Dain Said: Putting Out Flags

The quest for the meaning of independence is a perennial topic around this time of the year and we didn’t want to fall into the same clichéd 1Malaysia trap that people keep laying down for us. And who better to break conformity than Bunohan Writer-Director DAIN SAID? JUICE passes the pad to the famed filmmaker and, naturally, he pens us a poetic personal tale of liberation.

I threw my tie onto the railway tracks, took off my blazer and hurled it into the bushes behind the platform rails. The train came and left. I stood alone for a bit. It was the same carriage that carried me to and fro, from home to school and back, for four years since I was eleven; I walked instead across the heath. My feet cushioned by the grass, I floated an inch above the ground for I had finally left school.

I was fifteen and I put out my flag.

That day I was born. For the next 10 years I worked and travelled, and started writing, I wrote my way around the world from Canada to Cairo, Berlin to Athens, from cafes to bars, and city to city I read the great works leaving the sound of the train far behind, to the quietness of the library.

A quietness surrounded by books. Instilled by my mother, a schoolteacher who taught and spoke to me in English, in the heat of afternoons in a small mangrove town by lagoons infested with an orchestra of insects. My mother used to sing to me.

Many years later the weight of her love, came off my shoulders like a heavy winter coat. I floated half an inch above the tarmac, and continued down the road.

Once more there was quiet and stillness. Love had vacated the room. There was no longer the troubled desire and the blind need to fill the spaces with the things I carry. Her death had loosened the chains. But the refrain of her song was another flag she helped me raise high to the sky.

There have been many struggles, and the peaks that rise in between have made the fight worth the stretches.

And this lasting stretch, the last thing – She walked in and with both hands, took the weight and flew my banner to the world. She is my producer and my partner in kind. And like criminals we plotted our story.

I returned to the lagoons, and wrote my script amidst the noise of insects. And together we entered the mangroves, and out of our words we made this film. We braved the monsoon, the floodwaters, the swelling rivers and tidal currents and we battled the weather. Still they kept charging, and finally at sea, she guided us, never losing sight of land and little did I know, for she kept her eye on the mountain in the distance. Our boats landed.

And then came the little people. Like bits of broken glass half buried in the sand; half people with small knives, and a grain of sand in one eye. Their minds blunted by the days, their imagination eroded by the office hours, and their vision blurred by empty sheets of paper, though we were far from making a zombie movie. They were the walking wounded, and she swept them out to sea, and drove our banner at the peak.

Independence comes in small steps, a constant battle and different stages in one’s life. Its good to have a partner, a friend, to fight the good fight for if I fall, I know she’ll charge the last stretch, and put up our flag.

Still I carry a bag of words, and happily the volumes of love. The woman who made my film travel, from city to city, Toronto to Rotterdam, Taipei to Los Angeles, Italy to the Middle-East, South to North America, from cafes to bars, to stories and talks in the library – The woman who made my films.

She walks with me now, for my walk has been a long one, and we’re not ready to arrive.

Dain Said and Nandita Solomon’s film Bunohan, was picked up by Universal Pictures for Europe, NZ and Australia, Oscilloscope for North America, and had its World Premiere in Toronto Film Festival, European Premiere in Rotterdam Film Festival, and for Asia was the winner of the NETPAC Award at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival. For more information on Bunohan, head on over to www.bunohan.com.