U–Wei on indie films, Malaysian viewers and reality TV
Politikpop interview with filmmaker U-Wei Haji Saari.
What is your view on Malaysia’s independent films that has caught a lot of attention today?
I must admit that I have not seen many of the films, and I can’t comment on that. But I think that their emergence is timely. We need these films, and undoubtedly, they are contributing something to our cinema. But they have not shown they are able to significantly improve our film industry. Nevertheless, they are new voices that we should pay attention to.
Some say that your films are too esotoric for Malaysian audience. What do you say about this?
No, I don’t think that my films are too esoteric. My job is making films, distributing and promoting them is someone else’s job. When I was growing up in Mentakab, once I was the only one watching a film at the cinema. When Clint Eastwood’s films were shown, there were only two or three people watching. I don’t think a film is a failure just because few people watch them. But that is not to say that I don’t care whether or not people watch my films.
How do you see the last Academy Awards?
I saw that films that dwells on the issue of sexual identity received quite an attention, such as Transamerica and Brokeback Mountain. The interesting thing is, small films won a lot of awards.
Is there anything filmmakers can learn from that?
We here in Malaysia cannot afford to make big films. Films are expensive. We should go back to good story telling, as seen in Hollywood in 1930’s, Taiwan and Korea in early 1980’s, and Iran from 1990 onwards. Those films demonstrated that films do not necessarily have to have spectacles. People are so used to spectacular films. People want explosions. Recently, Iran have proved that you don’t need spectacles to come up with great films.
Do you see that your work as a filmmaker as some kind of a struggle to achieve something?
That struggle is a very personal thing. For a great filmmaker, his struggle is making great films. You should hold on to what you aim for. If you want money, hold on to that. If you wish for popularity, go after that.
What is your take on Razak Mohaideen, the filmmaker that many just love to hate?
I pity him. What he does contradicts what he is supposed to teach. A teacher’s job is only one, that is to set an example. That example has to be good. If it’s not, that is bad for him. He’s clearly not being a good teacher.
Do you watch reality TV?
I despise reality TV. Really, I hate reality TV programs. I was once asked to be a judge on Akademi Fantasia. I declined. That's not what I'm about.
What would you say to a young filmmaker seeking your advice?
I’d like to quote a dialog from the film The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. It was directed by Sergio Leone. In one scene, a character named Tuco is bathing in a bathtub. A man who wants to kill him appears and start talking to him, saying that he wants to kill Tuco. Tuco suddenly shoots him with a gun he’s hiding under the bubble in the bathtub. He says, "When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk." That is my advice to budding filmmakers: If you want to shoot a film, just shoot, don’t just talk.