Nadira Ilana, an independent filmmaker from Sabah who garnered the Best Human Rights Documentary at Freedom Film Festival 2012 through her political-historical documentary The Silent Riot, had collaborated with the Dusun community in Bongkud and Namaus villages in Ranau, Sabah for her latest documentary, Big Stories: Bongkud-Namaus.
The documentary is a part of Big Stories, Small Towns, an evolving multiplatform community storytelling project from Australia. The project is a unique model of community engagement and participation, as it collaborates with local filmmakers across the Asia-Pacific to tell heartwarming stories with local people living in small towns, and Nadira is the first local filmmaker to bring the project to Malaysia.
Nadira asserted that she loves the idea of Big Stories, because it “films about the community with the community.” She also chose to work backwards as she wanted to focus the story from their cultural perspectives. The filmmaker shared that she took her filming team and stayed together with the community for almost a year to produce a series of documentary shorts about the community. Out of ten films in the documentary series, four are directed by the Dusun people. She emphasized, “They chose the stories, and we help them to develop it. I was just there as a guide, to help them tell it as truthful as possible."
The project which was meant to be completed within three months, extended into a year after the Sabah earthquake incident, as the crew had to take four months off to allow the shock to settle down. But the earthquake was not the only challenge Nadira had to face. "These people already have a misconception of what a documentary is; that it is factual, formal question-and-answer interviews. A lot of the process involved getting them to unlearn what documentaries are and that we just wanted them to be themselves. Once we got past that ideology, filming became a lot of fun."
Nadira is currently in the middle of developing her first feature film; Wilderness, a coming-of-age story set in Kota Kinabalu. The story is a modern interpretation of a Dusun myth and is scheduled to start filming next year.
Big Stories: Bongkud-Namaus