Petaling Jaya, Malaysia - Writer-director Liew Seng Tat is having the last laugh when his comedy Lelaki Harapan Dunia was awarded the Special Jury Prize at the Fajr International Film Festival in Teheran, Iran.
"I feel very honoured to get this recognition in Iran. It means a lot to me personally as I am a big Iranian cinema fan," said the 35-year-old yesterday.
The Fajr International Film Festival, which began in 1982, is the oldest film festival in Iran and Middle Eastern countries.
This year's festival, which was held from April 25 to May 2, saw the participation of about 200 filmmakers from 80 countries.
"I hope the movie gave the Iranians and other international movie fans a glimpse of what Malaysian cinema is all about," Liew said.
The filmmaker said he wanted to share with the world about a Malaysian narrative and other stories but with a universal theme.
Lelaki Harapan Dunia, he said, was inspired by an ancient Malay tradition of angkat rumah - the act of literally carrying a house from one place to another.
Villagers come together to move a house without having to demolish it.
"Through the film, the audience will learn that we have a special tradition. It has been getting very good responses every where," he added.
The comedy, which was released in Malaysian cinemas last November, took four years to complete.
It is funded by organisations from seven countries and is a co-production between Malaysia, the Netherlands, Germany and France.
After its world premiere at the Locarno International Film Festival in August last year, it was screened at numerous international film festivals around the world - Toronto, Busan, Rotterdam, Gothenburg and Hong Kong.
Asked about initial calls for a boycott of the movie following allegations that it had offended religious sensitivities, Liew said:
"There will always be praises and criticisms.
"As a filmmaker, I embrace both. It is a way for me to keep improving my craft.
"I am already working on my next script. It is a love story."