This world’s first zombie movie is bagging Best Horror awards with its indigenous actors and setting
Malaysian zombie film Belaban Hidup: Infeksi Zombie (Fight for Life: Zombie Infection) is the first to feature former headhunting tribe the Iban
Malaysian, Iban and international actors join native Ibans who have never acted in a film before
KUALA LUMPUR -- Dayaks -- an umbrella term for the many indigenous groups in the Malaysian state of Sarawak and the neighboring Indonesian province of Kalimantan -- have been largely excluded from mainstream representations of their nations. Thanks to a recent wave of popular music and film, though, the former headhunters from the island of Borneo are bringing their waning culture and languages to the outside world.
A low-budget independent horror film, "Belaban Hidup: Infeksi Zombi" ("Fight for Your Life: Zombie Infection," 2021) by director Ray Lee, has bagged multiple awards at international film festivals with its unusual plot featuring Iban warriors -- also known as Sea Dayaks -- fighting flesh-eating zombies.
Mostly shot in the Borneo jungle using traditional Iban costumes, and with an international cast featuring Slovakian actress Katrina Grey and Indonesian singer Tegar Septian, "Belaban Hidup" is the world's first zombie-invasion film with a Dayak setting. It is also the first feature film produced by a Dayak: Lee's wife, Misha Minut, who comes from the Sarawak town of Limbang.
Originally produced in 2016 as a short film, "Belaban Hidup" was released as a full-length feature film earlier this year after a long battle to secure funding. Lee says that shooting the film was also a challenge. "We had to travel 20 km deep into the jungle, transferring all the equipment into a four-wheel drive, and driving into the forest at the mercy of unpredictable weather and wild animals."
But the hard-earned authenticity of its indigenous setting is also what helped this racy B-movie stand out in the crowded zombie-invasion genre. Action scenes in an empty mall, paired with the use of a police task force and gritty, old-school photography, make "Belaban Hidup" look like a Southeast Asian version of the American zombie cult film "Dawn of the Dead" (1978) by George A. Romero.
Top: A poster for Malaysian independent horror film "Belaban Hidup: Infeksi Zombi" ("Fight for Your Life: Zombie Infection," 2021). Bottom: Director Ray Lee shows fresh footage to the Iban zombie crew on the set. (Courtesy of Hornbill Films)
In "Belaban Hidup," a mysterious organization moves from Madagascar to Borneo to set up a bogus clinic and offer free medical treatment to the natives in order to continue experimenting on humans. But when a group of young captives manages to escape, so do the zombies, unleashing the infection upon the nearby rainforest. Taken by surprise, the resident Iban fight back, complete with ethnic garb, feathered warrior headdresses and indigenous swords and blowpipes -- a striking visual tribute to the producer's Iban ancestry.
Paired with the film's well-choreographed jungle photography, its unusual tribal characters and setting make "Belaban Hidup" unforgettable. After winning the Horror and Science Fiction category at the 2021 Singapore World Film Carnival on March 18, and Best Film and Best Horror at the St. Petersburg's International Symbolic Art Film Festival on March 27, Lee's debut film went viral on Malaysian social media, receiving praise from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin even before screening at local cinemas.
"Belaban Hidup" went on to win Best Horror Film at the Sweden Film Awards, and Best Feature Film at the Canadian Diversity Film Festival in April, and will premiere in Los Angeles in May at the next edition of the Asian World Film Festival.
Top: A still from "Belaban Hidup." Bottom: Lee instructs the Iban warrior crew on the set. (Courtesy of Hornbill Films)
Only two other Malaysian films have used Iban settings since Malaysian independence from the U.K. in 1957 and the subsequent absorption of the former British colony of Sarawak in 1963. "Chinta Gadis Rimba" ("Love of a Forest Maiden," 1958) produced in Singapore by L. Krishnan, told a story of forbidden love between an Iban girl and her Malay lover, while "Bejalai" ("To go on a journey," 1989) by Stephen Teo, described the ritual journey that Iban boys take to transition into adulthood and was the first Malaysian movie in the Iban language.
The best-known international film with an Iban setting is the British-American historical drama "The Sleeping Dictionary" (2003) set in the 1930s and starring Jessica Alba as the Anglo-Iban girl Selima and Hugh Dancy as her English lover. However, none of these films were produced or directed by Dayaks. "We deserve our own film industry," says Minut, who hopes that her debut will inspire other Dayak filmmakers.
