MAKING THE FLICK
(TAKEN FROM THE ORIGINAL PRESS KIT CIRCA 2006)
Produced, written, directed and edited by Khairil M. Bahar (who also plays ‘Jo’, the lead character), CIPLAK was shot on weekends from October 1st till January 8th by a tiny crew that included professional photographer Ariff Aris and filmmaker Tony Pietra as the cinematographers.
“I originally wanted to shoot a love story called Celup as my first feature,” says Khairil. “I had been working on it with my producer for months when, all of a sudden, he decided to leave the project.”
Determined to shoot a feature film before he turned 26, Khairil ransacked his past writing folders and discovered a little hidden gem called VCD.
“I wrote VCD when I first came back to Malaysia (2001). They say ‘write what you know’ and I had been living in England for most of my life prior to KL. VCD’s were the only thing I knew. I’d always go to the stalls at Bangsar outside MPH and Burger King and after a while I noticed things about VCD’s, such as the photoshopped covers, the different types of copies and pirate logos.”
It was from these observations Khairil’s imagination started crafting a ten minute opening sequence that showed the various different types of VCD copies which soon turned into a feature length script.
“From this I crafted a script which was about 50 or so pages long, then filed it and never thought it could be filmed with my lack of resources.”
With the new advent of DVD piracy, Khairil set to work rewriting the script to suit the times, adding a more dramatic drive.
“The story is actually less about piracy and more about a young man trying to pursue his dreams. In the case of Jo, the main character, he’s crazy about movies and he’s willing to do this highly illegal act of smuggling DVD’s into another country just so he can save enough money to get into film school. Is it the right thing to do? No. But when you’re that passionate about something, logic and reason usually fly out the window.”
The same could be said about Khairil. Inspired by the guerilla filmmaking tactics made famous by the debut features of filmmakers such as Robert Rodriguez and Kevin Smith, Khairil begged, borrowed and stole to shoot the film.
“Every actor, actress and crew member wasn’t paid. Every location was given in kind. All the outdoor locations were shot as quickly as we could before we got shoo-ed from the pace. The movie was edited on my home PC. In fact, the only thing we paid for was DV tapes and roti canai. I think the budget is about RM$400, but that doesn’t include the camera.”
The movie also features many people from the local music scene.
“Since I was heavily involved with the local music scene at the time, a lot of my friends are musicians. So you’ve got Hassan Peter Brown of Soft Touch, Ben and CK from Ben’s Bitches, Izuan from Auburn and a whole lot more, all acting in this movie (as well as contributing to the soundtrack).”
For added production value and authenticity, CIPLAK also has scenes that take place in the UK.
“I called up one of my friends (Sajib Azad) in the UK from my old drama society days in university and told him about the script, asking whether he could sort out a cast and crew to shoot some scenes in England which I could intercut with the scenes in Malaysia. I could’ve shot the scenes here but when you see the footage the whole look and feel of the scenes are very English, the brick walls, the décor, the actors, all of it.”
Some would say that making a movie about piracy would be a risky venture and one that would court censorship, but that’s the least of Khairil’s worries.
“Don’t get me wrong, I think piracy is bad, but I also think the issue hasn’t been properly addressed. It’s not enough to just tell the public ‘don’t buy pirated goods’. The thing is, I’ve always enjoyed making films about things in Malaysia that many would say are wrong, probably because I feel that a lot of these things aren’t properly addressed. My first short film, ‘Nicotine’, was about smoking and cigarette addiction and simply shows a smoker trying to quit and his friend who’s diagnosed with cancer. I don’t think there’s been an effective anti-smoking campaign in Malaysia ever, and I believe it’s because it’s too preachy, which I try not to do. Let the audience make up their own mind, their not complete idiots.”
Originally intended to be shown in a handful of makeshift screenings, CIPLAK ended up getting a release in cinemas via GSC’s international screens. Ciplak has also screened internationally at the Boulder Asian Film Festival in Denver (Colorado, USA) and won the Anugerah Skrin award in 2006 for Best Alternative Cinema.