WATCHED the trailer to upcoming Malaysian film Pekak yet? Remember that scene with Sharifah Amani and Sharifah Sakinah as two pill-popping young women masquerading as conservative Muslim poster-girls at home? How could anybody forget?
This is the kind of daring expression we’ve come to expect of director Khairul Azri Md Noor (a.k.a. Kroll Azry). Placing its top-notch cast (Zahiril Adzim, Iedil Putra and Amerul Affendi also lead the film) in a psychedelic, grimy yet very familiar world, Pekak is our most-anticipated movie of 2016 and rightly so.
Produced by Lightbulb Pictures for Grand Brilliance, Pekak is Khairul’s debut full-length cinematic feature. It’s out in exactly one month from today.
Why we’re mad for some Khairul Azri
Initially pitched as a Romeo & Juliet-styled romance tale to the studio, Pekak revolves around a romance between deaf man Uda and naive young woman Dara. Uda wants to save up for a cochlea implant so he can hear, while Dara wants to escape from an oppressive home.
The film begins with the sweet, young romance between its two protagonists, before flipping around the 40-minute mark to unravel a dangerous underground world of uppers, downers and users. All this due to the drug trade, which is the fastest way Uda can make his savings goal and regain his hearing.
But if this surprising story proves anything it’s that Pekak‘s promising young director has always been a bit more risqué than his peers.
Khairul’s 2012 music video for Monoloque‘s “Kupu-kupu Malam” for instance brought frontman Loque and his teammates into a seedy motel before taking cues from mystical characters like the pontianak and transforming into a dark tale.
Starring Nabila Huda as a sexy succubus, the seductive video quickly drew complaints from viewers and was pulled from RTM after just one week on air.
For someone whose bread and butter largely consists of commercial work, this young filmmaker has managed to retain his artistry and expression across his portfolio: Khairul was also responsible for the touching short film accompanying Altimet‘s “Aku Tahu“, starring Azman Hassan and Harith Haziq.
Inspired by how his own father taught him to swim, Khairul’s knack for crafting left-field but resonant Malaysian narratives shines in the clip.
No problem too big for these rockstars
Matched with its award-winning young Malaysian cast, Pekak has expectations soaring.
It premiered and was nominated for Best International Film at the World Premieres Film Festival (WPFF) Philippines last year, and then went on to join FINAS (National Film Development Corporation Malaysia) the following year for its Malaysia Goes to Cannes program at Festival de Cannes.
But Pekak‘s filming process was perhaps most memorable for its makers, who faced a number of obstacles including having their cars shat on while shooting in the less-glamorous side of Bangsar. Indeed, at least seven double-parked cars belonging to the production team were desecrated by a mysterious avenger.
Shot over a period of 23 days, Pekak was a challenge on its small budget of approximately RM400,000. Determined to deliver quality regardless of the limitations, Khairul resorted to rounding up good friends for favours, even offering McDonald‘s meals to whoever was interested in joining the team on shoots.
Khairul’s can-do spirit and these fascinating details only provide a hint of what makes Pekak so damn interesting.
Released nationwide on 1 September 2016, it remains to be seen if this independent production can continue Grand Brilliance’s relatively strong year at the box office, mostly due to foreign release Ada Apa Dengan Cinta 2.
The film’s publicity machine hasn’t set in full motion yet, but we really hope the studio knows how to market something as precious as Pekak. We have our worries, given that Grand Brilliance’s performance among young adults and urban viewers has not been strong as seen through Showdown.
But even if Pekak‘s promotional campaign fails to reach you, we hope its potent combination of a disabled protagonist, plethora of drugs, and talented (and gorgeous) young actors lure you to the box office. Look out for the film when it hits cinemas next month.
There’s no Facebook page for Pekak just yet but follow Grand Brilliance for more information on the film!