Photos by Chuan Looi / Yipieyaya Studio; styling by Ibnu Aswan, assisted by Nigel Lee; grooming by Joey Yap; wardrobe by Bottega Veneta
Since our last catch-up at the 2014 Men of the Year where the actor was recognised for his rising success in film, which consisted of a Malaysia Film Festival Best Actor award from 2010, a supporting part in Malaysia’s official entry for the 2012 Oscar’s Best Foreign Language Film nomination, Bunohan, and his early foray into filmmaking with his own production house Otto Films and the anthology film Kolumpo, Bront Palarae has made even greater strides and arrived at a more holistic state of mind.
His brilliant portrayal of a sports commentator in last year’s award-winning Ola Bola was celebrated with a Kuala Lumpur Film Critics’ Circle Award. And, since 2015, Bront has been in collaboration with HBO Asia after being roped in for noted Indonesian filmmaker Joko Anwar’s dark, fantasy thriller Halfworlds, broadcast across Southeast Asia. He followed this up with another Indonesian collaboration, this time a martial-arts action film titled Headshot with filmmaking duo, the Mo Brothers, further expanding his presence in Indonesia.
Bront’s most-anticipated film this year is his second project with Joko, Pengabdi Setan (Satan’s Slave), a remake of the 1980 classic Indonesian horror of the same name, premiered in Indonesia last month and scheduled to release in Malaysia and Singapore on 23 November. The actor-filmmaker has also recently completed a two-week entrepreneurship course at Stanford University, California, and candidly mentioned that he has started taking Mandarin lessons, possibly hinting at his plans to venture into China.
The Malaysian premiere of Pengabdi Setan (Satan’s Slave) is scheduled for 23 November 2017. Till then, check out the trailer below, followed by our exclusive interview.
How does it feel to have gone from TV to film, to filmmaking?
As an actor, you are like a piece of jigsaw, you can only do so much. Being a filmmaker has given me a bigger role to play, one that not only allows me to create characters but also tell my stories. You set the direction for the team, and are given the power and chance to truly shape something of your own to life.
Do you find it challenging to take on the diverse roles?
I enjoy the diverse roles, just not so much of the work load that comes with them. It can get quite overwhelming at times and it’s easy for one to get drowned and lose his way in it.
Filmmaking in Hollywood seems like such a volatile business these days. More and more cases of actors, writers and directors being replaced even after production had begun have been reported, causing disruption in the timeline and the integrity of both person and film to be compromised. Do you encounter this from time to time, and how do you deal with it?
This actually happened in one of our own productions. We started with a set of actors, but by the time production had begun, one moved to Melbourne and another was faced with conflicting schedules. It’s understandable—within reason. At the end of the day, we need to forge ahead as we do in any journey that we set out on. We start with a certain plan and destination in mind, but life is really about the unexpected turns of events and how we decide to go about them, and allowing it to take us to interesting places.
Tell us more about your latest work in Indonesia, Pengabdi Setan (Satan’s Slave).
It’s a remake of one of the first biggest horror films from Indonesia that was screened internationally in the 1980s. The new one is directed by Joko Anwar and marks our second collaboration after Halfworlds. Upon agreeing to be a part of it, I made a point of watching the original version for a better understanding of the narrative. What I found out was that, as much as the original film is iconic today, the story was not properly told. The new script that I got is what I believe to be the best script I’ve ever received, regardless of genre. Nevertheless, for the new film, Joko has kept some of the iconic scenes from the original film and updated them. We didn’t try to be smart about it, but I think the audience deserves an update on those iconic scenes, shot and enhanced with today’s technology.
How do you think the modern audience will respond to the remake?
I actually feel that the pressure is starting to sink in now. This is like one of their most-anticipated films of the year, so… I need oxygen now. I didn’t quite feel the pressure on set, but now, I’m just like “you better not screw this up, Bront”.
We’ve also learned that you have other things going on outside of filmmaking, like your recent course in Stanford.
I run a news portal called The Daily Seni, dedicated to the Malaysian arts and culture, and our tagline is “gossip-free”… which is suicidal come to think of it (laughs). And yes, with the support of MaGIC (Malaysian Global Innovation and Creative Centre), I enrolled in Stanford University, California for a two-week entrepreneurship course and mentorship programme. From there, I was inspired with a better sense of self, the industry and the changing of times, and started relooking at my life and my role in the next generation from a wider perspective. We’re in the midst of restructuring the company and have started looking into ways of grooming the next generation of filmmakers and investing in younger talents.
What are the qualities you hope to develop in the next generation?
I believe what the industry needs are young and bold individuals with great confidence, who believe in themselves. But they should also be individuals who know their shortcomings and limits, and allow room for learning, because only then can there be a sharing and flow of knowledge and ideas from both sides. It’s not so much about micro-managing them but encouraging them to pursue their passion and vision, and guiding them along from beside. It’s like playing the big brother.
BOTTEGA VENETA FALL/WINTER 2017
Portraying cinema’s most memorable character, The Tramp created by Charlie Chaplin, actor/filmmaker Bront Palarae brings to life the comic’s eccentric debonair style of an aspiring boulevardier in sophisticated fashion, wearing the fall/winter 2017 collection by Bottega Veneta. The collection vividly showcases an emphasis on fine tailoring with a design for comfort, featuring jackets and coats with neat shoulder lines, fitted waist, trousers cut for ease, sometimes with pleats, often cropped, rugged boots and round-toe lace-ups. Click here for the full coverage of the collection.