Sarawak-made, Petronas-funded web film for Gawai, pulls in 700,000 viewers

Sulok Tawie

Directors Ismail Kamarul (right) and Philip Rom Kulleh (second right) with web film adviser Noria anak Tugang (centre) and Petronas' Zahariah Abdul Rahman (third right) at the preview of 'Baju Burong Apai' May 21, 2019. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUCHING, May 21 — Local web film Baju Burong Apai (My Father’s Baju Burong) has attracted over 700,000 viewers, 21,000 “likes,” almost 1,400 comments and shared almost 13,300 times since it was launched last Thursday.

The Petronas web film by Petronas and featuring a local cast and crew was made in conjunction with this year’s Gawai Dayak celebration, which falls on June 1.

The title Baju Burong, refers to a traditional Iban handwoven vest-like shirt.

Though only four-minutes long, a lot of research was done before shooting actually began, director Ismail Kamarul said at the preview here last night.

He explained this is due to the realisation that many features films, advertisements and TV dramas often get the nuances of Sarawak wrong.

He also said there has not been that many content for film, TV dramas and advertising done in the Iban language.

“I hope this film will leave a positive impact to not only Sarawakians, but also peninsular Malaysians, so that we may know each other,” he said.

Petronas senior general manager for group strategic communications Zahariah Abdul Rahman launched the preview of the web film.

She said Petronas is happy to pay homage to Gawai Dayak celebration in Sarawak where the the oil company has grown alongside its people and communities.

The web film, lasting four minutes and 50 seconds, is a story of family bonds and brotherhood.

It centres around Bob (played by IT officer Maclean Patrick Sibat) the eldest child who gets the idea to bring all his siblings together for a Gawai celebration at their longhouse after being questioned by his daughter if he is an Iban.

He returns to Sarawak, clad in his late father’s Baju Burong, and goes on a journey to gather his family’s traditional items and meet his siblings whom he has not seen for years, especially his youngest brother Roy.

When Bob goes over to the restaurant where Roy (played by reporter Emmanuel Reuben Suboh Gomes) works, the two have a heated argument over things that happened in the past.

Bob ends up leaving his father’s Baju Burong at the restaurant.

Even though there is a family feud, the brothers, however, reconcile.

Roy returns the Baju Burong to Bob.

It symbolises his respect for Bob and willingness to forgive what has happened in the past.

According to the web film’s cultural and arts adviser Noria anak Tugang, a key message of the story is that forgiveness is a two-way street.

“While it may be hard to forgive those who have wronged us before, but extending forgiveness heals our own past wounds as well,” she said.

She said no matter how we go from our homeland, our traditions follow us in the most subtle and smallest ways.

Noria, who is also the senior lecturer on the arts management programme at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, believed that the web film is the best platform to unite the Iban family using all the messages in this film.

She said she gained a lot of experience from the process of making the film on how to do things better.

“The highlight that I want to share is a teamwork that has enabled us to finish our schedules on time,” she said.

Noria said it took the team three months to prepare for the web film and just three days to complete the shooting.

She said the scenes of Gawai celebration were filmed at Kampung Ensenggai Iban in Sebuyau, about two hours drive from Kuching.

“We decided on the title of the film after much discussions with ourselves,” she said, adding that Baju Burong is a traditional costumes of the Dayak communities which is worn by the men during festive occasions or at very important gatherings.

She said the theme of the web film “AnugerahKita” was chosen by Petronas.

“The theme aims to remind the people of the gift of life — that every moment is precious and all our experience teaches and guides us no matter what we are in life and what our status in society is,” she said.

“We are also happy with the comments by people who have watched the film,” she said.

Noria, however, declined to reveal to reporters the amount of money that Petronas has put in for web film.