Huminodun : What Would You Sacrifice To Save The World? – Our Honest Review

Written by @Lan 
Photos by Siung Film Production Sdn.Bhd. 

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To read Huminodun Movie Facts: Click HERE

Directed by Aaron Cowan and produced by Siung Film Production Sdn.Bhd, Huminodun is indeed one unique Kadazan Language production in regard to the legendary Sabahan goddess, Huminodun. There were mixed reactions towards the movie after the first screening for press on November 30, 2017. We are pretty sure that more reactions can be heard and seen after the premiere on December 3, 2017.

Prelude

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My Chief Editor did not get to watch the movie as he was away from Kota Kinabalu during the screening for press but I perfectly informed him of everything and he did his own research, talking to some media friends of his (whom attended the screening). He equipped himself with all the facts, spending hours online, reading all sources in regard to Huminodun Movie.

Having the opportunity to be among the first batch to watch the whole movie, I felt that it’s appropriate to voice out my own thoughts. Majority of the people we interviewed or talked to, referred this movie as incomplete, lacking of details, needed more interesting plots and some even wish fictional elements were inside the story line.

We perfectly understood of such wishes and comments but at the same time, being objective writers, we equally understood the thoughts of those responsible in making this movie and bringing it for Sabahans. During the screening for press, I was the only one who gave standing ovation to both Jo Luping and Aaron Cowan. I was seated in front of them and I had to turn around to personally congratulate them.

Yes, there’s room for some improvement. I admit that. However, we all need to realize that this movie is first of its kind in Sabah, in terms of championing Kadazan Language and its people, casts and so on. People need to know that this is a beginning, a pilot project to open up more opportunities for other similar ventures.

The crew and casts worked so hard in making this movie into a reality. They went through a lot of things and for that, the least we can do is to stand up, give that acknowledgement and support them so that they will be more motivated in their future projects.

 

Inspiration, Objectives and Hopes

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In order to understand the whole thing, we all need to precisely look into the objectives and hopes of those responsible in screening the Huminodun movie. We all need to be in their shoes, deeply connected with their thoughts. We need to study their inspirations and what they are hoping to achieve by producing this particular movie.

Jo Luping-Producer and Associate Director of Huminodun

“As a child, my father, Tan Sri Herman Luping, used to tell us inspiring tales of Kadazan Heroes. It is these stories that have helped to draw Aaron and I to live here in Sabah with our children. We want our Children to grow up with these stories in the same way that I did. But we want them to be able to know these stories in the language of their people.”

“We at Siung Films, are dedicated to helping Sabahans tell their own stories with own voices, in their own language. We want future generations to look on their culture with pride and to realise that their indigenous heritage is an important one.”

“To that end, we are proud to bring you the first film in what we intend to be a long line of indigenous language films here in Sabah. We want to work to enable a viable industry here in Sabah where creatives can come and work and earn a living. Sabah is exploding with talent and we want to utilise it to help tell its stories.”

Aaron Cowan-Director and Writer of Huminodun

“The first time I came to Sabah, about 15 years ago, I was struck by the depth of the indigenous culture here. I have always loved seeing the diversity of cultures and lives that are lived in Borneo. When Jo first explained the story of Huminodun to me, I was, as a new father, utterly shocked at the idea of a parent sacrificing his child and thought it would be a very interesting idea to explore-what sort of situation must you be in, where this is your only option? I think It says a lot about Sabahan culture that one of the formative stories is that of someone giving up everything they have for their people.”

“Over the last couple of years, as we have made this film, I have been deeply impressed by the level of dedication and talent that Sabahans have. While there is not a lot of experience in making films in Sabah, there is what seems to be a never-ending supply of enthusiasm and talent. “

“The shoot itself involved long days with very little sleep and every single member of our cast and crew was 100% committed to what we are doing. I cannot praise or thank them enough. We have been assisted in the creation of this film by so many people and organisations that I can never adequately thank all of them.”