The making of my second feature film 'Belaban Hidup-Infeksi Zombie' shooting in Perak and Sarawak, a story about the Dayak Warrior battle with zombies in this epic movie! Preparation of this movie has been done since 2016 as short film and we begin our full movie script since then.Day and night we are doing pre-pro such as costume design, character design, casting, recce location , research of the Dayak tribe and finally we begin our shooting on April 2019. With about 200 film crews and talents we manage to went into the deep jungle of the rain forest and stay in the indigenous people house.So many challenges such as heavy rain , thunderstorm , landslide, technical problems, flood, authority issue and so on.Luckily we manage to finish on time.We are in the middle of editing, coloring and sound post for this movie.Remember to support this movie in all your near by cinema thru out Malaysia! BELABAN HIDUP-INFEKSI ZOMBIE!
Director Ray Lee thinking of the most creative angle to shoot this movie.
Main actor Pablo Amirul memorise the script
Cameraman struggle to bring the equiptment into the jungle
Director handlke the camera
Film crew walk into the jungle
Main actor Pablo Amirul in action
Film crew in action
Director Ray Lee talking to some indigenous kids
Talented actor Pablo Amirul and actress Mellisa Anna in action
My mission to bring my 2 teenage daughters holiday to Krabi on 12th June 2018 give me a sweet and lovely memory in this adventure trip.We took the plane , bus, boat ,tuk-tuk and a motorbike even an elephant to see Krabi.We all very excited to see Krabi as we heard many good story about this island.The people,foods, scenery,history and thr culture of the Kingdom of Thailand had brought us here.Our mission is to search for paradise island and enjoy the crystal clear water and the most finest white sandy beach in Krabi. First we landed in cozy Krabi town and enjoy awesome sticky rice ,phadthai (fried Thai noodles) and some omelette fried rice at Heng cafe run by this friendly Thai couple.The owner is super friendly, Mr Heng managed to fetch me to convenience store to buy some daily goods and tour Krabi town for 10 minutes for free of charge.We have a nice conversation about our life experience in travelling to foreign country.Mr Heng manage to give me a Thai amulet (Nang Kwak) as good luck gift and a gesture of friendship.We leaving Krabi town around 930am and reach Railay Bay at 1015 am ( 20km from Krabi town), we walk to the resort Railay Garden Resort and is quite far from the jetty but we really enjoy the walk and the view .Railay Garden Resort is a magnificent resort, if you like nature this resort will give you a breathtaking view,on top of the hill oversee the whole Railay Bay.Please stand by insect repellent coz this resort have no air-cond. Railay is a bay not an island with beautiful attraction and amazing views such as limestone cave, crystal clear water ,Phra Nang cave and many more.Railay is one of the most famous and most popular beaches in the region, second only to Ao Nang.We manage to walk thru many magnificent beautiful scenery in Railay.
Enjoying breakfast at Heng Cafe Krabi Town at 845 am.
With Shuen at Railay Garden Resort
Shen Shuen feel boring at Railay Garden Resort
Chilling with Chang beer at the balcony in Railay Garden Resort
Phra Nang Cave
Kong Lao La Ding
Sunset in Railay
We are spending 1 night in Railay and the first night we all are very tired and sleep early.Never get a chance to see the night life in Railay and seems like July is a low season for Railay.In Railay we just enjoying the natural beauty in this limestone bay.The next day we travel to Ao Nang and stay for another 4 night there.Will definitely return to Railay for second time and I believe more activities we can ventures in this place such as rock climbing , kayaking , diving , horse riding and many more. Will write the story of Ao Nang in my next blog,thanks for reading -Ray Lee
Shuen and Shen Yi having fun at Railay Bay beach
Walking a thousand miles to Railay Garden View Resort
Thank You to all Malaysia media especially to The Star Publication, The Malay Mail , RTM , Bernama TV, Astro for the write up and publicity you guys has been given to me for this past few years! Love the Malaysia Media being so passionate and dedicated ~Ray Lee
I believe rules can kills creativity. And creativity will bring us happiness. Film Direction and implementation is not an easy task. I been producing film since 2012 and I just started directing film 2 years ago.Is always my dream to produce a feature film and screen it in cinema.Working out my next project , will keep you guys update.For joint venture and casting please email me -firstname.lastname@example.org