by Amanda Eu
Open Doors Hub | Selected project 2019
by Amanda Eu
11-year-old ZAFFAN is a rebellious and carefree girl until she starts to experience horrifying physical changes to her body. Struggling to maintain being normal at school, Zaffan is in denial of her inevitable changes and tries to cover her grotesque self.
Her body however reaches a state where she is no longer able to hide it anymore causing her friends to turn against her. The students gang up to bully Zaffan, when all hysteria breaks loose – teenage girls drop to the floors in fits, turning it into an epidemic spread across the whole school.
Rumours of a monstrous figure cause fear and frenzy to spread, and a visiting MEDICAL OFFICIAL appoints himself in command – his sole mission to save the girls and drive away the demon that is haunting them.
Zaffan withdraws to the jungle feeling lonely and isolated... that is until Zaffan decides to reveal her true self, her wrath, rage and her beauty, to everyone.
The time when I went through puberty was terrifying – as a child I was disgusted by it and wished for it to go away. As women, there have always been many elements of shame when it comes to our bodies and I think this all begins when you are physically transforming from child to adult.
This story is a parable, using body horror and femininity to convey the core theme of the film, which is that every single one of us as human beings are all trying to hide our inner monster, our true selves. We are told to fear it, we are told to shame it and we are told to reject it. But these inner selves are what celebrates our individuality, our creativity, our ability to have a personal voice. Zaffan’s inner monster – her inner strength and beauty – is coming out and she has to learn to face and accept her own true and wonderful self.
A world told through the eyes of 11-year-old girls – of emojis, 10 second videos, selfies, likes and dislikes. A world told through the eyes of my 11-year-old self – of tiny notes scribbled on scrap paper, braiding each other’s hair, stealing your sister’s lipstick, ghost stories and warnings that made me sleep with the lights on, and the roadside dust collecting on bright neon colours of the local sweet shop. It’s a scrapbook of Malaysian girlhood mixed into the world of TikTok and Instagram, a reality that only belongs to the three girls, Zaffan, Farah and Mariam, alone.
The project has been workshopped in the Southeast Asian Film Lab, Less Is More, Talents Tokyo, Cinemart BoostNL programme and EAVE Ties That Bind. It was the recipient of the Hubert Bals Development Fund and Talents Tokyo award in 2018. We are fine-tuning the script (draft 4). With the collaboration of a local visual artist, Sharon Chin, we aim to present the moodboard by July. The application for a national production grant is in progress. We are reaching out to potential co-producers in Europe and Asia. Currently exploring technical leads for the project.
Estimated running time
Writing and Development