Joanna Datuk Kitingan- Chair of KDCA Women’s Council, Associate Producer of Huminodun

“We are very proud and honoured to be part of this first Kadazan Huminodun movie. It portrays the power of women within a family. Respect and obedience even to the point of sacrificing ones life to save her people. Every Kadazandusun woman should now be proud to know the real meaning of sacrifice through Huminodun to whom we celebrate her beauty every year through the Unduk Ngadau pageant at the Kaamatan Festival.”

Rita Lasimbang- CEO Kadazandusun Language Foundation,Associate Producer of Huminodun

“Tan Sri Herman Luping is one of the elders who is still doing something for the Kadazan Community through his writings. I am trying to walk in his footsteps-through the work I do. He is an inspiration, I came on-board for him. My hope is that this film will be an impetus- a bridge for the younger generation of Kadazan to once again cross over into their roots: their language and their cultural heritage. Their Identity.”

 

The Q & A

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To questions asked by journalists-

Why Chose Kadazan and not Dusun?

“We started with Kadazan as a platform to start with and it will open the door of opportunities for other indigenous languages in Sabah. There will be a  Kadazan Language App to be launched at a later stage, an effort to be funded via collections in the premiere. It will then can be used as a model for other indigenous languages.”-Jo Luping.

“Kadazan means the people. If we’re to go through the chants of the Bobohizan, it means the people. Kinoingan have actually called us The People and that was the word Kadazan. So all of us are actually Kadazan, be it Kadazan Rungus, Kadazan Lotud and so on..(whatever district you represent). The history tells us that Sultan Brunei called us then Orang Dusun and that’s how Dusun came about. Originally, we are Kadazan. “-Boni Mosios.

How about the costume? There’s mixture of Kota Belud, Tambunan and so on..

“We did a lot of research in the costumes from a lot of different sources. It is a story that belongs to all of Kadazandusun throughout Sabah, we didn’t concentrate on just one particular area. Alexandra’s costume (of Rinagang, Kota Belud) was very closely to some of the archival images that we have. There was a lot of thought, that went behind everything. We consulted a lot of cultural advisers, from the script to the costumes, music, magavau, and almost everything. A lot of consultation and that’s why it took a while. “-Jo Luping.

Green Screen in Visual Effects…

“About 50%, a lot actually. We tried to find a place that is desolated, it’s impractical to cut down trees and paddy fields, that’s where green screen was needed.”-Jo Luping & Aaron Cowan.

Show in other countries?

“We are talking to some distributors now, particularly one group in China. There’s also film festival in Canada and we really want to target countries that have a lot of indigenous communities, putting this film into Film Festivals, as many as we can and the plan is to come back to Malaysia and screen it commercially, hopefully by May next year in conjunction with the Kaamatan”-Jo Luping & Aaron Cowan.

Any plan for DVD’s format?

“After doing rounds for Film Festivals and after screening it commercially in Malaysia. We have also approached ASTRO. This movie is less than an hour, it’s perfect for TV. One of the ideas is to develop a series of indigenous stories that can be screened on Television.” -Jo Luping.

Future Project?

We are starting January 2018, a film based on Pangazou, a warrior movie, written by Tan Sri Herman Luping. We’ve got partial funding from FINAS, that contributed 40%. It will have 160 cast and crew. so we are going to have a proper budget, and then we can really have fight scenes, battles to be filmed across Sabah. This particular Huminodun movie, is our little project to start with, to see if we can really develop the industry here and trying to get everybody involve. The coming Pangazou is entirely different from the previous TV Series. Ours is re-written, new script, it’s going to be screened as a film.”-Jo Luping & Aaron Cowan.

Alexandra Alexander, have you had any acting experience before? 

“No. I have never act in any production. This is my first film. Maybe, a bit of backstage role. I was the Unduk Ngadau 2016 for Kota Marudu. That was the platform they discovered me. I attended the audition for this movie. Of all the candidates, I was chosen. As Unduk Ngadau, I felt honored to be able to play Huminodun character. The hardest part in this movie, was I speak no Kadazan at all, though I am a Kadazan. To start with, I had to start from the very beginning and now I am proud of what I am now, being able to understand the language.”-Alexandra Alexander.

Taking into account all the statements by crew and cast, there are actually some obvious things that we need to fully understand.

