If there’s magic in Malaysia, it undoubtedly stems from our natural surroundings, rich folklore, and the allure of village life. The upcoming film ‘magiK‘ endeavors to encapsulate these elements for the silver screen.
Directed by Japan’s Yasu Tanaka, magiK tells the story of a deaf girl with a unique ability to communicate with fireflies.
The movie unfolds in Kampung Kuantan, Kuala Selangor, a renowned tourist spot in Malaysia famed for its captivating firefly “light shows.”
This locale is home to the Pteroptyx tener fireflies, renowned globally for their synchronized flashing—a rare phenomenon. However, this unique habitat faces a threat from encroaching palm plantations and agricultural activities.
The film was shot on location, inspiring Yasu to showcase the simple lifestyle of village inhabitants.
“I tried to highlight the lives of villagers in a small kampong (village) by the river. And maybe it was not an accident that Kuantan, Pahang became the first place to screen our film in Malaysia,” he remarked, referencing the diverse screening locations of Magik throughout September and October.
Director and screenwriter Yasu, accompanied by his wife and producer, Bea, embarked on a journey to seven locations for pre-screenings, with a special focus on the deaf community. These screenings were equipped with closed captions, providing detailed sound descriptions for the hearing-impaired audience.
The deaf community served as a central inspiration for Yasu in creating magiK, partly influenced by Bea’s 15-year tenure as a teacher among deaf individuals.
People discuss the significance of the capital ‘K’ in magiK. It signifies multiple aspects: the protagonist’s name, ‘K’it, ‘K’elip (representing the Malay word for fireflies, ‘kelip-kelip’), and ‘K’omunikasi (communication). And, of course, ‘K’uantan (referring to Kampung Kuantan, the movie setting.)
Yasu emphasized that magiK invites audiences to perceive and experience the deaf community positively.
In the film, Kit, a seven-year-old deaf girl portrayed by Qisya Hairulzain, discovers her ability to communicate with the flashing insects in her village. Her hearing-abled parents are Harris and Fiza, played by Beto Kusyairy and Nadia Aqilah respectively.
Kit’s father works as a boatman who takes tourists on firefly tours but struggles to keep his family financially afloat on the meagre earnings.
Fiza, Kit’s mother, yearns for her child to learn sign language and attend school. However, Kit’s shy personality leads her to immerse herself in nature, creating her own imaginative world. As the storyline in magiK unfolds, Kit eventually discovers her unique connection with the fireflies.Deafness is not a disability, but the deaf are differently abled, says producer of 'magiK', Bea Tanaka. Click To Tweet
“One of the most gratifying outcomes from our journey was sharing our film, magiK, with the deaf community. As traditional cinemas lack closed captions, many from the deaf community tend to avoid theaters. However, this time, we were pleasantly surprised to witness their undivided attention throughout the screenings. Particularly the children, quietly signing to each other, engrossed in the movie. Deaf children could easily relate to Kit, and parents found a connection with Harris and Fiza, portrayed by Beto and Nadia Aqilah,” recounted Bea.
The film features a notable cast, including actors Nam Ron, Ruminah Sidek, Roy Azman, Kamarul Eqifshah, Chacko Vadaketh, and Tengku Carmeela, who portrays an adult version of Kit.
“Carmeela is also deaf in real life and this marked her first time acting in front of a big movie camera,” said Bea.
magiK marks Yasu’s second film after “NOTA,” released in 2015. NOTA was presented in the “wayang pacak” (Outdoor cinema) style in 2017 under the organisation of Komuniti Filem Titiwangsa (KOMFIT) and moderated by the acclaimed Malaysian animator and film director, Hassan Muthalib.
“That experience inspired us to pursue a similar approach for magiK this time. We aimed for direct interaction with the local audience,” shared Yasu.
Starting November 30, 2023, magiK will hit cinemas nationwide in Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore.
All images sourced from 42ndpictures.