Review - 'Abang' by Dzafirul Haniff (NTU ADM Film Class of 2013)

‘Abang’ Dzafirul’s graduating film is a simple chemistry of actors comfortable in their own skin blending in with each other in a unassuming script about family tension and brotherhood. An older brother, unable to withstand the sight of his mother’s lover abusing his mother starts a fight with his ‘stepfather’ and gets shooed from the flat. He seeks shelter in his own bicycle shop which his younger brother hangs around in as well. Herein lies the setting for a confluence of the two souls.

Dzafirul’s sensitive direction is apparent in the way he manages a whole behavioral spectrum from suppressed angst to confrontation to a pivoting point of fear and courage. The reconciliation scene when he moves back to his flat to face his mother is especially ‘disarming’ in the way the actors delivered the moment with intuition.

Overall, the actors are sincere in their attempts in playing out what seems like TV-soap situations – infidelity, family feuds and hysteria, but without the theatrics. Perhaps the TV-resemblance can also be attributed to the vanilla style of framing the shots and capturing the drama, avoiding the punctuating effect over-deliberate close-ups. However, its fuss-free cinematography and its fervent focus on telling a story is also its strength. Conflict is something many young directors may overplay or underplay but the matter-of-fact style of capturing it in ‘Abang’ tells us sometimes conflict needs no crafting, it can hold on its own.

Review by Jeremy Sing
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