One thing Malaysian filmmaker Syafiq Yusof stands by whenever he’s crafting films is to keep things real, even if it means delving into potentially sensitive subjects.
This commitment is evident in Prime Video’s latest project, Budak Flat, where Syafiq served as an advisor.
Directed by Eugene Lim, Woo Ming Jin and Faizal Ishak, the flick centres around former snatch thief Aman (Zahiril Adzim) and drug kingpin Riz (Pablo Amirul), two criminal brothers grappling with a strained relationship stemming from their conflicting views on the drug trade unfolding in their flat.
When a murder triggers a gang war within their residence, Aman becomes the prime suspect and is given three days to find the real culprit and exonerate himself.
However, Riz and his goons are determined to sabotage Aman in an attempt to coerce him into working for them.
The cast also includes Nabila Huda, Aaron Aziz, Joyce Harn and Yung Raja.
Budak Flat delves into themes such as toxic relationships, bullying and drug abuse.
Speaking at a press conference after the film’s screening, Syafiq highlighted the importance of showcasing both flaws and positives rather than portraying an idealistic world.
To him, there’s nothing wrong with approaching sensitive topics as long as it sparks productive discussions about important social issues.
“Personally, cinema should be a reflection of reality and not just fairy tales. If we create films that show only the bright side of things, it wouldn’t be (realistic),” the 30-year-old said.
Syafiq added that having Budak Flat on a streaming platform made it easier for the production team to explore the heavy themes of the film and push boundaries creatively.
However, the filmmaker reiterated that the production crew understands limits and will never take advantage of the leniency that comes with over-the-top (OTT) media service to create content that disrespects or creates chaos.
“It’s true that OTT gives us more flexibility but we always practise self-censorship and know our limits. If a topic is controversial to the point it creates a huge ruckus, then it’s not something I’d want to work on.
“But if it’s something that allows society to reflect on important causes, there shouldn’t be an issue,” said Syafiq, who is the son of filmmaker Datuk Yusof Haslam.
Setting the record straight
Budak Flat was filmed in Kuala Lumpur’s San Peng Flats which was built in 1972. According to reports, the flat was once notorious for being a hub of social ills and drug activities.
According to a story, folks used to rhyme the name “San Peng” with “samseng” in the 1990s, though things have changed for the better now.
Having a deep familiarity with the residence since young, local rapper Balan Kash – who made his acting debut as Aman’s sidekick, Sotong – said he’s aware of the flat’s history and wants to dispel misconceptions about it being a centre for illicit activities.
“I know many successful people from there – policemen, firefighters and more.
“But when we were shooting the movie, there were many residents within the flat who looked out for us. Someone also made a cup of coffee for me once out of kindness.
“In essence, let’s not stereotype flats as locations where people do negative things,” said the 41-year-old artiste.
Budak Flat goes beyond portraying gang conflicts. It offers a glimpse into the stories of a community who shares more than just a roof over their heads in the densely populated flat – they share friendship, laughter and look out for one another.
Zahiril said he felt safe since the first day of filming in San Peng Flats as the residents there took great care of him.
Recounting a moment when they looked out for his safety, the 39-year-old said: “I was on my way back from set when I passed by this group of guys who kept staring in my direction.
“At first, I felt uneasy because I was on my own and didn’t know why they were looking at me. But I later found out that the reason they kept staring at me was because they wanted to make sure I made it back safely.”
Despite the generally positive experience filming at San Peng Flats, Zahiril noted one instance where a resident hurled a bottle at him.
Nevertheless, the actor is holding no grudges because, just like Kash, there’s more good than bad in said location.
“One person doesn’t represent the entire community. Most of the residents there are good people.”
Budak Flat is available on Prime Video.