S'pore Malay film in Oscar bid
Sayang Disayang submitted for Best Foreign Language Film category
Singaporean film-maker Sanif Olek has much to celebrate.
His debut feature Sayang Disayang - an independent film six years in the making - has been selected as Singapore's entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars next year.
It is also the first Malay film submission from Singapore for this award.
An impressive feat, considering that the film has yet to see a general release here.
For the 44-year-old, the submission is "good news", especially since the film has been getting rave reviews at film festivals abroad.
"The movie has been submitted for consideration by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science (for the Oscars), but I am certainly happy to fly the flag for Singapore if I am given the opportunity," said Mr Sanif, a veteran of many English and Malay language TV dramas.
When contacted, the Singapore Film Commission confirmed the submission. A total of seven films were also considered this year, added its spokesman.
Previous local entries included Anthony Chen's Ilo Ilo (picked for 2013), Michelle Chong's comedy Already Famous (2012), Eric Khoo's animated work Tatsumi (2011) and Royston Tan's musical-comedy 881 (2007).
None were nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, which gives out the Oscars.
Mr Sanif said he is pleased that his "labour of love" is in the running, especially since Sayang Disayang is his way of "presenting Malay culture to the world".
The film premiered in Singapore in May at the Southeast Asian Film Festival, where it was the closing film.
It tells the tale of a migrant domestic helper and nurse Murni (played by Singaporean director and playwright Aidli Mosbit), who looks after cranky widower Pak Harun (played by Malaysian actor Rahim Razali).
The response from viewers abroad has been encouraging, said Mr Sanif.
At film festivals in Cambodia, Spain and Canada, Sayang Disayang was an official selection.
The movie also won Best Cinematography at the World Film Awards in Indonesia, and Best Musical at the Mexico International Film Festival.
Sayang Disayang will also be screened at the Hawaii International Film Festival in November.
But the PG-rated, $400,000-budget movie received only a limited release here, playing at The Arts House from Aug 8 to 15.
Mr Sanif said he ran the movie only at The Arts House because he is marketing and distributing the film himself at the moment.
In comparison, Chen's Ilo Ilo - which is about the relationship between a maid and the Singapore family she works for - garnered a theatrical run before it was selected as Singapore's entry for the Oscars last year.
Mr Sanif declined to say how much Sayang Disayang earned during its run.
Ms Aishah Abu Bakar, 30, who saw the film at The Arts House, said: "The pace was very well thought-out and he told the story very well."
"It was rich in culture and tradition, and certainly ambitious and brave for a first feature film effort," added the programme manager of moving images at The Substation.
Mr Sanif said he is hoping to find a local distributor for the movie soon.