Promoting Sarawak through animation

A sneak peak of some of the scenes from ‘The Pillar of Strength’.

KUCHING: Legendary Iban warriors Rentap and Datuk Temenggong Kanang Langkau have inspired a Johorian animator to produce an animated short film called ‘The Pillar of Strength’.

Ayie Ibrahim, 45, from Johor Bahru and his team are the ones behind the eight-minute-long short film.

Recently, Ayie talked to New Sarawak Tribune on his ideas, the production process and challenges he and his team faced when working on the film.

Intrigued by the warrior spirit of Rentap and Kanang, Ayie came up with the idea to produce the short film around late 2018.

“I respect and admire Rentap and Kanang, apart from Hang Tuah and his four brothers.

“The two Iban warriors’ contributions to their nation were very enlightening for me,” he said.

As such, he said he used the names of the two Iban warriors for the main characters in the short film as a tribute to them.

“This is the only way I can pay tribute to these legendary Iban warriors. I hope the community can accept it,” he said.

Work on the film project began three years ago with Ayie researching about Iban culture by gathering information such as written reference materials, pictures and videos on the internet.

Ayie (right) when he first met Kenny in Kuching.

“I was helped by two members of my creative team to start processing this story with various versions and chose the most suitable story to be made into a short film,” he said.

In the midst of working on the project, he said he still needed to understand more about the Iban culture by travelling to Sarawak to search for people who were willing to help him.

“I met Kenny Tomy by accident on Facebook in July last year. He is an Iban from Kampung Limau, Sri Aman and worked in the military. He was willing to help guide me on this project and I’m really thankful for that.

“With him, I started to know more about Iban culture and the history within their community. Kenny brought me around Kuching, Samarahan and other areas to collect information for this project.

“Sadly, we were not able to go to Lubok Antu, Sri Aman, Sarikei and Kapit because of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Despite this, he is hopes to visit Sarawak once the film is available for viewing, provided the situation allows him to do so.

What is ‘The Pillar of Strength’ about?

Ayie said that although the film is eight minutes long, production took about roughly 15 months.

“It revolves around the conflicted relationship between father and son, as well as an Iban child’s journey in discovering his origins,” he said.

He also declined to talk more about the story as he wants to keep it a secret to surprise the audience once the film is out.

“It will be ready by the end of next month. But the Covid-19 outbreak has had an impact on our team’s workflow as we had to temporarily close operations at my studio Creatvtoon Studio,” he said.

He added that with the temporary closure of his studio, all animation work had to be done from home.

“This somewhat interferes with the smooth running of this production and it worries me because I have to complete another 30 percent before July,” he said.

“Having said that, we hope that we can continue our momentum until the film is completed,” he said.

Creating awareness on Malaysian culture through animation

Through ‘The Pillar of Strength’, Ayie’s goal is to expose to global audiences about the way of life and culture in Malaysia, especially the Dayak community in Sarawak which he believes has a unique culture.

“I chose the Iban because they are the largest race in Sarawak and are rich in heritage and culture, inherited from time immemorial by the beliefs of their ancestors.

“It is this culture and lifestyle that attracted my attention, along with my intention to share it in this short-animated film,” he said.

He said countries like Japan created ‘anime’ which is now famous all over the world, and Korea created ‘K-pop’ which is accepted by western audiences.

“So, this is what I expect from this short film — something that can symbolise our culture,” he said.

When asked if there will be more animated short films about Sarawak, Ayie said he plans on making more.

“I love finding new challenges every time I produce an animation to present to the worldwide audience.

“Speaking of Sarawak, yes I am still not satisfied with just producing this short film. I hope that ‘The Pillar of Strength’ can be accepted by all levels of audiences in Malaysia and worldwide,” he said.

“For that, I will not hesitate to produce a high-quality feature film and then continue its continuity through the television (TV) series later. This is my hope,” he said.

A sneak peak of some of the scenes from ‘The Pillar of Strength’.
About Ayie

Ayie is a father of four who loves to draw with a passion in animation. He started animating at the age of 19 and already has 25 years of experience in the animation and creative industry.

He started working as a junior animator and was involved in Malaysia’s first animated TV series, Usop Sontorian in 1995. He was later involved in other animated films such as Silat Legenda and Puteh, TV series such as CJ the DJ and Mustang Mama, and several animated TV commercials.

He currently holds a few positions as a producer, animation director for his own projects and an animator. He is also a part time-lecturer in a few local universities and has started his own online training for young generations interested in the animation field.

This well-respected animator has also won an award as the Best 2D Animator and Best Animation Director at the ‘Anugerah Karyawan Animasi 2011’ for his animated series called Zero Hero.