17 Dec 2021
Saiful Azam, Kamarul Syukri, Florida
Filmed over the course of eight hours in early 2011, Wan Dinnie’s Keringatmu is quite a remarkable thing. This no-budget Malaysian short, shot in guerrilla-style, was originally released as ‘Pilihanmu’ and has since been reworked into this 2014 Director’s Cut. As explained at the film’s opening, they were unable to film every scene, so have filled in the gaps with expository intertitles, which also cover any missing dialogue. Despite an obvious lack of budget and a very tight deadline (Keringatmu was originally filmed with a view to entering it into a competition), Wan Dinnie’s film is an ultimately compelling if shaky effort.
Syahmi (Saiful Azam) informs his proud parents that he has just been accepted into a teacher training institute. His father (Kamarul Syukri) gives him a phone and RM200 (currently about £35), adding that if he ever needs any more money, he can always call. Swept up in his new life, and wanting to impress his friends and later his girlfriend, Syahmi takes his father up on the offer again and again. Syahmi’s father struggles to keep up with his son’s demands, and this pressure to provide for and support his only child inevitably leads to tragedy.
The guerrilla-style shooting adds a real sense of urgency to the proceedings; handheld shots shake and judder, heightening the intensity of mundane tasks. The camera operator runs behind or alongside Azam in moments of distress, giving the impression that we have been swept up along with him and his bad decisions, and are now struggling to keep up. Shots are cut quickly, and edited to overlap, creating a sense of Syahmi becoming totally overwhelmed by his situation. It is abundantly clear that the filmmakers had no time and few resources, but they absolutely make the best of what they had. One moment that sticks out is how, towards the end of the film, dusk falls. While presumably unplanned, the tone is perfect: as the film gets dark, so too does the day.
Keringatmu is far from perfect. The acting is often stilted (though Azam sells his frustration and distress), the dialogue uninspiring, and the story of a young man wanting money to impress people is a familiar one. However, it is always wonderful seeing these no-budget shorts with flashes of greatness. Towards the end, there is a special effect that, while easy to predict, looks very convincing. This decade-old film shows real promise, and Wan Dinnie’s more recent work can only build on that.