By: Orlok666
Date: May 22, 2012

Interview Dain Said (Bunohan)

At the International Film Festival Rotterdam SlashingThrough got the chance to talk to Dain Said, director of "Bunohan" which had its European premiere there. It's a film which follows three brothers returning to their birthplace and their return sets off a series of events. Alongside Said also producer Nandita Solomon joined us as well and she also filled in some parts during the interview.

How is it being back with your (first) feature film?

I don't know what it is with the question surrounding "Bunohan" if it my first feature film or my second. The first film I made, "Dukun", I wrote and directed but the film company owns the movie and didn't want to release it due the controversy in Malaysia. "Bunohan" I produced with Nandita Solomon, researching, raising funds, working on the script and directing it so I think you can "Bunohan" my first film.

Dain Said interview

Was it easy raising funds to make this film after the last experience with "Dukun" which got banned?

Nandita Solomon: It was harder to raise money. Also people were expecting Said's previous movie to become a big commercial hit but in the end nobody got to see it so that made is much harder to raise funds. But "Dukun" also became a sort of a legend and that took some people on board but they wanted control of the film like a happy ending. So me and Dain took back control so we could do what we want with it. Dain Said: It is an interesting point, because the bank asked ‘Is this film going to get banned?' So "Dukun" follows me around, a bit more than I'd like to. I moved on but people keep asking for it, especially in Malaysia.

What is the reason or triggered you to make this film?

As a writer or filmmaker you have an idea that you want to express. As a kid you have things you live with or things you were always concerned about. I wanted to explore the relation between family, men and violence because in this part of the world where the movie is set there is a lot of violence. You don't often get films around men that are emotional, while in America films solely about men they are portrayed often as the bad guys.

Talking about men, is there a reason why there are almost no women featured in this film?

When you start creating a film you think about contrast and how the film can work dramatically. It felt more powerful to let the woman [the wife of the three brothers' father] appear at the end of the film. The three brothers are fighting, killing and fucking each other over and then the mother appears. She's a part shaman and provides a healing process, resolving things with her husband they weren't able to resolve before in life. It's a bit like "Raise the Red Lantern", about a house filled with a man's mistresses but you never see the man but you do feel his presence.

Why did you decide to set the story in Bunohan?

The title of the village, Bunohan is Malay for murder and some towns can give off a certain feeling as does Bonuhan. The town itself was visually not that attractive so only the opening fight is filmed in Bunohan but the story itself is filmed in a mangrove swamp. In a way I took the name and recreated the town itself.

How did you come up with the idea of the three different brothers that at some point meet each other again?

I don't know, it's a tough one. Maybe because I have three sisters and I inherited land near the islands, I don't know. I wanted to closeness of brothers but also the hatred; it's not easy to hate your brother. So I went for a family that already was broken, dealing with issues like inheritance, greed, loss, money and power. So I had to create a problem within the family by making one of the brothers a half-brother. Nandita Solomon: These things are happing still because in some religions you can marry multiple wives and when the father of the family passes away they wait for executing the will because often a second or third wife can show up without anyone knowing about it.

Dain Said interview

Was this tragedy (between the brothers) what you had in mind at the writing the script or did this evolve during the process of writing?

At the beginning I already had the idea about the three brothers and the difference between them. But the details grow while writing, it evolves.

How did you find the actors and are they based on people from your childhood and stories you heard?

Some of the characters are based on the people I knew when growing up. And some as recent as in my adult life: I met someone before while I was doing a documentary on AIDS and he was an assassin, which I found out after three months. The kickboxer is based on several people I knew, and the schoolteacher / business manalso from people around me and I put them together as charaters.

Did the actors have to train for the fight scenes or were some already fighters to begin with?

The only fighters to begin with were the two guys that rescued Adil at the start of the film. I wanted to put my actors in an environment with kick boxers so it's easier to get a feeling for how the boxers move and talk. When boxers enter the ring they are someone else and I wanted to have the actors get that same feeling. The actors themselves came from an experimental theatre groups and from different areas.

Were the fight scenes hard to direct?

Not really. I had to plan a lot and worked with a trainer from a kick box club and he did some work for tv shows. The fight scenes were tough for two reasons: I wanted the fight scene to be looking realistic, not overly dramatic. You need to choreograph it but where possible I left it messy, making it more real. The other reason is that I had a real good director of photography.

Dain Said interview

You've done quite some commercial work before ‘Bunohan'. Did you bring this experience into "Bunohan"?

Yes, for sure. I haven't made a film in 15 years but mostly made commercials. For me they really gave me discipline because standard of production is very high and there is a lot of money involved. The level of professionalism is very high and you get a great crew. You also get a really tight deadline, so you need great planning, good people and deliver on time. That helped me a lot. On the other side commercials are quite restained.

Do you mean to show how traditional en religious elements are more and more replaced by modernization?

That is the backdrop of the film, I wanted to show the real world. I'm not against development of land but most of the time we have done it quite wrong. Looking at Europe, we haven't learned from mistake Europe made, there are hardly any forests left. I guess it's looking at the confrontation between the two values.

Do the events like buying up land for construction sites in the film reflect current events in Malaysia?

Absolutely. I'm happy I shot at the locations you see in the film, these are stunning places and they are sometimes just at the side of the road. But these places won't be there anymore within 5 years, I'll give you that.

Do you want to go further into making feature films?

Yes, I got the bug I've made features, commercials and done so many things. The process in the early days, maybe it was my perception back then, I didn't like; it being hard to get the funding. But now I'm more happy about it and I want to make more feature films. There are about three Ideas in my mind but I can't decide yet which one I want to go for first.

Check out our review for Bunohan

We would like to thank Dain Said for his time and effort to do this interview.


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