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Lessons in reel-life

Irwan Hamsah, better known as Cikgu Iroet Marteni, is using film to guide his students

06 May 2021 / 10:45 H.

SIX years ago, Kota Kinabalu teacher Irwan Hamsah directed a group of six primary school students – from 10 to 12 years old – to make a short film Puasa Adam.

The 2015 production centres on 10-year-old Adam whose family has converted to Islam and soon they will be fasting for the first time.

The eight-minute story took the runner-up award at Sabah Screen Fest.

The following year, Irwan –better known as Cikgu Iroet Marteni – again gathered students to make short film Berita Dari Sabah and entered the same festival.

This time around, they got even a bigger victory. The short film grabbed the first prize. The story centres on 11-year Melvin as he adapts to his new home in Sabah, where his soldier father has been posted from West Malaysia.

“These victories were totally unexpected,” says Sandakan-born Iroet.

“I wanted to use film as a way to inspire my students. Some are shy loners.

“I thought this activity could help them come out of their shell. Making a film is always about team work. They have to learn to work together and make friends.”

The awards gave his student a new sense of confidence, he claims.

“I began to see positive change in them.

“Some got better grades in their studies. They have become more expressive with their opinions.”

At the same time, he feels that such films have good values to impart to audiences.

“Today’s generation is a visual lot,” he says.

“They are more hooked to the screen than words. Some students learn better visually.”

The victories encouraged him to start Projek Film as a form of education in his school.

The plan is to help students make short films and enter film festivals locally and abroad.

In 2019, their short film titled Solunsug created waves at several international film festivals. The film won fourth place in the Short Film Festival, Turkey and was a finalist at the Busan International Kids and Youth Film Festival.

The lead actor Edjucchio Effour Edmund from the film walked home with the Best Actor award at the Festival de Cinema Escolar de Alvorada, Brazil.

The film centres on a village in Sabah facing water shortage during a drought.

A young boy tries to find ways to
bring some water resources to his stricken village.

“I never dreamt our works will reach international festivals and audiences,” he says.

Recently, their short film Lagenda Seniman won Best film, Best Director and Best Actor at the Sabah Screen Fest. His students have creatively taken characters from three films by the legendary P Ramlee – Ibu Mertuaku, Bujang Lapok and Nujum Pak Belalang – and built a narrative story line.

The biggest hit by Team Iroet is a YouTube thriller that has scored 22 million views to date.

The 2017 spook film Tuhau vs Zombie is about a zombie attack on a small village.

“Zombie is a theme that many can relate to and we even have scored with non Malaysian audiences,” he says.

Iroet is keen to share the skills he and his students have developed in film-making with other educators.

This can facilitate the setting-up of similar film projects in other schools that can help students to develop school and life skills.

“Film can be an effective learning tool to help students do better,” he says.

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