A distinctive voice in Malaysia’s thriving indie scene, Dain Said has developed his fascination for hybrid cultures into a highly original film — one that is difficult to situate within the usual genre boundaries.
Bunohan means “murder” in Malay, but it’s also the name of a village in the badlands of Kelantan, a state along the Thai border where Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and animism intermix along with Malay, Thai and Chinese cultures. Into this landscape of mangrove swamps, Said spins a tale of avarice, murder and deceit, involving three estranged brothers and their ailing father.
Adil (Zahril Adzim), a young Muay Thai kick-boxer, has just fled an honour fight-to-the-death. Ilham (Faizal Hussein), an assassin who is also Adil’s stepbrother, is promptly hired by the organizer of the death match to kill the fugitive. Looking for somewhere to hide and recover, Adil and a childhood friend take shelter in the Bunohan boxing club where Adil started his career. Ilham, meanwhile, has never been back to Bunohan since the day he left many years ago. Upon returning, memories of loneliness and abandonment flood his mind, and he experiences waves of resentment and regret. Bakar (Pekin Ibrahim), the third brother, has also come home from the city; ostensibly a respectful schoolteacher, he is in reality a greedy and ruthless person, and is trying to convince his father to sell a burial ground to a construction company.
At once realistic and stylish, Bunohan is a groundbreaking and powerful film with an archaic, mythological soul. Said’s assured direction guides the vibrant performances of his almost entirely male cast — we only catch glimpses of one woman, Ilham’s deceased mother who has morphed into a crocodile spirit. Balancing action with insight and the fascinating account of a culture at a crossroads, Dain offers a complex story of dark passions poised between modernity and tradition. —Toronto International Film Festival
Dain Said is a Malaysian filmmaker and a film studies graduate from Westminister University in London. His final year project, SURABAYA JOHNNY, explored Indonesian history during the 1965 period and was screened at the London Film Festival in 1989. On his return to Malaysia in the early 90s, Said established himself in the television industry, directing commercials locally as well as in Indonesia, China and India. In 2004, he moved away from commercials and into long form and experimental works. His media installations have been screened at the Biennale of Sydney and the University of British Colombia Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver. A commissioned work is on permanent display at the Burj al-Arab, in Dubai. In 2007, he was a recipient of the Nippon Foundation’s Asian Public Intellectual fellowship, during which time he researched the role of films and propaganda in Indonesian history. His first feature film, DUKUN (2007) was deemed too controversial and remains virtually banned… read more
I saw this film and a Q&A with director Dain Said last night at the LA Film Festival. It was dark, Shakespearean (the plotline concerning the 3 brothers) and a commentary on our disconnect with nature and our disrespect for the Earth and tradition. It takes place on the border between Thailand and Malaysia where you can have someone killed for a few hundred dollars. See the film when you can. It was shot beautifully.
A daunting and dark tale of blood, family, and mother earth itself that grips you directly to the remote village of Bunohan. Ignoring the easy path of directly copying hollywood based action-drama… read review