Lights, camera, action!

03 Aug 2017 / 11:21 H.

AT eight years old, Dharius Zulkefli was obsessed with his toys, using them to create stories. Nothing held his interest for long until he discovered the television.
"In that instant, I saw images and stories come to life, better than (what my imagination could conjure). I spent my childhood and adolescence watching movies and TV shows, taking breaks, of course, to eat. My parents fed my hunger for stories because they just love telling stories."
The 26-year-old film-maker recalls telling his mother that he wanted to be an actor but the thought of being in front of the camera made him nervous. Finally gathering the courage when he was 19, he picked up a camera and began shooting a silent film. With the help of the internet, he taught himself how to put the film together.
"My first audience was my parents, who spent a great deal laughing mostly because their son was portraying Charlie Chaplin but their reactions proved to me that I can do this, that it is not impossible."
Since then, he began editing on a freelance basis, jumping at every chance to direct until it finally led him to New York City.
One of his short films, Kun Fayakun, won the Best Editing award at the United International Film Festival (UIFF) 2016 and the Best Editing Student award at Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards (LAIFF) 2016. Another short film, Fado, was also nominated for the Student Film award at the Los Angeles Cinefest 2016.
Kun Fayakun is about a man in a vegetative state who must battle his inner demons to awaken from his slumber. And Fado is about a man with Alzheimer's.
In a way, they're both focused on the struggles of the mind. What is it about the mind that interests you so?
It was by coincidence at first but I do admit that I'm drawn to the subject of the mind and that it has become a common theme in many of my works.
There is so much we know, there is so much we don't about the human condition.
Every character is different, understanding them allows me to tell the story better. Every time you explore the characters' minds, their wants and needs, you discover yourself a little more. It challenges you to really think about the human condition and our beliefs.
Could you share any anecdotes about the production that is the most memorable to you?
Kun Fayakun was the smallest production I ever directed, the most we ever had on set were five crew members. I sat down with the cinematographer, Diego Cordero and we spoke about how we couldn't wait to tell this story, that we need to do it, now.
During one of the last days of filming, Diego was sick, I was recovering, the weather was unbearably cold and we were on top of a mountain. We looked at each other and knew we needed to keep pushing forward, although our bodies were weak, we had the strength to tell the story.
This primal experience of film-making is a memory that I will take to my grave.
That even in the darkest of hours, we must remember that the sun will rise. That if you want to make a movie, pick up a camera and just do it.
Could you reveal some details about your plans for the future?
I'm currently producing a short film for my mentor, Christopher Goutman (multiple Emmy Award winner) and directing a short film, The Selfish Ones, for two writers whose last film won the Manhattan Film Festival.

I am also in development for two feature films – one titled Inevitable, a thriller and the other is a film I am writing that falls in the realm of boxing, a dream project of mine.
If you could meet a future version of yourself, say the Dharius Zulkefli of 2027, what would you say?
"That was a good ten years, but stop slacking and get back to work".

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