Bruneian awarded weirdest film at Cannes

Abd Khabir being interviewed on his films by ECU, a European independent festival.

BRUNEI - Bruneian filmmaker Abd Khabir Zainidi has won the "Weirdest film" award for Lobak at the Cannes Film Festival, the second time his short movie was featured at the invitation-only festival.

The 36-year-old owner of local production house BruRealism Pictures attended the festival, which ended on May 25, to show off two films, Lobak and the recently completed Ostrich.

Lobak was awarded the weirdest movie for a competition within Cannes organised by film colleagues.

"I'm pleased and relieved because I was encountering difficulty towards the end of the Ostrich shoot (in April).

"The reception has been satisfactory mainly because I marketed the film as 100 per cent Bruneian. For that I am proud and the emphasis has always been on low budget," he said, emphasising that the actors, director, pre- and post-production was made entirely by Bruneians.

According to Abd Khabir, foreign directors at the festival gave generally positive reviews about the films, with Canadian director Peter Vronsky (noted for his work on serial killers) saying that "it takes (Bruneian directors) courage to go out there and portray to a larger audience a small country".

Vronsky was referring also to another Bruneian at Cannes, Siti Kamaluddin, who was premiering Brunei's first international feature silat film, Yasmine.

"My fellow director also commended me for my style and choice of genre and did not expect Brunei to be able to produce deep storytelling and acting," Abd Khabir said.

Indonesian journalist Ging Ginanjar had exclaimed that he was surprised to learn Brunei had a presence in Cannes and was even more surprised that Abd Khabir had debuted in Cannes two years ago as Brunei's first director featuring in the famed festival.

In his article for Tempo, he said "two films at the Cannes Film Festival 2014 for a country without a film tradition like Brunei, is clearly more than good".

Lobak stars Anwar Rosly and Bruneian singer Dayat. It tells the story of an orphan who embarks on a journey in an orphanage and the strange world of Bruneian jungles.

The three-week shooting happened simultaneously in Paris and Brunei.

The experimental film has been called disturbing and scary by early reviewers.