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  • Writer's pictureSyed Hassan Zaman

Dzul Iskandar, Brunei's Creative Filmmaking Force

Dzul Iskandar is a Bruneian filmmaker whose passion for storytelling has captivated audiences worldwide. With a keen eye for cinematography and a unique artistic vision, he has emerged as a trailblazer. From humble beginnings to international recognition, his journey has been truly inspiring.

Let's explore the achievements of this filmmaker and understand how he is leaving a mark on the film landscape.

Iskandar's Life in the Industry - An Overview

Let's look at how Iskandar has spent his years in the film industry and the milestones he has crossed during his journey.

Initial Recognition

Dzul Iskandar, also known as Dani Iskandar, was born on October 31st, 1995, in Darussalam. He has been working in the film industry for quite some time, and the recognition finally came in 2019 when he was selected to represent Brunei at the ASEAN Republic of Korea Film Leaders Incubator. Two trainees were selected from each ASEAN member country.

The selection criteria included their film careers, English fluency, and passion for joining the ROK Incubator. It allowed Iskandar to work with acclaimed directors and cinematographers from Korea and further hone his filmmaking skills.

His mentor in Korea was the renowned filmmaker Steven Choe, who did his MFA from the American Film Institute (AFI) and established his C-47 Post Studio in Korea in 2005. His company has worked on over a hundred feature films, and he has edited over sixty.

Some of the accolades won by this incredible artist include the Daejong Award for Best Editing for SnowPiercer (2013) and editing Parasite, the Oscar-winning Korean film. Steven currently teaches at the prestigious School of Film, TV & Multimedia of the Korea National University of Arts.

Iskandar's Meteoric Rise

Given his constant dedication to the craft of filmmaking, his project, Gelombang, at the Empire Times Cineplex. It was a significant milestone in Iskandar's career and set the stage for further achievements. The film got on the radar of the BINISAYA Film Festival in 2020 and catapulted him beyond Brunei's borders.

When you give everything to a craft, unlocking achievements becomes a norm. That's what happened to Iskandar when he worked on two more projects in 2019, Hutang and Life from There.

However, the biggest news was the nomination of Tabooka for Best Cinematography Jury Award at the Brunei Content Festival in 2022. It is a competition based on two categories, the Industry Category and the Open Category, while incorporating seven Jury Awards. The winner of the Jury Awards gets BND 500 cash, a trophy, and a certificate of achievement.

Iskandar's talent can be recognized because he had to outcompete 72 entries in the competition to win the ultimate prize.

Unending Progress

The progress didn't end for Iskandar and his undying dedication led to screening of his latest film Nilai Part 1 at the 5th UBD-Fass Term Screening. Not only was the film included in the event, but it was also granted a special 3 hours screening only meant for the most talented filmmakers. The screening followed a detailed discussion about the movie, which included giants of the Bruneian film industry, such as Ahmad and Azeez Danial.

The event had 30 short stories competing across six genres:

  • Documentary

  • Fiction

  • Experimental

  • Animation

  • 3-minute Mini Cinema

  • Music Video

Nilai Part 1 has also been submitted to the UBD Prism UBD Short Film Festival, another crown in the jewel, showing how far Iskandar has come from his humble beginnings. It is just the start for him, as much more will come in his stellar career.

An Exploration of Dzul Iskandar's Work

While we have had a thorough overview of Iskandar's career, it's also crucial to dive deeply into his works and explore his artistic vision.

1. Gelombang, Drama, 2022

Gelombang is Iskandar's most notable work to date, winning him high praise in the film community. The young filmmakers from the ASEAN-Korea Next Generation Film Talent Development Project (FLY2019) played a huge role in making this film. These filmmakers were selected from Korea and 10 ASEAN nations.

The Development

The event was hosted by Busan and Brunei Institute of Information and Communication Technology. The organizers were:

  • Busan Film Commission

  • Busan Asian Film School (AFiS)

  • Film Commission Network (AFCNet)

The trainees were divided into two groups, and one was given Gelombang. This group had to write the script, direct it, add music, and edit the whole project with the help of their mentors. The mentors and lecturers who judged the trainees' work included:

  • Director, Jeon Ji-hee

  • Cinematographer, Lee Doo-man

  • Music Director, Kim Jun-seok

  • Editorial Director, Steve M Choi

Once the works were assessed by the judges, Gelombang was screened for the audience.

The Plot

The story of Gelombang revolves around a young girl named Hani, who has had a troubled past with her Great Mother. Although she wasn't on the best terms with her, her grandma was the last family member alive besides Hani herself. The film artistically displays Hani's time caring for her grandma in the hospital and intimately shows her fear of losing her.

The Cast

Golembang is starring:

  • Cahaya Harlif

  • Pengiran Hajah Patimah

  • Norharizah Sisi

2. Nilai Part 1, Comedy Horror, 2023

Nilai Part 1 is another excellent comedy horror film that displays Iskandar's artistic senses to the fullest. It is his latest film and has already cemented its place at the prestigious UBD-Fass Term Screening.

The Plot

The story of Nilai Part 1 is based on a group of careless youngsters who want to make it big quickly. However, they choose the precarious path of robbing a wealthy family's house during the night. They plan the robbery meticulously by assigning each member a specific role and pulling the trigger.

However, little do they know that a hidden, sinister presence is watching them over while they execute their plan. They keep exploring the house, unaware of this mysterious entity, and find a treasure box. They realize that someone is watching them as soon as they get hold of it.

Suddenly, their upbeat spirits are dampened, and they dread what will happen next.

The Cast

The cast of Nilai Part 1 includes:

  • Shukri Azim Danial

  • Nazirul Naim

  • Sabrina Irawadi

A Bright Future

Given the achievements of Iskandar at such a young age, it's obvious that he has a stellar future. Given the critical appreciation from leading minds in the industry while coming from a small country like Brunei is nothing short of spectacular.

Let's see how Iskandar exercises his artistic vision in the future!

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