Editor’s Note #10 + Podcast with Nadiah Hamzah and Mo Bahir of Wayang Works

I drove to an apartment in Pantai Hillpark, to the apartment of Nadiah and Mo. The pair are behind Wayang Works, whose resume speaks of a certain wanderlust. Short films, commercials, music videos, a full-length feature being planned.

Their apartment is oddly metropolitan, vertically rectangular and connected by thin stairs that cling to one wall. There is a shelf full of Murakami and Amir Muhammad’s ‘Fixi’ novels, a huge Mac desktop, a poster about coffee, and two cats: Gondry, named after the Eternal Sunshine director, a precious ginger who loves nibbling on fingers, and Puji, who Nadiah brought back from her time in New York — this one spent his time brooding on the top floor, creating a ruckus once in a while, preferring to be heard but not seen. The apartment felt like a creative space, a place where you’d sit down and invent — the two artists who had curated it were warm and full of stories, as we began to chat over brewed coffee and scones.

Nadiah spent some time in New York studying film, which sounded like a dream to me because it was actually a dream I once had. I didn’t know it was something one could actually do, so to have met someone determined enough to have done this was enlightening. New York, through her descriptions, sounded like the burrow of aspiring, resourceful artists I imagined it to be. There, she started to plan her first film, which was based on a real-life blog owned by a tourist who came to New York and lost his luggage.

Displacement seems like a natural theme for someone in Nadiah’s position, the way protagonists in Murakami’s works are uprooted from their normal lives by a sudden tragedy. Nadiah’s ‘art’ had to find its own voice in the noise of other filmmakers also keen to carve a personal mark, and it was her upbringing and background that helped build her identity.

Nadiah and Mo later found themselves at a crossroads, when both were working in the advertising industry. From there, they eventually got together to form Wayang Works. Like any start-up, it’s one that has undoubtedly required immense effort, and in the way certain film directors may take up blockbusters in order to be financially able to make smaller indies, the two have had to approach their job like any other civilian would, taking up commercial projects to fund and allow their passion projects on the side.

Mo sometimes excused himself from the discussion to offer us more coffee or check on Puja, the more introverted and mischievous of the two cats. Mo’s a sound engineer, and in person he was sensitive, the quieter of the two, and generously full of bright laughter. There was an effortless connection between him and Nadiah, and it’s no surprise they get along well as both colleagues and marital partners — although they emphasised that they do sometimes veer to work on projects without the other, but always return back to the team. They mentioned a full-length film they’ve been in the midst of planning, a supernatural thriller of sorts. They were hesitant to divulge particular details, but they did share their idea to have it possibly have a dual plot and maybe even a haunted house.

Nadiah and Mo, like the company they’ve jointly created, are young and ambitious — pregnant with stories waiting to be told, wild and fervent colours waiting to be unleashed onto blank paper. The three of us — Syar, Lutfi and myself — had a lot of fun talking to them that afternoon, and it reminded us of why we started ISSUE: to meet fascinating people like these two, whose story, we knew, would take time to bloom.

— Al

Images by Adrian Smith and Steve Snodgrass. Poster Design by Syar S. Alia.

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