In 2015, traditional medicine practitioner Zabir Suliman and his wife Liza Marwati Mohd Yusoff decided to venture into the local film industry. They formed production company Wayang Padu and made their first film, Kerja Kahwin.
They invested at least RM400,000 of their own savings to fund the film directed by Anwardi Jamil, with Datuk Rosnani Jamil, Shaharuddin Thamby and Janna Nick cast as leads.
Kerja Kahwin depicts how a family matriarch played by Rosnani gets her family and community together for the wedding of granddaughter Farah (Janna).
Along the way, they encounter a little bit of wedding drama such as an overenthusiastic mak andam (a person in charge of making the bride beautiful) who insisted that the bride put on blue eyeshadow, and a forgetful man tasked with getting the Tok Kadi (marriage officiant).
During an interview in Shah Alam, Selangor, Liza – a soft-spoken former Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia lecturer – shared that the idea for Kerja Kahwin came out of the frustration of seeing too many typical local movie offerings.
“My husband and I don’t come from a film background. We just love the arts. Personally, we feel that most local movies tend to focus on gangsterism and unrealistic love stories. We felt like we have to do something about it,” she said.
Liza, 44, was also spurred by her husband’s belief that action speaks louder than words, and just like that, the plan to get Kerja Kahwin made was set into motion.
They were particularly passionate in making a movie about traditional Malay culture.
“We need a movie that represents our culture in a better way. We want others to see us from a different point of view,” she added. In particular, 61-year-old Zabir hopes to highlight some forgotten aspects of traditional Malay wedding culture through Kerja Kahwin.
“Malay wedding events are becoming a simpler affair as time goes by. I thought why not showcase elements like inai, dance, silat and pantun (poetry). We also decided to show the traditions of joget lambak (crowd dancing together) as it was something I remembered from my childhood,” he explained.
Kerja Kahwin was filmed in Janda Baik at Bentong, Pahang, and production was completed in a week.
Prior to its release, Liza and Zabir submitted Kerja Kahwin under the international title A Very Malay Wedding for screening at film festivals in France and Italy.
Liza said the response was positive. “At the One Country One Film Festival in France, some viewers asked if we could bring the film and present it as a theatre performance.”
As to reasons why it took two years for the film to finally be screened here, Liza and Zabir were not very forthcoming. There were rumours that the pair lost their marketing funds to an unscrupulous party.
“Kami orang bodoh (we’re foolish people),” was the reply Zabir gave.
“The problem is really due to our lack of experience. We were led into many different directions. We thought we had an understanding then it turned out to not be what we expected,” said Liza.
Liza admitted the uncertainty of Kerja Kahwin’s release date was stressful and that the process of getting the film to cinemas was hard. She eventually came to terms that hardship was part of their journey.
“Well, there is that monetary concern but we have to be courageous and take risks. Our main goal is show the audience the message in our movie,” she explained.
Through it all, she credited her husband for staying optimistic throughout the whole process.
“He is very zen. He believes every problem can be solved. I guess that’s what makes us work well together. We understand each other. We don’t need words sometimes to convey how we feel,” Liza said.