Anak PerakArts & Culture

Sharpened Word: Malaysian Animation Gaining Global Recognition

By Chris Teh

Coinciding with Chap Goh Mei and Thaipusam on Saturday, February 8, the February session of Sharpened Word (SW) was held at 22 Hale Street.

With ‘Batik Girl and How It Conquers the Nation’ as the theme, panellists for the session were SW regular feature Hassan Muthalib, more known as Pak Hassan and the director of the award-winning animated short film ‘Batik Girl’, Perak-born Irwan Junaidy.

‘Batik Girl’ is an art piece centring on Mas, the main character, coping with the loss of her parents and finding herself drawn into the magical ‘Batik World’, with her grandmother, Tok Ma.

Despite being only nine minutes long, the short film went on to become a fan favourite and was chosen to be screened at several film festivals around the world.

“I wasn’t particularly a fan of batik until I did some research on it,” Irwan said. “Colour spreads easily on batik cloth and it does not look good. But, if several colours are put together, a magnificent art piece comes out of it. This was part of the inspiration for Batik Girl.”

“In the film, Mas is considered the colours, while Tok Ma represents the wax lines,” he added. In ‘Batik World’, the Batik Girl reflects Mas, while the Shadow mirrors protection from Tok Ma.

Produced by The R&D Studio founded by Irwan himself with collaboration from Universiti Teknologi MARA’s Faculty of Music, Irwan stated that he did not expect such overwhelming responses toward the film.

“We had fun producing ‘Batik Girl’, despite all the challenges that came along with it,” he expressed. “Most of us from The R&D Studio aren’t majors in art. I was an architect. The concept artist for ‘Batik Girl’, Atiqah studied mechatronic engineering,” Irwan elaborated. “Every animated feature that we direct and produce is a learning curve for us.”

“We had to take a few rounds to get the shots right,” he further added. “Frankly speaking, I had no idea that a short feature like ‘Batik Girl’ would succeed and garner interest from all walks of life.”

Irwan insisted that music and score are elements that are equally as important as other aspects of the film.

“Music reinforces emotions that are supposed to be experienced at certain scenes of a film,” he explained. “Unfortunately, most film directors focus least on that part.”

When asked about the future of the animated film industry in Malaysia, both Irwan and Pak Hassan lamented that there is not enough space for animators to flourish.

“Storytelling has always been a problem here in Malaysia,” Irwan stated. “Not only that, Malaysia doesn’t have much experience in anime-style production, which was used on ‘Batik Girl’.”

“Short films must have three criterias, which are continuous action, continuous timing and a twist at the end,” Pak Hassan stated. “Of course, these are just the basics.”

“I’ve attended several talks in universities which discussed film direction and production. To my shock, most of the students have no idea of what I was asking because the lecturers themselves don’t even know!” he lamented.

“At least Malaysia now has international properties like ‘Upin and Ipin’ and ‘Boboiboy’, which makes Malaysian animation known to certain parts of the world,” Pak Hassan added.

When asked about his future plans, Irwan said, “There are another short film and feature film coming up. I thank everyone for the tremendous support towards ‘Batik Girl’. We will continue improving ourselves.”

The short film full of minute details which is up for interpretation can be viewed on The R&D Studio’s official YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/RnDChannel. For more information regarding Sharpened Word events, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sharpenedword.kinta.

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Chris Teh

Born and bred in Ipoh, Chris Teh is proficient in Chinese, English and Malay, with the Japanese language in the making. Joining Ipoh Echo has helped utilise his writing and translation skills. In his spare time, he catches Pokemon in Pokemon GO, discovering up and coming places on the side.

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