PETALING JAYA: A casual conversation with his parents sparked an idea which became Dharius Zulkefli’s award-winning short film Kun Fayakun.
Meaning “be and it became” in Arabic, Kun Fayakun won the 26-year-old Malaysian filmmaker the Best Editing award at the 2016 United International Film Festival in New York on July 31.
“It’s inspired by the Quran and there are phrases from the holy book sprinkled throughout the film,” said Dharius during an early morning phone interview with The Star from his home in New York.
Although the 20-minute production was peppered with Quranic phrases, its theme, said Dharius, ultimately touched upon the universal subject of the choices that humans have.
“I was chatting with my parents and they spoke about spirituality, religion and the Quran.
“They were talking about how as human beings, we can make choices and that is the greatest gift we have from God.
“We talked about how important it is to be a good person, to choose the right path,” he said.
The conversation, which took place in Malaysia late last year, stayed in his mind even after his return to New York and Dharius immediately started writing a script inspired by it.
Being an Asian filmmaker in New York, Dharius was aware of the impact of casting only white actors for the film.
“I felt that by working with them, we could get a wider audience.
“It takes away the stigma and shows that you don’t have to be a Muslim to play a part in a film that has an Islamic-sounding title,” he said.
He added that as the cast featured actors who were either Christian or atheist, he made sure to check with them that they were comfortable uttering Quranic phrases in the dialogue.
Having been based in New York for more than two years, Dharius said it was not easy at first but he soon got out of his shell and adapted to the city’s fast-paced creative scene.
“New York city is rich in culture, I felt as if the city welcomed me with open arms,” he said.
The Kuala Lumpur native said that he hoped to one day produce a Malaysian film that would be screened globally.
“Malaysia has so many beautiful stories that we can tell on a global scale,” he said.
To budding Malaysian filmmakers, Dharius, who cited Charlie Chaplin, Martin Scorsese and James Wan as his inspirations, said that they should start making films and never stop believing in their dream.
“You have to believe this is what you want to do and you just do it. Pick up a camera and make a film,” he said.