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‘Satu Suku’ by John Hafiz is a fun horror short based on a true story and retold to be scarier. Watch it here

Spotlight - John Hafiz 1


Tell us about yourself
I am a film editor, writer, and director based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. My first break was in 2014 when a short film I edited, Rozita Binti Roslan, won the Grand Prize at BMW Shorties. The film was screened at international film festivals including Cambodia International Film Festival and Short Shorts Film Festival in Tokyo. I also edited Terbit 23, produced by the same team, and was nominated for Best Short Film at the Malaysian Film Festival.

Since then, I have worked on a number of feature films including Kami Histeria (2014), directed by Shamyl Othman, Eropah Here I Am (2016) and Kontena Ana (2017) directed by Bernard Chauly, Motif (2019) by Nadiah Hamzah and Eye on the Ball (2020) by Yihwen Chen.

Moving forward, John Hafiz wants to create his own stories. His first short film Satu was shortlisted in 2019 BMW Shorties.  He wrote and directed the film.

How did the idea and story of this film come about?

When the MCO started, I got bored. I only have one editing project to work on.  I was looking for any opportunity to work on anything film-related. So, when Kuman Pictures announced the challenge, I was very excited, perhaps this would be my chance to work on another film! However, I have never made or even thought of making a horror film before. This would be an interesting challenge for me.

At first, I was working on another story called Satu Badan, a storyline that would require only one talent. It was written for Paul, my friend who acted in Satu Suku (I was avoiding to act). The story is about the ‘ghost’ that lives inside all of us. However, two days before our planned shoot, I remember a story back in my hostel days where I used to prank my juniors with this one particular prank. I wrote the script in one day and it became Satu Suku. So, Satu Suku was based on a true event.

What inspiration or references did you draw from in terms of other films, mediums, filming techniques?
No specific references for Satu Suku. During the filming, every decision was made based on the limitations that we have. I don’t know a lot about technical stuff so we just used Paul’s iPhone to shoot. I wanted it in a 4:3 ratio because there will be less space shown in the film. So, a smaller space to light up.

What were some of the challenges you faced in getting this film made?

To keep a straight face, especially when we were shooting each other for the close-ups. (We were always laughing and had to shoot a lot of takes!) There were a lot of tergelak takes. 

It also took a lot of effort for me to memorize the script. Even as the scriptwriter, I was having a hard time remembering the lines. I almost didn’t want to submit the film because I really don’t like my acting.