Home > Entertainment > Movies > Exclusive: Malaysian director Amanda Nell and the Tiger Stripes cast on their Cannes screening
Exclusive: Malaysian director Amanda Nell and the Tiger Stripes cast on their Cannes screening

A yearly affair that attracts the biggest names from the silver screen set against one of the most idyllic coastal vistas along the French Riviera, The Palais des Festivals et des Congrès de Cannes has cemented its reputation as a venerated proving ground for film talents across the globe.

Taking place from between May 16 to May 27, the 76th iteration of this esteemed coming together of cinematic luminaries has been made all the more special this year for Malaysia, with local horror film Tiger Stripes set to take the stage on the 62nd Semaine de la Critique (International Critics’ Week) roster, while competing for the Caméra d’Or prize simultaneously.

Tiger Stripes sets a roaring debut in Cannes

Tiger Stripes at Cannes, Cannes, Tiger Stripes, Amanda Nell, film, Cannes

A homegrown project by local filmmaker Amanda Nell Eu, this will mark the first time in 13 years since 2010 that a Malaysian feature film has been tapped to make a major screening at the prestigious event, and the first time a female Malaysian filmmaker was invited to attend Cannes. What’s more, Tiger Stripes also serves as production company Ghost Grrrl Pictures’ debut feature film output.

In light of such a monumental chapter, Lifestyle Asia Kuala Lumpur caught-up with both Amanda and the cast of Tiger Stripes right from the Azure Coasts to learn more about their thoughts on setting the tone for Malaysian women at Cannes.

Not ones to miss out on taking Malaysian representation to a global scale, the contingent were sumptuously attired by local label BEHATI. A striking bustier adorned with fuchsia rosettes and matching pants completed Amanda’s ensemble, while Zafreen Zairizal, Deena Ezral, and Piqa, were outfitted in a trio of matching looks that featured dramatic slashes of dark lace against fuchsia Duchess satin.

A story of adolescence, womanhood, and change

Tiger Stripes at Cannes, Cannes, Tiger Stripes, Amanda Nell, film, Cannes

Amanda, who graduated with a Masters of Arts in Filmmaking from the London Film School, describes the Cannes nod as the ‘perfect launchpad’ for the film’s debut. “It’s also been 13 years since a Malaysian film has been represented here, so it’s great to have that representation now in Cannes.”, she adds. 

It’s easy to see that Tiger Stripes doesn’t aim to tip-toe around the often tumultuous transition of adolescence into womanhood, with Amanda’s approach to unraveling each overlapping fine line. “There are many complex layers to how a young child grows up, when it comes to their relationships with school, friends and family, and that isn’t just focused on puberty.” she explains.

Given that fact, she stresses the importance in fostering safe spaces where such dialogues can be had openly between both children and adults. But where Malaysia is concerned, there’s still plenty of catching up to do, with Amanda pointing to local student activist Ain Husniza’s #makeschoolsasaferplace movement as a salient example.

But ultimately, Amanda wants women to be able to not only embrace, but to have power and autonomy over their own bodies. “I think as women, still, in many parts of the world, we feel shame or insecurity over parts of ourselves, and it’s [Tiger Stripes] about letting that go – taking back the right to have power over ourselves.” she said. 

With Tiger Stripes being the fourth-ever Malaysian film to grace the Cannes stage, it cannot be overstated the sheer magnitude of what its presence on the festival lineup represents for a new generation of creatives back home. Of course, the movie’s success on the international circuit is also credited to a network of international co-production partners hailing from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan, France, Germany, Netherlands, and even Qatar.

I hope that more Malaysian productions can have the opportunity to work and collaborate with international co-productions. Tiger Stripes really benefited from this and we learned so much from our international partners.” Amanda notes. “We really valued collaboration and it was also great to have the chance to work with crew and technicians from different parts of the world.”

Young talents trailblazing before 20

Tiger Stripes at Cannes, Cannes, Tiger Stripes, Amanda Nell, film, Cannes

Where the cast is concerned, leading lady Zafreen was understandably thrilled beyond measure by the success that Tiger Stripes has enjoyed among filmgoers and pundits. “I never thought I could go this far. I hope I can continue to venture further in this field and do better.” Naturally, she credits her achievements to her parents and friends, especially for their continued encouragement and support during filming.

On the other hand, first-time actress Deena, who struck it out with her role as Farah in the film, still finds it difficult to come to terms with the reality that she now inhabits. “When I found out I was going to France for the Cannes Festival and all, it was really overwhelming as I couldn’t believe it. Even now, while being in France, I still can’t believe I’m really here.”

Her sentiments are echoed by Piqa, who said “I’m really happy and I enjoy it a lot. Sometimes we would be really busy for an entire day taking pictures, participating in interviews and photo calls, we don’t feel tired because this is our first time at Cannes and we really enjoy being here.”

As for what lies on the road ahead for the dynamic trio, Zafreen hopes to take after Perak-born Academy Award winner Datuk Seri Michelle Yeoh. “I have basic martial arts training, so if the opportunity arises, I will definitely seize it.” she affirms. In Deena’s case, it’s all about finding the right people to work alongside, saying “I will continue to find more films like this [to work on]. I really want to work with positive people.”

Similarly, Piqa hopes to forge a career for herself in acting, in spite of how challenging the industry has proven to be. “Sometimes being an actor is exhausting, but when we get to play characters that relate to our lives, it feels like some sort of an outlet.” she remarks.

After its Cannes debut, Malaysian audiences can expect to enjoy Tiger Stripes in cinemas soon.

Hero and feature image credits: Photo by David M. Benett/Jed Cullen/Dave Benett/Getty Images, Photo by David M. Benett/Jed Cullen/Dave Benett/Getty Images

Exclusive: Malaysian director Amanda Nell and the Tiger Stripes cast on their Cannes screening

Armed with an Advertising major from Lancaster University, Benjamin is a senior editor who has spent his time oscillating between the social media and digital media landscape since 2018. With a keen interest in fashion and good living, he has written for publications such as ERROR Digital, WORLD OF BUZZ, and KL Foodie. Beyond the keyboard, you can find him arms-deep in a thrift pile.

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