I don't think about being first

Brunei director says she made a movie, and happens to be a woman

HAPPY: Brunei's first female film director Siti Kamaluddin is overwhelmed by the attention her film Yasmine has been getting at international film festivals. PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

Brunei's first woman film director is now set to release Brunei's first-ever commercial feature film since the 1960s.

As if that's not enough to give director Siti Kamaluddin full bragging rights, her upcoming film Yasmine has been making waves in international film festivals ahead of its Aug 21 release.

It won the Best Asian Movie at Switzerland's Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival last month.

The action-drama flick has also made the rounds at film festivals in South Korea, Canada, Hong Kong, Shanghai and France.

And Siti, 36, has described herself as being "happy and overwhelmed".

"I don't think about being the first... anything. I just wanted to make a movie where people can have a first look at Brunei and then laugh along with the characters and have a great time," she said in a telephone interview from Brunei's capital, Bandar Seri Begawan.

It has given her more confidence to dream big.

"Hollywood's the dream, isn't it? I really wish to make it there some day," she added.

Siti, whose day job is producing and directing TV commercials and documentaries under her production company Origin Artistic Management, said that working with Real Steel and Night at the Museum director Shawn Levy would be her dream.

For now, she remains content that Yasmine will not only be screened in Brunei, Indonesia and Singapore come Aug 21. It is also slated for a North American release in November.

"In some parts of the world, like Canada, people have never even heard of silat or know where Brunei is," said Siti, whose mother, retiree Hajah Rohaiyah Sulaiman, 57, is Singaporean.

Of the film that was shot entirely in Brunei, Siti said it was a vehicle of showing off a little-known slice of the country.

"(Critics) have also said that it's refreshing because most action films are about revenge and violence. But Yasmine focuses on the sport," she added, saying she chose silat because it's a sport many in the region are familiar with, but still isn't as well known as judo or karate.


The film took over a year to complete on more than a US$2 million (S$2.5 million) budget with cast and crew that includes her producer brother Din Kamaluddin, action director Chan Man Ching and well-known regional stars.

Over US$120,000 of the film's budget came from the state.

"I don't want to limit myself to just Brunei, I want to set my sights further. I'm very keen on co-productions, working with people from many different countries to share knowledge and experience," she said.

While she looks forward to Yasmine's release date later this month, Siti will take a short breather to complete three TV commercials.

But she will not sit still for long - she is already looking at scripts for other movies.

"Maybe a comedy next? Who knows?"