Nov 23, 2023
Charlene Jane, Herlea Titieanna
Tasked with an assignment to write about the history of their country, two students are transported back to the past where they learn all about their country’s rich history and how it has shaped their lives today.
Malaysian short-film Cikgu Hana: Director’s Cut, the version that was submitted for this review, prefaces itself with an apology. It seems that in post-production many of the films production files stored on an external hard drive were lost or damaged, meaning that only ten percent of the files were recoverable. What is presented here is a re-edited version of what was salvageable with very mixed results.
What we do get to enjoy in what is presented over the films six-and-a-half-minute runtime is a beautifully created visual spectacle of rotoscoping, a process animators use where live-action footage is traced over frame by frame to create some truly wonderful animated works of art that add depth and flourishes to sequences that otherwise couldn’t have been achieved. And that is where Cikgu Hana really shines. The animation here looks amazing, really bringing the whole piece alive, awash with vibrant colour and pure imagination that is a joy to watch. Much like the film's predecessor Hana, the previous offering from D-Mulsion Productions that is equally remarkable visually, Cikgu Hana is a feast for the eyes.
But unfortunately, given the state of the rest of the film, this is a re-edit that is very rough around the edges and with simply way too many pieces missing. Narratively there are clear gaps, plot points jump suddenly from one to another and it becomes hard to keep a grasp on what exactly is going on, although the animation does help a lot to convey the intended story as best as it can. Editing is choppy and jarring, which is of course to be expected given so little to work with, but it does undeniably have a big impact, even hindering the fabulous artistry at times. On the positive side, the film does manage to showcase the obvious talent these filmmakers have, a fact all the more confirmed by looking at what was achieved with Hana, so it’s really frustrating and saddening to know that here there would have been definite quality, that if troubles hadn’t occurred this film could have really sang.
One does sympathise of course with what must be a heartbreaking loss of a lot of quality work, especially if the aforementioned and fully completed Hana is anything to go by, but one can also only judge what they are presented. And unfortunately, this film in this state doesn’t have enough. It’s a real shame that what would have been clearly a lot of hard and considered work hasn’t been able to make it to the finished product. If Cikgu Hana can one day be fully realised as it was meant to and deserves to be, it could be something special.