Budget

They had to work around the budget that they had and that being said, it was not possible for Siung Film Production to actually produce a movie that is ‘epic’ or at least of 2 hours or more in duration. It was not possible to fill in all the imaginary thoughts of audience whom might be expecting grander scale of battles and so on. Huminodun Movie is a pilot project for Siung Film Production, which they hope to have the continuity in regard to Sabah’s  Legendary Stories. They are honestly trying to champion the indigenous languages and bring it on for the world to see.

Huminodun movie is of 1 Hour in duration. They tried their very best to include all necessary elements. Since this is a pilot project, audience need to fully understand that not all expected elements were successfully injected in the film. Some media friends did mention about the ending which was not that satisfying. Some needed to see more plots. All of these wishes, can be made into reality if budget is not a problem.

Take note that for the Premiere in December 1, 2017, Siung Film Production has no intention to gain any financial benefit. They instead opting to channel the money to help preserve and protect one of Sabah’s indigenous languages, Kadazan. For their next project, Pangazou, they will be receiving proper funding and therefore we all can expect to see grander result.

Objectives

Huminodun movie is part of the effort in preserving the Kadazan Language. It is a noble effort of theirs to ensure the longevity of Kadazan Language and therefore the cultural heritage is being protected. This movie also aims at promoting the meaning of Huminodun’s sacrifice for her people, to be ‘translated’ into more meaningful modern thoughts. In a way, Huminodun movie portrayed Sabah’s nature beauty and it will somehow help in promoting the state as one great destination for foreigners who happens to watch the movie.

First time Acting

Majority of the cast are first timers. They do not have any acting experience prior to Huminodun. Yes, there were some flaws in the way they acted in the movie but they should have been given the credit, as overall, the movie is acceptable. The cast will surely be more ‘matured’ in their next movies as they have learned a lot during the filming.

 

The Review

Synopsis

Ponompuan is the young ruler of her people, living in the jungles of Borneo. Her brother Ponompulan, who rules alongside her, is consumed with jealousy towards his parents-the gods Kinoingan and Sumundu-who he feels have abandoned him amongst humanity. In his anger, he turns the people against their creators.

When Kinoingan and Sumundu discovers his treachery, he is cast down from the world while they send seven scourges to the land in an effort to turn the people from Ponompulan’s evil ways. Ponompuan is heartbroken by this and after arguing with her parents, returns to the world to try to save her people.

She finds a desolated and broken land where people are starving and angry at their treatment. Ponompuan discovers that she has the power, through her mother, to heal people but this is not enough to bring them back from extinction, as there is no food or water. Her healing power slowly starts to pull the life out of her to such an extent that when her parents come to find her, they discover her near death.

Ponompuan convinces her parents that the people are as much their children as she and Ponompulan were and that the scourges have gone too far. Realizing that she is dying, she talks her father into sacrificing her in the hope that this act will release the pent up energy inside her to heal the land and bring bounty to the world.

Kinoingan, with the aid of Sumundu, sacrifices his daughter Ponompuan, bringing rain which cleanses the land. Ponompuan’s body is transformed by the rain into the plants that are now considered staples for the Kadzandusun community today.

Plot

The plot is quite simple. It first showed how the Gods, Kinoingan and Sumundu created the world and how they had their Children as the ruler of the people. The plot continues at its pre-climax, showing how people have ‘disobeyed’ their creators until they themselves had to be punished. Their land had became desolated, running out food and water as there were no plants or animals whatsoever.

The only person that can help them is none other than Ponompuan herself. The climax of this movie is when Ponompuan had to be ‘sacrificed’ by her own father fir the betterment of her people. Next, is the anti-climax when the land is fertile, having good soil for planting and so on.

It is indeed a believable plot as it managed to line-up the scenes, chronologically and ended in the most acceptable result. It is a straight-forward plot with not much flash back. Whether the legend is true or not, is not really an important issue. We said this as some of the audience might have come from different background of culture and belief. Most importantly, audience will get to understand the story-line without much difficulties.

Theme

The theme is about sacrificing for the betterment of others. The theme is backed by strong belief of Kadazandusun towards their creators, inserting the culture and language and how the Kadazan community actually started. All Kadazandusun people know about Humidon’s sacrifice, in fact all Sabahans are aware of the legend, regardless they believe it or not.

