Sammy Ngelambai only plays a small role in the Belaban Hidup: Infeksi Zombie feature film, however, the 63-year-old is feeling over the moon over the success of the independent film that had garnered the Best Film award as well as the Best Horror Film award at the International Symbolic Art Film Festival (ISAFF) in St Petersburg, Russia last month.
Sammy said he was proud because the film showcases the art and culture of the Dayak community, specifically the Iban people and the highly revered warrior costume, to the international community.
"I feel very proud because this Iban warrior's garb which is slowly fading into obscurity, to some extent contributed to the international award win," he said.
The warrior costume, known as gagung consists of a vest made of animal skin decorated with silver chains, boar tusks, monkey skulls, long swords, and a headdress decorated with "tangkung kenyalang" or a hornbill head (real or made of fibreglass) and feathers, among others.
The founder of the Gagung Sarawak Club, who is also the maker of the warrior costume, said the attire could be found everywhere in Sarawak however, the wearer must ensure it is worn correctly, adding there might be a slight difference over how it is worn among the Iban people in specific areas.
Sammy's involvement in the film along with nine other members of the Sarawak Gagung Club began when producer Misha Minut commissioned him to make the costume for the film.
He also became the reference on how the warrior costume should be worn and portrayed in the feature film.
Sammy said the film's director Ray Lee and Minut were open to views and suggestions for scenes involving the club members.
Meanwhile, Binar Berayun, 61, one of the nine club members said starring in the film alongside local and international actors was a valuable experience for him, adding that he hoped more Dayak talents in Sarawak could be featured on the silver screen for them to be introduced to the world.
"It is hoped that the government can provide allocations for the making of films that feature the culture and customs of the Dayak community, especially the Iban people because it can be sold internationally," he said when contacted.
Belaban Hidup: Infeksi Zombie produced by Hornbill Films and Harry Aziz Entertainment created history when it also won the Horror and Science Fiction categories for feature film at the World Film Carnival Singapore 2021 on March 18.
The film chartered another success when it was nominated for the Best Feature Film category at the Los Angeles Marina Del Rey Film Festival (LAMDRFF).
Belaban Hidup: Infeksi Zombie tells the story of a group of orphans who become the test subjects of a mad scientist.
Funded by the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas), the film stars local actors such as Pekin Ibrahim, Altimet, Pablo Amirul, Anna Melissa, Cassidy Panggau, and Indonesian singer, Tegar as well as Slovakian actress, Katrina Grey.
Distributed by Metrowealth Pictures, Belaban Hidup: Infeksi Zombie is expected to be screened in local cinemas in August. – Bernama