Malaysian Filmmaking at its Most (Com)passionate: Notes from the Premiere of Tunku Mona Riza’s Labour of Love, ‘Redha’
KUALA LUMPUR, 4 April — Current Pictures Sdn Bhd‘s Redha premiered at Golden Screen Cinemas, Pavilion on World Autism Awareness Day last Saturday. The family drama saw a packed reception coloured by live performances, special guest appearances, and speeches from its creators.
Redha depicts a Malaysian family’s struggle in raising an autistic child, and is the first Malaysian film to deal with the subject matter at this scale and depth.
Employing over two years of research involving visits to families of autistic children, child psychologists and autism societies, Redha provides a comprehensive look into the mental condition in hopes of raising awareness and understanding.
“Ramai yang tahu tetapi tidak mahu bercerita atau bercakap mengenai autism,” stated director Tunku Mona Riza during her opening speech. “Walaupun begitu, subjek autism yang membawa kita semua ke sini hari ini.”
In her film, Razlan (Nam Ron) and Alina (June Lojong) have a son, Danial (Harith Haziq), who displays unfathomable behavioural patterns. Alina, with help from her sister (Nadiya Nisaa) and close friend (Susan Lankester), eventually brings her son to a child psychologist, who indicates Danial may be an autistic child.
Razlan goes into denial, which adds to tensions within the family, leaving Alina to care for Danial. But as their lives start to improve, tragedy strikes and Razlan must now make peace with fate.
Also appearing in Redha are Anne James, Remy Ishak, Ruminah Sidek, Izzy Reef, Zahiril Adzim and Susan Menon.
Throughout the film, several characters insult Danial, deeming him “stupid” and “spoilt” due to his behaviour — a snapshot of society’s ignorance and lack of understanding for autism.
In order to rectify the situation and educate audiences, Redha‘s director conducted extensive research which included frequent meetings with local autism societies.
“In the beginning, the National Autism Society of Malaysia (NASOM) was a bit hesitant,” explained Tunku Mona Riza post-screening.
“They were afraid we could send out the wrong image of an autistic child, but when I went through the whole process of what I wanted to do with the film, they opened up.”
“With this film, I got to work with wonderful families. If they had not allowed me to be a part of their children’s lives for two years, then Danial’s character would not have been what you saw on screen.”
Nam Ron was given intensive swimming lessons in order to prepare him for the film’s water scenes as he joined the cast without the ability to swim. The film, featuring significant shots of Terengganu’s blue waters and pristine beaches, called for a number of characters to be in the sea.
The renowned writer, performer and director — who has racked up a number of accolades in performing arts — acknowledged that some of the toughest scenes to shoot were those involving water and natural rock structures.
Nam Ron also pointed out difficulty in working with real-life spouse June Lojong, who is currently expecting their third child together. During the press conference, he informed attendees that much of the challenge came from maintaining a natural intimacy in front of the camera.
“Berlakon dengan bini tipu-tipu lagi senang,” he claimed, to the laughter of members of the press. “Selalunya kita berkasih sayang dekat rumah, tetapi yang ini depan kamera.”
Cast as a couple due to director Tunku Mona Riza’s desire for accuracy in portraying the husband-wife dynamic, the role marks Nam Ron’s biggest return to film since directing Festival Filem Malaysia-nominated Psiko Pencuri Hati two years ago.
Tunku Mona Riza — who rose to prominence for directing TV3‘s Anugerah Skrin-nominated Parit Jawa — makes her cinematic debut with Redha, soon to be the fourth local film released in 2016 directed by a female. Other movies helmed by women this year include Kastil Tua (co-directed by Chiska Doppert), Jess Teong‘s The Kid From The Big Apple, and Eyra Rahman‘s Kipidapp! Selamatkan Hari Jadi.
“I would like to think there are many more talented female directors out there,” added Tunku Mona Riza. “I do hope that directly or indirectly, this film could influence them to voice out how they feel on whatever subject they’re interested in, taboo or not.”
Reception for the film at the premiere has thus far been highly-positive. The National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS) and the Creative Content Association Malaysia (CCAM) were also present at the premiere, where Dato’ Kamil Othman stated post-screening that the film meets international standards.
Filem Redha mengangkat nilai kemanusiaan yang sangat tinggi. Ini adalah satu contoh filem yang mungkin kita akan bawa ke pasaran antarabangsa […].
— Dato’ Kamil Othman, Director-General of FINAS
Redha was made possible due to a loan from Bank Simpanan Nasional (BSN), which helped cover the film’s total budget of RM3.7 million — a sum which takes into account Redha’s two-year research phase and production costs.
BSN’s corporate communications arm also provided the film RM300,000 for advertising, marketing and promotion, an amount Redha‘s makers will donate to autism associations should the film break even at the box office.
RM1 from each ticket sold at Golden Screen Cinemas will go towards NASOM while a donation box will be available at MBO Cinemas, with proceeds to go to an autism society of the cinema chain’s choice.
Redha will be released in more than 70 cinemas nationwide as well as in Singapore and Brunei on 14 April 2016.