By Shazwan Zulkiffli

For some of us, high school was the time of our lives. We didn’t have to worry about rent, coming to work everyday or filing your taxes, but for quite a few of us, high school was a black hole of bad or at least, embarassing memories that suck you back in kicking and screaming every time you stumble upon your former schoolmates at the mall or the burger stall.

Malaysian director Adam Zainal captured the chaotic nightmare that most of us suffered from through a cheeky Mean Girls-like crew in his latest short film, Kantoi. Adam, who broke through the mainstream with his short Ngelamun, assembled a young cast to shoot Kantoi, and together with producer Ashley Tong and his team members, they filmed a sociopolitical piece disguised as a teen flick.

Kantoi starts out with Alia’s dilemma in coming clean and telling her good friend Raihan about her pregnancy test. Trouble ensues when Raihan’s gossipy nature goes into detective mode to find out more about the owner of the test result, that later involves more familiar high school archetypes that we all know and hate: the drama queen, the holier-than-thou person, the racist and more. What happens when a deadly rumor circulates around the school? Character assassination and total disaster.

The short film perfectly encapsulates Malaysian high school culture by highlighting how a rumor can turn into madness.  Like in the film, it usually starts in front of the toilet mirror, where students of both genders would come to waste away time and escape the boredom of the classroom. In this case, Mawar Remy’s character Alia discovers that she’s pregnant but to her luck, Raihan, played by Hannan Kamaruddin, finds her holding the pregnancy test kit in her hand. Alia panics, and at the spur of the moment, says that someone in the school is pregnant, without Hannan realising that it was actually her. Things get worse when more people get dragged into Alia’s lies and in the end, Alia faces total rejection from her community as she cries in Raihan’s arms where it all started – in front of the toilet mirror.

Lazada Malaysia

Adam Zainal showcases the petty but painful tragedy that is high school life in a fashion where no Malaysian director has done. Adam and his writer Arya Ilyasa wrote the script in a language that most urban high schoolers would understand, while casually and subtly inserted common, but unspoken problems within the high school sphere like blatant sexism, fat-shaming, and racism among peers. The attention to detail in which the team has showcased is so immense, that the characters’ uniforms were chosen based on the characters’ social traits: Raihan wears a Police Cadet uniform, symbolic to her acts of investigating the matter, and Sabrina and Nazatul, the always-arguing pair in Puteri Islam clothing, echoing hints of the recent heated Liberals vs Conservatives argument you can catch on social media. The disaster that Alia faces at the end of film shows what high school is actually about: a bad patch that seemed like forever, but one people will eventually forget about in the end.

According to sources, the team will have public viewing of the short film in the near future. For more updates regarding the film, visit thelevel.my.

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