Malaysian movie lands in Venice

Venice (AsiaNews/AFP) - The princess from Mount Ledang (Puteri Gunung Ledang in Malay), Malaysia's first entry in a major international film festival, was well received by film critics attending the 61st Venice International Film Festival. "We are not in competition, but just getting here is like winning the Golden Lion," the movie's rising director Saw Teong Hin said.

Set in the 15th-century sultanate of Malacca and the grand Javanese kingdom of Majapahit, Puteri Gunung Ledang tells the story of a beautiful princess who scorns the affections of a powerful sultan; instead, she has fallen in love with a valiant warrior.

Produced by Enfiniti, an entertainment company that runs NTV7, a private Malaysian TV channel, the movie blends historical facts, myth and fiction to tell the fateful tale of forbidden love.

Puteri Gunung Ledang was released in Malaysia on August 31, the country's Independence Day, and it is South-East Asia's only entry in this year's Venice festival. "This is the first time a Malaysian movie is sharing the same stage with world-class films," said Enfiniti's executive director, Shazally Ramli. "We now see ourselves as a benchmark for other local producers to make it big overseas."

Although the Malaysian film industry is government-supported, Puteri Gunung Ledang did not receive any public funds. It did however get logistical support and administrative help insofar as special permits were required to shoot in areas considered sacred such as the mountain where, as legend has it, the spirit of the princess dwells. Malaysia's king also backed the project.

Whilst the US million budget is paltry by Hollywood standards, it is a staggering sum for a country where movies cost an average US million and where total box office takings for all 10 Malay movies screened in 2002 were only US.5 million.