Huminodun movie managed to visually portray Ponompuan’s sacrifice for her community. All this while, people always get to hear or read the story. This time around, people actually get to see the visualization of Huminodun. The movie delivered the theme, successfully.  It gives new dimension, visually of the meaning of sacrifice made by Ponompuan.

Characters

There were 5 characters that mainly dominated the movie. The rest were extras. The 5 were Ponompuan/Huminodun, Kinoingan, Sumundu, Ponompulan and Pampang. Overall, the characters enhanced the film. Together, they managed to portray the main theme of the movie. In terms of expression, Sumundu (played by Jenifer Lasimbang) was the character whom successfully showed deep facial reaction in every scene she was in.

We perfectly understood that except for Marc Abas (Pampang), the other 4 were first timers, when it comes to acting in a film. While Jenifer showed convincing facial expressions, the main star, Alexandra (Huminodun/Ponompuan) need to be more expressive. She was lacking that ‘painful’ expression the moment she was sacrificed.

Alexandra however deserves the credit as she did her best to play Huminodun/Ponompuan role. Prior to acting in the film, she admitted that she was not ably to speak fluent Kadazan. She learned and in short time, she at least showed the determination. Overall, all 5 supported each other characters in the sense of making the intended theme/message to come to life.

Direction, Cinematography & Score

Aaron Cowan did his best in directing this film. He’s into using Green Screen as it was the most appropriate way to drastically change the background fertile soil to desolated land and back to green again. He had to direct according to the recommended story line, a version by Dr. Benedict Topin. Aaron is one experienced Director and having to work with limited budget for Huminodun, we personally think that he did his best.

The pacing of the movie was a bit slow but that was not Aaron’s fault. The team needed to show how things started according to the belief of Kadazan Community. Fight scenes, suspense element and other fictional elements that were expected by audience were fewer. The budget determined the length of the film thus not so many things were ably to being injected in the film.

We do think that the music helped to support the mood of the movie. It was not an obvious element in the film itself but adequately supported the movie. Camera moved quite well that puts the actors and settings in ways that are acceptable by audience standard. Coloring and lighting were amazing, presented well, visually. The editing was clean as the transitions between scenes were perfectly executed.

 

Conclusion

Overall, for movie-goers such as both of us, this film is acceptable. Some might regard that this film lacked of plots or needed more action but they need to know that it was a pilot project for the team, a platform to start other indigenous theme movie. For a film intended for 1 hour duration, Huminodun movie managed to portray its intended theme.

This movie is about sacrifice. Sacrifice made by Ponompuan for her community. The theme is about sacrifice. The crew and cast during pre and post production sacrificed their own time to produce something that proudly highlights Kadazan belief, culture and way of life. As Sabahans, we need to support them so that they will be more motivated to produce greater films in the future.

While each of us has the right to voice out any weaknesses in the movie, at the same time we need to sacrifice our ego and accept the film as it is. Had the team being allocated bigger budget, we both believe that they are capable to produce an epic film. They did their best. The actors and actresses did their best too. We need to give them the standing ovation during the premiere as they really need that support.

To future Unduk Ngadau contestants, especially for 2018, this is the movie that you should watch and embrace the values, understanding the intended message and start polishing your indigenous language. Not a straight prediction (as we did for 2017 edition-click HERE and HERE), but the winner of Unduk Ngadau 2018 is someone who speaks for her community, represent her people perfectly well and who understood the meaning of sacrifice. Believe us, in 2018, beauty will be the last thing the judges will look into.

 

Acknowledgement

curiostraveller.com wish to congratulate Siung Film Production, the Sponsors, the crew and cast for putting their best effort in producing the first ever Huminodun movie. It is indeed a start for all of us to see more interesting production in regard to Sabah’s indigenous people, their languages and cultures. It is indeed a start for the world to see Sabahans capabilities in producing amazing films. It is a way to finely put our values for the world to see and appreciate. Last but not least, it is indeed a noble way to promote Sabah as one great tourism destination.

For more updates, visit Huminodun Movie Official Facebook Page: Click HERE

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