Film & TV News

Every Day Is ‘Kekasih’ Day with Diffan Norman And Arzuan “Alet” Annuar

DIFFAN NORMAN waited two years before he put his Kekasih online.

The short, which stars Nasir Bilan Khan and Fauziah Nawi, received rave response from audience members during limited public screenings around the country. It also traveled a fair bit within the United States, getting as far as Sundance‘s official selection in 2014.

Here at The Daily Seni to explain the time it took to get Kekasih on the internet are Diffan himself and his old pal Arzuan “Alet” Annuar.

“We wanted the option of sending the film to festivals who favored exclusivity,” confesses Diffan. “There were other offers for exclusivity, such as video-on-demand platforms but none that we could commit to since we always wanted to release it online”.

“But I’m glad it’s come out now — it kinda works out as a preamble to our current project.”

True love means being able to set free

Currently working on their top-secret first feature together, director/writer Diffan and producer/assistant-director Alet initially wanted to get Kekasih out on Valentine’s last year, because it was the “only date which made sense” for the film.

“When Diffan got back last year in February, he came to my house,” Alet speaks. “But then he said, I’m going to read you the feature’s script, and we missed the deadline to put Kekasih online.”

Alet, who has been offering private screenings of Kekasih at home, eventually pushed again for an online release before the team got too busy with their full-length project.

KEKASIH_cinematography_Aaron_Chung_ (01135)
Kekasih is set in a hospital room and a laboratory.

“I brought it up again a few month’s back because people kept asking where they can watch it. I told Diffan, let’s do it this year, we gotta do it, man. Thankfully, it’s been released for a few days now.”

“We just want people to watch it and then want to watch more stuff from us,” he laughs.

Si dia can sometimes be very demanding…

Shot within 48 hours, Kekasih is a nine-minute short displaying a widower’s attempt at resurrecting his dead wife.

A blend of sterile chaos with psychedelia, the film presents a visual style not commonly found in promising, much-touted, young filmmakers. Case in point: after a critical point in its storytelling, Kekasih transitions between scenes in flashes of light, colour and shape.

Diffan claims that these scenes were meant to evoke an overwhelming inspiration.

“Instead of presenting the idea aurally, we wanted it to be visual. How do we show inspiration occuring in sparks of ideas? I didn’t want to be cliched about it.”

He was also influenced by late local artist Syed Ahmad Jamal — often dubbed the father of Malaysian abstract expressionism — who does abstractions of nature in really fast strokes.

KEKASIH_cinematography_Aaron_Chung_ (01224)
Veteran actress Fauziah Nawi is the kekasih of Kekasih.

Alet meanwhile served as guinea pig during testing sessions, and was responsible for trying on special effects components and making sure they work.

“The special effects make-up took about four hours to put on, but the actual scene that appeared on screen ran for less than 20 seconds,” he revealed, amused.

Kekasih makes grand use of special effects — without giving too much away, the film has some gruesome transformation sequences that will leave audiences in shock and awe.

…but FINAS is your ultimate wingman

Kekasih was made with a partial grant from the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS), who have also lent their support for his post-Kekasih venture by means of a development grant. .

“They’ve been very helpful — they’ve established the Content Malaysia Pitching Centre too, which has quite organically turned into a place where Malaysian filmmakers of all backgrounds meet and know one another. “

“We met Yusof Haslam, Aziz M. Osman, Irma Fatima, Shuhaimi Baba, Saw Teong Hin, Norman Abdul Halim, and M. Nasir there; it’s the best place to interact with each other and even share vague ideas with really cool people.”

Diffan also derives a sense of pride from having FINAS’s fund his projects.

Having the nation’s official film development entity mark the beginning of his film is something he strove for, given his exposure to films from European nations with a strong tradition in cinema.

“When you watch films from Britain and France for example, you get their film authority’s logo at the very start, which shows national support for these efforts.”

Beyond Kekasih

At present, Diffan is working on a full-length feature based on an “old Malay novel based on a lost Malay film”. Alet is attached as developmental producer during these early stages — too early to name any names we can expect to see on screen.

Taking a leaf from Apple, he hopes to “surprise and delight” potential viewers by slowly and selectively releasing information about his debut feature.

“Whomever’s interested can tune into my Instagram feed — some people get it that I’m dropping hints but some people don’t so I tend to max out at like 11 likes,” he giggles.

His as-yet-untitled project is currently in the visual development phase, but Diffan hopes to have something akin to a teaser ready by the middle of the year.

Diffan Norman, as photographed by Faris Fakri.

“It’s so humbling, people have been approaching me to work with me,” Diffan states in awe. “Kekasih has made me a lot more confident with my choice of tools and the collaborations we’ve established.”

“The excitement from everyone involved in the short — not to mention those who have seen it — makes me feel like, hey, maybe we do have something to share on this present project.”

It’s probably going to be a few months before you hear more from Diffan and Alet again, but trust that they’re putting together something extremely special for Malaysian cinema. More details will appear here soon, but in the meantime stay tuned and make sure to follow the man on Instagram. Thank you for dropping by our offices, guys!

Kekasih can now be watched on its official website and Vimeo.



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