Last week, social media was abuzz with the news of one Cassandra Hsiao, a Malaysian-born 18-year-old who was accepted to all eight Ivy League schools
in the United States.
While her achievement was remarkable, she isn't the only Malaysian who is making waves abroad, as we highlight four other Malaysians who have been quietly making the country proud.
You may have heard their names if you’re keeping yourself abreast of all news in the scenes of music, filmmaking, and publishing.
If you haven’t, well, read this article and feel some Malaysian pride when you hear about their achievements.
1. MICHAEL WONG (FILMMAKER)
After moving to China in 1999 during the financial crisis, Michael Wong worked as a creative director at leading ad agencies such as Ogilvy & Mather and Saatchi & Saatchi.
Then, he decided to take the leap into filmmaking.
“My career as a creative director in the advertising industry allows me to have a lot of opportunities to play with creativity but within certain boundaries. [Being a filmmaker] gives me the true liberty to express creative thinking and visual expression,” he told Rojak Daily
You might have heard some buzz about his directorial debut, The Story of 90 Coins
Since its release in 2015, it’s received over fifty international awards including Best Drama & Best Cinematography
at Los Angeles Film Awards 2016, Best Foreign Short Film
at the Ukrainian International Short Film Festival 2016, and the Rising Star Award
at the Canada International Film Festival 2016.
The short film follows a young couple, Wang Yuyang (Chinese actor Han Dongjun) and Chen Wen (Chinese actress Zhuang Ziqi) in the throes of love. One night, Wang proposes to Chen but she hesitates. So he asks for 90 days. For 90 days, he’ll present her with a coin. If she accepts his proposal, they’ll use the 9 yuan to pay for the marriage licence. And if she refuses, they’ll buy some drinks and bid one another goodbye.
You can check out the full short movie below:
The Story of 90 Coins from Michael Wong on Vimeo.
2. SARA GRADWOHL (FILMMAKER)
Another example that proves Malaysia memang Boleh
, Sara Gradwohl (née Pang) moved to the United States to study journalism in 2012. Since then, she has directed, filmed, and produced three micro-documentaries and two short fiction films.
She told Rojak Daily
that taking a micro-documentary class while at the University of Missouri encouraged her to make the stories of individuals known.
, for example - the first documentary piece I had ever done - captured the essence of my friend's life changing moment in a matter of 60 seconds, which was hard given the lack of footage I had and a deadline to follow,” she tells us.
Her latest documentary, Trafficked
, features Christina, a survivor of sex trafficking.
Thus far, the documentary has scooped up multiple accolades at the International Film Festival Competition 2015
, the World Film Awards 2015
, and the Windrider International Student Film Festival 2015
For the Petaling Jaya-born filmmaker, making Trafficked
was a no-brainer as she had always been involved in organisations that served the underprivileged and undermined.
“I wanted these needs to become known to all. More specifically to those who were local to the area - many had the same thought I had, 'It’s a small town, what could possibly happen here?'.
"Hearing one of the founders of the Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition share her experiences and some of these women’s stories during our personal meeting broke my heart,” she adds.
Currently a graduate student at the University of Southern California, Gradwohl is also the director of her own production company, Making Stories Known
Last year, she joined film producer Darren Moorman as his assistant and was involved in parts of the post-production process of Same Kind of Different as Me
, a feature film starring Renée Zellweger, Jon Voight, and Djimon Hounsou.
Right now, she is in production with San Diego Comic-Con for a web series titled Mark Hamill’s Pop Culture Quest.
3. ARIFF AB (MUSICIAN)
Known to Spanish fans as Maravilla Ariff, singer-songwriter Ariff AB actually owes his career in music to his roots in sports.
Being an avid sportsman in his youth, one day, he felt that sports was getting a little too violent for him and decided to give music a try.
Born on 14 October 1990, he began writing songs when he was just 13 and he told Rojak Daily
that he “only picked up the guitar at the age of 16.”
In 2009, he entered the Acoustic Showdown at Urbanattic at CapSquare. Despite multiple failures, he finally made it to the finals on his fifth try where he performed his first composition.
However, it would be a while longer before he got his big break, he tells us.
The alternative indie freak folk musician explains: “‘Rundown
’ from my debut album Transmission
was first featured in 2014 on the 'BBC 2 Unsigned Segment'.
"It then led to newer songs throughout the years being on the BBC Playlist such as ‘Fallen Asteroid
’ in 2015, and recent singles ‘The Wolf
’ and ‘Crazy Love
’ - from the upcoming new album Blue Skeleton -
featured on The BBC Introducing playlist in the UK.”
So, what’s next for him?
Well, the 27-year-old has just been signed by Decca Records and will be working with the record company which produced works for Judy Garland, Louis Armstrong and The Lumineers to release his next album, Blue Skeleton
4. FELICIA YAP (AUTHOR)
Felicia Yap is what you would call a wunderkind. After studying biochemistry at the Imperial College London, she researched cell biology at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany.
But that wasn’t enough. She then went to Cambridge to study and research war history. Holding a PhD in history from Cambridge in hand, she went on to lecture at Cambridge and London School of Economics.
Not only that, she’s walked the catwalk. She’s been a flea market trader. She holds a half-blue status in competitive ballroom dancing.
She’s also written for The Economist
and The Business Times
Oh, she also dreamed up a murder mystery during a ballroom dancing practice.
From summer 2014, it only took Felicia fifteen months to write her crime thriller titled Yesterday
, billed as the next Gone Girl
. Right after completing the novel, three publishers in the UK duked it out for the rights to publish her novel. Headline Publishing Group ultimately won the rights for a six-figure sum.
Not only that, the book rights have also been sold in 11 other countries and according to Felicia, there is an ongoing competition for the film rights.
Yap’s novel, Yesterday
, is set in a world where society is divided into Monos, people who can only remember the past 24 hours, and Duos, people who can trace their memories as far back as 48 hours. In this world, people rely on their iDiaries to remember what they did, where they went, and whom they loved.
will be in bookstores in August 2017. Right now, Yap is concentrating on completing a prequel, Today