A clash of two worlds

Tombiruo stars Zul (right) in the lead role as the forest protector out to seek revenge; and Farid (left,) as a forest ranger who tangles with Tombiruo.

FILM production house Astro Shaw recently held a special screening of its latest film, Tombiruo: Penunggu Rimba, for the media and selected guests.

The RM6 million action flick, which opens in cinemas tomorrow, was favourably received by the guests who were especially impressed by the special effects, cinematography, the fight sequences, and touchinjavascript:CopyAfterSave(false, 'TheSun/Editors/ianchongs', 'ianchongs', ('2472469'==''));g emotional scenes.

Adapted from a bestselling Malay novel by Ramlee Awang Murshid, the story centres on a man named Tombiruo, who lives in the forest with his adopted father Pondoluo.

Tombiruo, who wears a wooden mask to hide his disfigured face, has a strong connection with the forest, and is considered its protector, complete with magical powers.

When a logging company gets the job to clear a part of the forest for the building of a dam, the company sends in some hired thugs to drive away the local aboriginal community who opposes the project.

Tombiruo and his father try to help the villagers, and in the struggle, Pondoluo is killed. The thugs escape, leaving a devastated Tombiruo swearing revenge upon them.

Playing Tombiruo is Zul Ariffin (Evolusi KL Drift 2, J Revolusi).Others in the cast include Farid Kamil, Nabila Huda, Faizal Hussein, Hasnul Rahmat, and Michael Chen.

Helming the film are not one but two directors – Australian filmmaker Seth Larney and local actor-director Nasir Jani as associate director.
Larney is also a writer and visual effects supervisor who has

worked on such Hollywood productions as Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions, as well as Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

At the Tombiruo screening, the film’s executive producers Najwa Abu Bakar and Zainir Aminullah dismissed the notion that hiring a foreign director is a sign that Astro lacks faith in local directors.

“We wanted to elevate the Malaysian film industry by pairing a very good local director (in Nasir) with a very good foreign director (in Larney),” said Najwa, who is also head of Astro Shaw. “[Larney] learns from Nasir, and Nasir learns from [Larney].”

Besides the sharing of knowledge, Najwa believes this move is an excellent marketing strategy for Tombiruo.

She explained: “Astro has created box-office hits such as The Journey, Ola Bola, and Polis Evo. But these films have a difficult time penetrating the overseas market. We want Tombiruo to travel [far].”

Both Najwa and Zainir said that discussions are already underway to distribute Tombirou internationally.

Zainir, who is also the chief executive officer of production house Ideate Media, feels that Larney’s experience with effects-heavy films would help Tombiruo appeal to a global audience.

“We are looking at markets where our movies have not gone before,” he added.

Interestingly, both directors were not present for the press conference after the screening of Tombiruo. There were rumours of tension between Larney and Nasir, and I could not help but speculate there might be some truth to them.

Then again, I could be wrong. Perhaps, both directors were just too shy to meet the Malaysian press.

Actor Farid – who plays forest ranger Amiruddin in Tombiruo – insisted there was no clash of opinions between the two directors on the set, and the film shoot was smooth sailing.

“Seth and Nasir have different tasks in the film,” he explains. “Seth looked into special effects, while Nasir made sure the film did not lose its Malay identity. We should be grateful that we had two directors on the set.”

He also applauded Astro’s move to encourage a collaboration between a foreign director and a Malaysian director.

“Our football team imports foreign players to become better,” Farid said. “We are doing the same thing here. We are just raising the standard of our films.”
Chen, who plays the film’s antagonist, agreed.

“When I got the role, I did not know the film would have two directors,” said Chen, who is also a film producer and active in the Malaysian theatre scene.
At the start, he was worried that the film might face some rough patches. But he was wrong.

“I never had a better experience on a film set, and [it] was awesome,” he says. “Both directors were in sync and in harmony.”