainidi also believes that when directing actors, you learn who they are and at the same time learn things about yourself, as what you see in others can teach you to be somebody that you can improve on.

The director said that he’s happy that there is a boom of filmmakers in Brunei now, along with many platforms allowing filmmakers and amateur video makers to express themselves.

“There’s definitely more and more work being made and I just think maybe we can reach more. I’d like to change the mindset of filmmaking as a hobby into something that is respected, and I think that’s slowly changing.”

His hope is that Brunei will get more feature films and have more local films in cinemas, adding that he feels it is doable as encouragement for more local films is needed, regardless of genre.