Wednesday May 2, 2012
The jungle beckons
By SHEELA CHANDRAN
Five fun-loving travellers deal with the unknown in the deep jungles of Sarawak in found-footage horror movie, The Borneo Incident.
CAMPING and jungle trekking are great ways to rekindle our love for nature and appreciate the simple things in life. While outdoor activities can be fun, there are many precautionary measures to take to avoid being ill (or killed) in primitive and uninhabited jungles.
TV host Henry Golding can certainly attest to this after his three-week camping experience in the dense forest of Batang Ai, Sarawak. Making his big screen debut in the movie, Golding was stationed in the jungle in February to film American director Michael Helfman’s found footage mystery/suspense movie, The Borneo Incident.
“It was an unbelievable and unforgettable experience. Besides having to survive without comforts like water and electricity, I was badly bitten by bugs and had chanced upon insect species that I had never seen. Judging from the 200-odd bug bites on my back, I can affirm that surviving in the jungle is no walk in the park,” says Golding at the press conference to promote the movie recently.
The charming host admits making a big mistake when he assumed that jungle trekking was an easy feat. He took it for granted, thinking the experience would be similar to his travel experiences on travelogues Without Boundaries: The Great Outdoors and Without Boundaries: Islands And Beaches.
“I didn’t think it was a challenge based on my experience hosting two travelogues. My perception changed after my three-week ‘jungle ordeal’,” recalls Golding.
Besides bug bites and facing hazards in the jungle, the popular TV host – whose hosting credits include 8TV Quickie, The Rail World, Now Everyone Can Fly To New Zealand and ESPN’s Castrol Football Crazy – also faced a challenge to slip into his role as a budding actor.
“It took some time to disconnect from my TV hosting personality and slip into character. There were days when shooting stretched for 22 hours. I was exhausted, but after a couple of hours’ rest, we were back on our feet again. That, topped up with unpredictable weather conditions, wild animals and creepy crawlies certainly took a toll on me. Despite the challenges, the eye-opening experience has paved the way for my acting career,” says the 26-year-old, who is of British and Iban parentage.
Rumble in the jungle
Produced by Maverick Media, The Borneo Incident is about five young fun-loving travellers documenting their travels from New York to Malaysia. The purpose of the trip is to discover Henry’s (played by Golding) familial roots in an Iban tribe in Borneo. As they delve deeper into the jungle, they realise that unfamiliar territory is not somewhere one wants to be on the island of Borneo.
Playing Henry’s friends in the movie are Rob Gilliland (from Australia), Mitch Ross (the United States), Fay Hokulani (Singapore) and Helfman. Homegrown supporting cast members Daphne Iking, Carmen Soo, Hansen Lee and Dennis Lau play the local guides.
The Borneo Incident is Maverick Media’s first foray into the world of feature films. Over the past two years, it has produced two business documentaries – Innovation Nation: Malaysia and Innovation Nation: Selangor Malaysia – which were aired on CNBC. It has also produced TV commercials for the United States and Asian markets.
Filmed in a documentary-style feature (1980’s Cannibal Holocaust and 1999’s Blair Witch Project), The Borneo Incident will be released in the fourth quarter of the year.
Helfman chose to film in Malaysia because it is a melting pot of races and cultures and it has interesting scenery.
“Borneo is a land of mystique with many different cultures. It is exotic within Asia itself,” explains Helfman.
Besides the jungles of Batang Ai, the film was shot at a traditional longhouse (the Ukum longhouse) located about 260km from Kuching. For the jungle scenes, cast members trekked further into the jungle and set up camp there for several days. Filming also took place in Pangkor Island and Batu Caves where it featured the Thaipusam celebrations.
Helfman points out that besides showcasing some of Malaysia’s popular tourist sites, the film is ultimately a thriller and horror movie.
“This documentary feature film is scary because it is real. It feels like you are on an adventure with friends and are having the time of your life. When you venture too far into the jungles of Indonesia, strange things happen.”
Besides putting the finishing touches to the movie, Helfman has been busy dealing with several parties for distribution for the film in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei. There are plans to release the movie in Hong Kong and the Philippines. Helfman is also in talks for video and video-on-demand release of the movie in Europe.