KOTA KINABALU: A documentary on a native Murut, Saudin Labotao, is anticipated to become a tourism draw for Sabah.
Hailing from Keningau's Kampung Ambual, Saudin was hired by the world's first wildlife filmmakers - Martin and Osa Johnson - to manage Bornean wildlife that were captured and brought to New York, United States back in 1936.
The new project was made possible when Rye Production Sdn Bhd producer, Noreini Rahman, contacted Saudin's grandchildren to create a documentary about him.
Saudin's experience travelling to The Big Apple was previously touched by American author Agnes Keith in her book “Land Below The Wind”.
His photographs have also been featured in a coffee table book titled “Spirit of Borneo: Martin and Osa’s Johnson Journey 1920 & 1935”.
The production team on Monday (Nov 29) met with Sabah Tourism Board (STB) chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai to discuss the collaboration to promote the documentary, according to a statement from STB.
They also discussed the possibility of turning his house in Keningau into a museum gallery for heritage tourism.
Also present during the meeting were Saudin’s grandchildren, Norman James Saudin and Norsina James Saudin.
Joniston, who is also state Tourism, Culture, and Environment Assistant Minister, said it was important for Saudin’s story to be told because he played an important role in bridging the gap between different cultures.
“The Sabah Tourism Board is always looking for new tourism products, and that Saudin story has many potentials.
“We need to promote who Saudin is, and I believe the documentary will generate interest. Of course, we will play our part in promoting Sabah,” he added.
A team will also be sent to Saudin's abandoned house in Kg Ambual to assess the possibility of turning it into a tourist attraction, he said.
Noreini meanwhile shared that she spent four years researching Saudin and that their production team had pitched the story to the National Film Development Corporation (Finas) and the History Channel.
On the status of the documentary, she said it was nearly completed and would be submitted to Finas as well as the History Channel for final approval early next year.
"We have also engaged the Kansas History Museum, and they are excited to collaborate with us," she added.
Norman, his grandson, will play Saudin's character in the documentary.
The film is expected to shine a light on the friendship between Saudin and the animals he cared for, as well as the western people he met.