Zahir Omar’s ‘Fly By Night’ Opens On Home Ground


Six months after it started making its rounds at film festivals, Malaysian heist film Fly By Night is finally enjoying a nationwide release in local cinemas. Unfortunately, tomorrow (April 17) will be the last day you’ll get to watch it in the cinemas.

Following its world premiere at the 23rd Busan Film Festival in South Korea in October 2018, Fly By Night went on to screen in several other film festivals namely, the 13th Jogja NETPAC Asian Film Festival and the 3rd International Film Festival & Awards Macao, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2019 and New York Asian Film Festival 2019.

The story revolves around four taxi drivers who try to make ends meet by extorting money from wealthy customers they pick up from the airport. The team of small-time crooks comprises brothers Tai Lo (Sunny Pang) and Sai Lo (Fabian Loo), and their friends Gwai Lo (Jack Tan) and Ah Soon (Eric Chen).  (Read our review here.)

However, trouble begins when the impatient youngsters Sai Lo and Gwai Lo decide to strike out on their own. Little do they know that Inspector Kamal (Bront Palarae) is onto their shenanigans.

Making his feature film directorial debut with Fly By Night, Malaysian filmmaker Zahir Omar is always quick to give credit to his late friend Ivan Yeo, with whom he co-wrote the original draft of the script. The final version was fine-tuned by Frederick Bailey and Dain Said.

During the recent launch event for Fly By Night, the 37-year-old helmer said that “without him, all this would not be possible”, referring to Yeo.

When queried about his choice of such a bleak genre for a first-time feature, Zahir offered: “I like a mix of things. I like Westerns. I like crime thrillers. But, it was really just a story that needed the grittiness.”

The director spoke of how he kicked off the shoot with the most challenging scene.

“It was the first day, when the interrogation scene happened, with Bront and Fabian. So, that was the first scene we shot. It was challenging to get into the momentum of things, and the intensity of it. Especially when it came right towards the end of the film.

“And, then you have a heavy hitter like Bront and a very intense actor like Fabian, together in the scene, it was panas (hot), man! The air-cond was on, but we were sweating!”

He also revealed how there was a restriction in scenes that involved the local police.

“The Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) was very helpful. They told us basically you can do whatever you want – similar uniforms, similar cars and all that, but you cannot be in Kuala Lumpur,” adding that the production made enough changes in order for Fly By Night to be set in Kuala Lumpur.

Inspector Kamal (Bront Palarae) interrogating crooked cabbie Sai Lo (Fabian Loo). Photo: Handout

With characters that speak several languages including Mandarin, Cantonese, Malay and English, Zahir hopes Fly By Night’s generous mix of languages heralds a new kind of Malaysian film, one that resists being pigeonholed according to language.

“I hope it doesn’t get segregated any more. We can depict a more real Malaysia,” he added.

The question on everyone’s lips after the premiere screening was, unsurprisingly, whether there would be a sequel. Though Zahir could not confirm this, he did drop a hint about “a series spin-off”.

“There will be more from us for sure. I don’t know if it’s the same specific story, but hopefully with our squad, we can continue to do more great things. We’re working on a few things between us. Hopefully, this does well. Then that will allow us to do more insane, entertaining things, and let us push the boundaries a little bit more.”

Fly By Night is now showing at GSC cinemas nationwide.





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