Theatre Actors Make Successful Transition To Screen With First Feature Film ‘Mentega Terbang’

There’s a new indie film on the block, and it has already caught a buzz for its strong message and impeccable performances.

Mentega Terbang is a story about Aisyah, an adolescent schoolgirl who navigates what it means to have faith while a loved one is dying of cancer.

Taking inspiration from legendary filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad, the film poses many big questions about religion, tolerance, and even race, while leaving the answers completely up to the audience.

16-year-old rising star Syuma Salihin plays lead character Aisyah in the film.

Despite the film’s star potential, it has somewhat predictably not yet been cleared for wide release by censors. That has not stopped the film from making its rounds however, popping up to much acclaim at the recently-concluded Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival.

As luck would have it, the JUICE team was lucky enough to catch the film’s homecoming at an exclusive screening earlier this week at GMBB, Bukit Bintang.

What makes Mentega Terbang more impressive is that the team behind it are first-time filmmakers, with experience mainly on stage instead of the silver screen.

Created as a joint venture between theatre outfit Anomalist Production and production house Meng Kheng Entertainment, the film sees seasoned theatre practitioners translate their talents for a new medium to great effect.

“All those years of performing such great stories allowed us to identify strong plot points, as well as making sure the story is good before even presenting it to stage, and now film,” says producer Tan Meng Kheng.

(From left) Producer Tan Meng Kheng & director Khairi Anwar.

There were definitely challenges, admits director Khairi Anwar – not least because of a shoestring budget and a mere 6-day window to shoot – but the team took it all in stride.

“In theatre, it’s easier for me (to direct) as the story is from A to Z. But film, the way we shoot is different, sometimes the shots go from A, to B, then sometimes Z, then X, before H, and so on,” says Khairi.

“But we had the pleasure to work with a cast of theatre actors, all with their acting basics and knowledge, which truly helps the process a lot.”

The film also stars Nik Waheeda and Firdaus Karim as Jamhariah and Jailani respectively, Aishah’s parents who serve as the plot’s moral centre. (source: @Pidosan (Twitter))

As for the man behind the scenes holding the production together, Director of Photography (DOP) & Editor Sidney Chan, he says that a lot of faith went into the process.

“One of the most important aspects is understanding what the director wants, like what is the rationale, and why this subject matter. I think that trust is important between the director and DOP, so we can bring the story to life.”

DOP & Editor Sidney Chan.

He says that throughout the shoot, him and Khairi had many back-and-forths on several instances, and that certain compromises made the final product even better.

“We were pressed for time, so we shot a lot of footage, and left the question of what to do with them later. There were plenty of happy accidents, as I would say,” Sidney continued.

“When you’re shooting for someone to create their vision, you have to make sure it is achieved, but it also elevates beyond what they initially want.”

Mentega Terbang will return for a limited run at GMBB, Kuala Lumpur from 17 to 19 December.

You can buy tickets at Anomalist Production’s website, or follow the film on Instagram for more information!