The casting process, which saw actress Zafreen Zairizal chosen to play the main character, was conducted via social media due to the pandemic. Image: Ghost Grrrl Pictures / Instagram.

Malaysian cinema’s latest scion, ‘Tiger Stripes’, is set to make waves at its premiere at La Semaine de la Critique in May.  

The pioneering film, which is Malaysian film-maker Amanda Nell Eu’s debut feature film, will be the first film directed by a Malaysian woman to be invited to the French film festival.  

La Semaine de la Critique, also known as the International Critics’ Week, is an independent section of the Cannes Film Festival that focuses on discovering and promoting new and emerging directors from around the world. It will run between May 17 and 25 this year. 

‘Tiger Stripes’ takes on themes of female empowerment and tackles the experience of a girl’s entry into womanhood – wrapped in an unlikely, but seemingly apt, subgenre of horror.  

The film sees Malaysian actress Zafreen Zairizal play ‘Zaffan’, a young girl going through puberty who discovers horrifying truths along the way. As her body changes, she tries to conceal her metamorphosis to her friends unsuccessfully. 

The film builds from there into a fully-fledged body-horror within a Southeast Asian setting. Body-horror is a subgenre of horror that exhibits grotesque or psychologically disturbing violations of the human body. 

“I got the idea of Tiger Stripes when I was thinking about these physical changes that we all go through, that poignant transition period from child to adult we call puberty. I personally hated the experience, and I remember discovering things on my body, wishing so hard for these things to go away. On top of that, I disliked it when people would point out these changes and openly talk about my body. I felt uncomfortable, insecure, and, at times, even monstrous,” Eu said in an interview with Semaine de la Critique. 

The film was produced by Foo Fei Ling for Ghost Grrrl Pictures, a Kuala Lumpur-based film company that was co-founded with Eu. It was co-produced by Fran Borgia from Singapore; Patrick Mao Huang from Taiwan; Jonas Weydemann from Germany; Yulia Evina Bhara from Indonesia; Ellen Havenith from the Netherlands; as well as Pierre Menahem and Juliette Lepoutre from France.  

Eu, who is a master’s graduate of London Film School, is also known for ‘Lagi Senang Jaga Sekandang Lembu’, or ‘It’s Easier To Raise Cattle’, which is a short film released in 2017 that also deals with themes of girlhood.

Other Malaysian films which have been invited to the Cannes Film Festival include Woo Ming Jin’s ‘The Tiger Factory’ in 2010; ‘Karaoke’ in 2009, which was directed by Chris Chong Chan Fui; and U-Wei Saari’s ‘Kaki Bakar’, or ‘The Arsonist’, in 1995.

Malaysia’s return to Cannes comes after Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian woman to win best actress at the 95th Academy Awards in the US earlier this year.