This Malaysian Female Director Just Did What No Other Malaysian Have Done Before

Well done, Amanda Nell Eu!

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This Malaysian Female Director Just Did What No Other Malaysian Have Done Before
Image: Amanda Nell Eu
Amanda Nell Eu was a full on Science student when she was a kid. We’re talking straight A’s, Math, Chemistry, etc. You name it, she aced it. But funnily enough, that didn’t stop her from pursuing her artistic dream.
She moved to London when she was 11 years old and basically spent more than half her life there. Being constantly exposed to the Western art scene, she fell in love with the arts and found herself cooped up in the art studio at school painting and taking photos all the time.
Things took a wild turn and Amanda ended up returning to Malaysia as a filmmaker. In fact, her short film Lagi Senang Jaga Sekandang Lembu was shortlisted for the Orizzonti Short Films Competition at the coveted Venice International Film Festival recently - making her the first Malaysian female director to achieve this feat!
Amanda successfully brought the pontianak all the way to Venice!
Amanda has always loved film and cinema. But it wasn’t just about watching movies from Hollywood in theatres. In the UK, she was open to many art cinemas and a plethora of films that an average teenager probably wouldn’t choose to watch.
She was so inspired by the films she saw growing up that when she first picked up the camera and learned how they were made, she knew instantly that it was exactly what she wanted to do.
“I’m a completely different person behind the camera compared to what I am on normal days,” she shared with Rojak Daily.
One of the genres Amanda started out enjoying was horror, namely old horror from the 1920s all the way up to the early 90s. Although she was exposed to all sorts of world cinema, art houses and different genres when she studied at London Film School, she somehow came back full circle and revisited her first love for cinema in her latest short film.
The pontianak is one of Amanda's favourite "monsters" and she knew instantly that she wanted to make something out of her.
Lagi Senang Jaga Sekandang Lembu tells the story of friendship between two teenage girls. The lead character Rahmah befriends the girl next door and they quickly become best friends. As Rahmah gets to know more about her new friend, she eventually discovers that the girl is actually a pontianak. But this dark secret doesn’t stop them from continuing to be BFFs.

Lagi Senang Jaga Sekandang Lembu Trailer from Nell Eu on Vimeo.

“It’s kind of a sisterhood thing that teenage girls have,” Amanda explained, a theme that she is currently obsessed with.
Growing up in an all-girls boarding school, the 31-year-old has bucket loads of history and memories to explore when it comes to what a woman is. Her school experience has been scarred and imprinted in her for the rest of her life, which has ironically translated into her work.
Prior to this, Amanda had only made two other short films and worked as a freelance scriptwriter for several local directors. But one particular local short film workshop changed everything and paved the way for her as a filmmaker.
"It's the most unglamorous thing when we're on set. It's like we're the horror film," Amanda joked.
A friend had convinced her to apply for a weekend workshop by Astro Shaw. Without thinking much, she managed to get in and was tasked to develop a story. After one week of intense workshops mentored by practising filmmakers in the industry, she eventually developed a winning storyline surrounding the pontianak.
“I’ve always loved the pontianak and I wanted to do something about her or with her in it. So it started from there and through the other workshops, it developed into what it is now,” Amanda said.
One thing led to another and Lagi Senang Jaga Sekandang Lembu won Astro Shaw’s Shortcuts competition, and soon after, it found its way to the Venice International Film Festival! This was indeed an incredible and indescribable feeling for the filmmaker.
“It felt so surreal because this is such a high accolade. Venice is one of the best film festivals in the world and it was something you can only imagine. But I’m not really going there to compete, I feel like I’ve already won something by going there. So it’s just for me to enjoy and see what other filmmakers from all over the world are doing,” she said.
Joanna Hogg's 'Unrelated' and Abbas Kiarostami's 'Taste of Cherry' are among Amanda's all-time favourite films.
Most of the time, Amanda is never satisfied with the end product because in her own words, "who is ever satisfied?" The post production stage is what she finds most difficult when making films and something that she is still struggling with to this day.
“First, you’re emotionally involved in your script. Then, you’re emotionally involved in people on the set and what happens on the set. Then when it comes to editing, it’s so hard to let go and break away from it,” she expressed.
In the end, she just has to keep reminding herself about the essence of the story.
“You don’t just follow the script like it's a rulebook. You throw that away and remember why you wanted to tell the story in the first place. So I keep reminding myself when I edit, why do I want to tell this story and what is it really about,” she shared.
Amanda also teaches film part-time at Sunway University.
Now that she has made her mark in short films, it is time for Amanda to take the big, scary step and venture into full-length feature films.
She is currently working on her first feature film and has already started writing the story. At the moment, all she can share about it is that it will be a body horror about teenage puberty, simply because she just can’t run away from coming-of-age stories.

"It's kind of like Metamorphosis meets Iron Man," she teased.

She also wishes to explore the identity of female in Southeast Asia, whether a woman, teenager or child. That alone is already such a broad subject here, so you might see that in different situations in her future films. 
By now, you can probably tell that Amanda is not your average blockbuster filmmaker. And in the next five to ten years, she really hopes to see the local industry being more careful and selective in making movies.
“I’d also like the industry to take more risks in new filmmakers because we’re risky. If you see potential in a new filmmaker, throw them a little bit of support,” she said, with hopes to see people investing more in things outside horror or action films.
“Even how Hollywood began was all about risk-taking. You wouldn’t have your Spielberg and Star Wars if people then didn’t take risks.”

She's right! And we can't wait to see Amanda and more local filmmakers take more risks and make waves in the world map.

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