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What is love?

Ridhwan Saidi explores intimacy in relationships in his first feature film that was screened at the 31st Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF)

14 Dec 2020 / 10:03 H.

MANY know of Ridhwan Saidi as a photographer, a novelist and a theatre director. In recent years, he has directed many short films. Last year, one of his short films, Sisa Binasa, won first place in the Open Category at the FiTA WAVE Short Film Awards.

Recently, he directed his first feature film, Tiada Cinta Selama Muda (No Love for The Young).

The 85-minute film was recently selected to compete in the Asian Feature Competition at the 31st Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF), which ended on Dec 6.

Explaining the theme behind his film, the 36-year-old filmmaker says: “I am exploring what love is. There are many layers and spectrums to love.

Some people associate madness with love. There is also puppy love, like infatuation, as well as platonic love.”

For decades, filmmakers have been told that a good film needs a solid script.

However, Ridhwan has been rather adventurous with his first feature film. He did not prepare any screenplay.

He just threw simple questions and brief scenarios at his 14 cast members, and gave them the freedom to react to his questions and his scenarios in any way they wanted.

He explains that as a novelist, he decided on everything that was going to take place in the stories that he wrote, from beginning to end.

Later, he began directing theatre plays, and it was there that he learnt how directing theatre operated on a different concept from writing a novel.

“In theatre, you cannot work alone,” he says.

“You work with your actors. You have to collaborate with them. You need to learn to trust your actors, and the same goes for the actors. They need to trust their director, too.”

For the film, some of his cast choose to express themselves through conversations, while others resorted to movements.

After recording their reactions, Ridhwan spent hours in the editing room to find a narrative within the results.

He pointed out that sometimes we forget that film editors are an important factor to a film’s production, and that editors ultimately decide the outcome of the film.

He showed his film to a test audience. A few remarked that his film has a documentary atmosphere, while others have noted that he incorporated his theatre experience into his film.

He says: “I try to blur the line between theatre and film. I try to blur the line between fiction and reality. I try to blur the line between performing and non-performing.”

Lew Shu Ni, 33, had a fun time working on the film. She has worked with Ridhwan on a few prior occasions in his theatre productions, and in his short films.

“But this is my first time working in front of the camera,” she says.

She finds that Ridhwan has a strong vision but is willing to adapt to his actors, and accepts their suggestions.

“Everyone will have their own interpretation of what the movie is all about,” she says.

“For me, this film is a poetic look at what love is.”

Fellow cast member Lim Paik Yin also agrees with that assessment. The 40-year-old says: “The film has some surreal and fantasy elements. There are some poems in the film. I love the way the shots were framed.”

This is her first time working with Ridhwan.

“I have only known Ridhwan as a photographer,” she says.

“Only much later did I learn that he had dabbled in writing novels and directing theatre productions.”

She loves the fact that Ridhwan had turned the whole production process of the film into a collaborative effort between the cast and the director.

“The actors were pro-active,” she says.

“He dared to break the rules, and I love that about him.”

$!Ridhwan explores what love is in his first feature film. – Courtesy of Ridhwan Saidi
Ridhwan explores what love is in his first feature film. – Courtesy of Ridhwan Saidi

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