FilmCourage: Where did you grow up?
Siti Kamaluddin: Brunei.
FilmCourage: What was life like at home?
Siti: I think it was normal.
FilmCourage: Which of your parents do you resemble most?
Siti: I think I have a bit of both my parents.
FilmCourage: Who’s had the greatest influence on your life?
Siti: I think it’s my father because I think that he is the most patient and the best man I have ever known. His story is very inspiring.
FilmCourage: Did you go to film school?
Siti: No. I studied chemistry at the university of Southampton in the UK.
FilmCourage: Is YASMINE a film you wanted to make for a long time?
Siti: Yes it is, in fact I have two films I wanted to make for a long time Yasmine and Halus but Yasmine took off first.
FilmCourage: How many movies did you make before YASMINE?
Siti: It’s my first feature film, but I worked in a couple of films prior to Yasmine as an Assistant Director.
FilmCourage: Is there anything that prevented you from making this film sooner?
FilmCourage: What changed?
Siti: Many more people want to make films in Brunei and I see more young kids interested in taking up silat.
FilmCourage: What gave you the confidence that you could direct this movie?
Siti: It was never a question of being confident. It was a matter of when can I do it.
FilmCourage: How important was it to you that the protagonist in this movie be female?
Siti: It’s important because we don’t have enough female centered films especially that involve action and I wanted to show a woman can be strong in character, as well as good for action especially for silat. It’s the first time a female plays a main character in a silat based film.
FilmCourage: Was it harder to make this movie because of the female lead?
Siti: No, it was hard for many other reasons (hahah).
FilmCourage: What does YASMINE say about the world we live in?
Siti: Yasmine is a coming-of-age film. It shows that no matter where you are in the world, your culture and religion, we all go through the same growing up process and are faced with very similar challenges at the core.
FilmCourage: What emotions do you feel your film YASMINE brings forth in viewers?
Siti: I think the viewers initially would find Yasmine the lead character to be a bit arrogant at times, insecure haha but then they fall in love with her, sometimes they are mad at her, they laugh with her and in the end they are rooting for her.
FilmCourage: How many years did it take you to make this film?
Siti: 3-4 years.
FilmCourage: Which stage took you the most time… raising the money, production or post-production?
Siti: Developing the story and the characters together with the screenwriter.
FilmCourage: Is YASMINE the first movie ever to be made in Brunei?
Siti: No, it wasn’t but it’s the first commercial film in a long time and it’s the first film to travel. The first film was made in the 60’s but directed by a Malaysian director.
FilmCourage: What meaning does that have for you?
Siti: It means that it’s possible to make movies here and tell stories from here. And that means a lot. It also means that other aspiring filmmakers will pursue their dreams in Brunei.
FilmCourage: Technically the film is superb with top notch cinematography, production value, and sound design, how were you able to attract great talent not just in front of the camera but behind it?
Siti: Most of them are my old friends that I’ve worked with in other projects. In my day job, I am heavily involved in directing TV Commercials.
FilmCourage: How many actresses auditioned for the lead role of Yasmine?
Siti: Over 500.
FilmCourage: What was it about Liyana that helped her win the role?
Siti: Her eyes. The casting team fell in love with her eyes. And for me it’s how emotionally available she was.
FilmCourage: Considering this is a martial arts movie, how much time did you spend in pre-production on fight choreography?
Siti: 1 year because the actresses Liyana Yus and Nadiah Wahid have never done silat before and they all have to learn from scratch.
FilmCourage: Did you film any fight scenes without rehearsal?
FilmCourage: How did you get long time Jackie Chan collaborator Chan
Man-Ching as fight choreographer for this project?
Siti: We worked together on another film where I was on the director’s team. He was the action choreographer and I asked him then if he would help me with choreography of my film, when I can get it made and he said yes. The rest is history.
FilmCourage: What advice do you have for filmmakers who want to make a martial arts movie?
Siti: Make sure you have enough time for training the actors.
FilmCourage: 108 Media acquired worldwide rights to YASMINE ahead of its North American premiere at Fantasia Film Fest. How did that happen?
Siti: We won Best Asian Film Award in Switzerland and I think they heard about us from there and soon after that they got in touch. When we were also in competition in Montreal, we went from there.
FilmCourage: Were you actively trying to sell the film at that point in time?
Siti: Yes, we were.
FilmCourage: The movie has just been released on iTunes. What are people enjoying most about the movie?
Siti: I think they enjoy a martial arts film which is not all fights and
violence. In the end, it’s about love.
FilmCourage: What is silat?
Siti: What it means to be a martial artist, it’s not about to be the best or the strongest it is about being good in the heart. When I was in one of the festivals, someone came up to me and said It’s refreshing to see a martial arts film which is not about violence or survival or gang fights but just a way of life, it’s a sport and is full of heart.
FilmCourage: What’s next for you creatively?
Siti: Another film. Keep an eye out!
ABOUT THE FILM:
Bruneian director Siti Kamaluddin teamed up with Hong Kong’s renowned action director Chan Man Ching, and Indonesia’s no.1 screenwriter Salman Aristo brings you an action drama about a young girl’s dream of becoming a martial arts champion.