From Brazil, one of the largest countries in the world and a major film producing nation, to one of the smallest, Brunei. Needless to say, this country (also sometimes called Brunei Darussalam) doesn’t have a huge range of film production to choose from, but the teen sports drama I’ve gone for does seem to have enjoyed a little success and was available on streaming services.
Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace (Negara Brunei Darussalam)
population 460,000 | capital Bandar Seri Begawan (64k) | largest cities Bandar Seri Begawan, Kuala Belait (31k), Seria (30k), Tutong (19k), Kapok (4k) | area 5,765 km2 | religion Islam (79%), Christianity (9%), Buddhist (8%) | official language Malay (Behasa Melayu), although English is also recognised | major ethnicity Malay (66%), Chinese (10%) | currency Brunei dollar (B$) [BND] | internet .bn
A small country on the northern side of the island of Borneo, surrounded by the Malaysian state of Sarawak and a coastline on the South China Sea; the island is also shared with Indonesia (who call it Kalimantan). Traditionally it is said to be named for its founder Sultan Shah’s 14th century cry of Baru nah (“that’s it!”) upon landing, though may also derive from the Sanskrit varun (for “seafarers”), and Borneo shares the same roots. The earliest settlement on the island may date back to Buddhist Srivijaya empire around the 7th century CE, while Chinese records show an independent kingdom of Boni on the island in the 10th century. Boni converted to Islam in the 15th century and transformed into the Sultanate of Brunei, and at its peak in the next few centuries ruled over Borneo as well as parts of what is now the south-west Philippines up to even Manila. With the rise of Spain in the region and the incursion of the Ottomans, along with internal squabbles, Brunei entered a period of decline. Much of their territory was ceded to these others powers, as well as to Britain in the 19th century, and the modern boundaries were more or less set by 1890 following a treaty with Britain making it a protectorate, aside from a brief period during World War II when Japan occupied the island. Oil was first discovered in 1929 and has been the basis of much of the state’s wealth since. It gained independence from Britain in 1984, and is ruled by an absolute monarchy under the Sultan of Brunei.
Much of the country’s culture is influenced strongly by neighbouring Malay cultures (as two-thirds of the population are of Malay ethnicity) and by Islam. Given this background, there hasn’t been a huge amount of film production in the country and what does exist largely draws its talent from Malaysia.
On the one hand this is quite a likeable teen sports drama film about the young woman of the title (Liyana Yus) who is trying to break free from her strict father (Reza Rahadian) and who falls out with his schoolmates at the start about where they’re going to college. For reasons (jealousy mainly, I think, but also from being shunned by her new college for being really full of herself) Yasmine takes up the martial art of silat with (as is the usual trope) two other unlikely club members at her small (and apparently, more orthodox religious) school. Once formed into a team, they enlist the help of trainers to help them beat the reigning local champions who, obviously, happen to have Yasmine’s former best friend Dewi (Mentari De Marelle) as their best fighter. There’s also a sub-plot involving Yasmine’s dad and the wheelchair-bound ex-champion who coaches Yasmine’s team.
A lot of these plot points do seem pretty familiar, then, from sports movies over the years, but it’s worth pointing out that on the other hand — and yes, I do appreciate that the usual usage of this structural gambit does imply some kind of juxtaposition, which is not what I’m offering — it appears to be the first film directed by a Bruneian woman, and also how many films do you generally see either from Brunei, or about the sport of silat? Probably about as many as I do, or have done until I saw this. So while it may not break any narrative barriers, it is still likeable and interesting.
Director Siti Kamaluddin; Writer Salman Aristo; Cinematographer James Teh; Starring Liyana Yus, Reza Rahadian, Mentari De Marelle; Length 105 minutes.
Seen at Airbnb flat (Tubi streaming), Lower Hutt, Tuesday 17 September 2020.