The Big Durian takes as its subject that day in 1987 in which a soldier named Prebet Adam ran on a fatal amok with an M-16 in Kuala Lumpur's Chow Kit district.
The incident caused widespread panic because it was feared to be the precursor of a racial riot, the likes of which Malaysia had not seen since 1969. Although no such riot took place, emotions were running high in the country due to several political and economic factors, and the amok served as a justification for not only the banning of newspapers but the mass detention of various people under an infamous Internal Security Act sweep codenamed "Operation Lalang."
What were you doing on that day? How did you find out about the incident? What did you think of it? If you bought into the panic, what were the factors that may have led to the way that you felt?
This film will rely heavily on improvisation, which means the actors need to be prepared to come up with ideas on the characters they will play. Some actors will tell their own stories. Some will tell stories they had heard narrated to them. Some will completely make up their stories. And others will tell stories written by the director. The presentation to the camera will be either through direct-to-camera monologues or a conversation/interview with the director. The line between fiction and fact will be kept so fine as to become almost (and perhaps truly) invisible.
Not all the actors will speak directly of that day in history. Some will be allusive, some symbolic, and others simply irreverent or even irrelevant. There are several entry points into the Prebet Adam incident. After all, several different factors came into confluence to create the hothouse tension of the period: Political demagoguery, racial tension, media restriction, economic recession, the police, rumour-mongering, detentions without trial, royalty, and even mother-tongue education. Many of these factors have subsequently popped up to play their part in subsequent Malaysian controversies.
As such, some of the other talking-points in coming up with your character or performance might be:
Have you ever worked in a political party and what was it like? Have you ever believed in a politician only to have that belief abused?
Do you secretly feel that people from other ethnic backgrounds are out to 'get' you? What was your earliest or most vivid recollection of racism?
Did you know anyone from a royal family and what were they like? Did you think they were special?
Have you had the experience of not being able to get back at someone for something they did to you, because they were somehow "above the law"?
What language were you educated in and, if given a choice, would you have chosen a different one? Were you ever made to feel different on account of the way you look or the language you speak?
What are some of the more outlandish Malaysian rumours or urban legends you have heard? Did you ever believe in a rumour only for it to be proven false?
Have rumours affected your personal or professional life and how?
Do you ever wish you lived in another country and why?
Have you ever bribed a policeman, and if so, when and how?
Have you ever been arrested and what was it like?
Have you ever been so angry at someone that you could have killed them? Have you ever killed someone?
Have you ever been the victim of a senseless attack?
The 1987 incident was a maturing process or coming-of-age for many of us who were growing up at the time. It was, in a sense, a loss of innocence. You may wish to talk about other times in your life in which a sense of innocence was lost, such as your first sexual experience, your first time getting beaten up, or the moment when you figured out your parents didn't have all the answers after all.
These are just some preliminary suggestions. We look forward to working with each actor to shape these stories. Do not feel that you have need to have "experienced" or even believe in your stories or personas. Remember: You could be playing an entirely fictional character.
Preference will be given to narrative stories, which can take the form of either reminisces or as if it were happening right here, right now. Although the content of the film makes no pretense of being demographically representative, we are interested in hearing from people/characters from as many different backgrounds as possible. Hence, this film will be in several languages. Some of the stories can even take place as songs, jokes or even (go on, surprise us) a mime performance. And so like the famous fruit in the title, this film will have many points ... and will definitely not be for all tastes.
The duration of each segment (meaning, the screen-time accorded to each character) will vary from 1 to 10 minutes, depending on how the stories fit into the overall structure of the film. A final script, rewritten and restructured by the director, will be delivered to each performer just a few days before each person's shooting date. In general, the aim is to go for a feel of spontaneity and freshness rather than something that is over-rehearsed. We may even opt for your final portrayal in the film to take the form of an "audition" with you clutching at your only partly-memorised script.
Do you have to come to the audition armed with a complete story to tell?
No. Basic ideas will do, or an anecdote, or even an interesting character that you feel is illustrative of a bigger picture.
The immediate stylistic inspirations for this film are Mysterious Object at Noon from Thailand (for its fanciful blurring of the line between documentary and fiction) and Homework from Iran (for its belief in the power of individual direct-to-camera recitation). Do you need to have seen these films before auditioning?
No. Just bring your imagination. Why rely on foreigners? Malaysia Boleh what.
The team looks forward to working with you.