MBCS & Petronas delve into cultural dreams & dances in celebration of Kaamatan & Gawai Dayak

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Mediabrands Content Studio (MBCS), the media-fuelled creative content practice within the IPG Mediabrands network, has concurrently released two films in commemoration of Kaamatan and Gawai Dayak, significant festive celebrations in East Malaysia.

Kaamatan, a form of the harvest festival, is celebrated annually in the state of Sabah, and lasts the whole month of May. Gawai Dayak is an annual festival celebrated by the Dayak people in Sarawak on 1st June as a thanksgiving to mark a bountiful harvest.

The films are part of the PETRONAS festive film showcase anchoring on its festive theme of the year, ‘Roots of Our Future’ which highlights and embeds the richness of heritage, customs and culture.

Ahmad Nazril Ibrahim, Executive Creative Director at MBCS said, “Conceptualising these festive films from East Malaysia has been a truly special experience for us.

For the team, its an opportunity to learn and connect with cultures from across our country, each with its unique view on the world, nature, and communities around them.

Added to that, filming in remote parts of the country meant we had to contend without the trappings of the modern world at times, which truly allowed us to vibe with the cultural elements we were looking to embody in the films.”

For Kaamatan, ‘Mimpi Padi’, loosely translated to mean ‘rice field dreams’, shows a young woman who returns to her village home with her grandmother and elders.

While she initially resists, a water buffalo appears in her dreams, showing the significance of the ways of the past, and a realisation that her skills and expertise in agroecology may help the rice harvest.

Ahmad adds, “‘Mimpi Padi’ was a way for us to delve deeper with our cultural experts to understand that we have rare rice grains in the region that will soon become extinct. The message here is one of an interconnectedness of nature, and to embrace the technology and opportunities present to preserve our heritage.”

The Gawai film ‘Budak Terabai’ – terabai meaning ‘neglected’ in Bahasa Melayu, also refers to the shield used by Iban warriors in Sarawak. It depicts a young boy and his attempts to learn ‘ngajat’, an indigenous Iban dance, and his warrior spirit shining through in the ‘ngajat’ dance competition at the long house.

Ahmad said, “The ‘ngajat’ dance was initially performed by warriors as a celebratory ritual on their return from battles, and as a show of strength and spirit.

It is now an integral part of the Iban tribe’s cultural identity in Sarawak and is performed on various occasions, notably at the harvest festival to welcome guests and express gratitude for a plentiful harvest. The film shows the intersection of the modern world with the old ways. Yet, though times move on, our culture always remains with us.”

The films were done in collaboration with Reservoir World as the production house, with Quek Shio Chuan directing ‘Budak Terabai’, and Ismail Kamarul directing ‘Mimpi Padi’.

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