Filmmaker/writer Amir Muhammad decided, together with his locally raised colleague Badrul Hisham Ismail, to shoot a film in Terengganu. As a basis for their documentary, they used the book “Voyage to Kelantan” (1838) by Munshi Abdullah (1796-1854), who wrote it after visiting the area for one day.

Voyage to Terengganu screened on International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR)

Following Abdullah’s path through his writings, the documentary functions like a tour guide to the area, as the two men roam in the streets, taking in as many, different images possible. Furthermore, they talk to the locals, most of which seem to be occupied with fishing and small commerce. The locals talk about a number of subjects, including religion, pop arts, the local martial art called Silat and other subjects. However, as the documentary progresses, we learn that this society is governed by superstition, women are considered secondary citizens, and the slave trade is not forbidden.

There  are a number of very interesting scenes, like the one in the fish market, but the most impressive one occurs when they shoot people racing with their bikes, in a kind of motocross that moves, however, backwards. On the other hand, the funniest consists of a local with a huge afro showing some card tricks on the camera.

Saifuddin Musa and Iddin Shah’s cinematography is quite accomplished, both in the close-ups during the interviews and the ones taken from a distance, which highlight the environment. Razaisyam Rashid’s uses a very interesting technique in the editing of the film, which reminded me of old silent movies: Black screens with passages from the “Voyage to Kelantan” are placed between the scenes, each time the setting changes. In that fashion, the history of the place is also presented in the documentary.

“Voyage to Terengganu” is a very informative documentary, which manages to capture the essence of the area, in just 62 minutes.