Most of us have no idea what life in Brunei
— or even what the culture of this Islamic state on the north coast of Borneo
— is like. A new film titled Yasmine
is about to change that. It’s not only the first movie ever produced in Brunei, but it's also bound to be of interest to you because it’s all about martial arts.
For a clue as to what Yasmine
is about, think Rocky
meets Karate Kid
— but make sure you’re envisioning The Next Karate Kid,
the 1994 sequel that starred Hilary Swank. That’s because Yasmine
paints a picture filled with elements that could have come from any American high-school girl's coming-of-age story: peer pressure, attraction to boys and an ongoing fight for independence from her strict, single-parent dad, who’s unable to accept her adolescent pining and desire to learn pencak silat.
Why does the titular character Yasmine, played by Liyana Yus, want to learn silat? For all the wrong reasons: to fight her high-school nemesis and silat expert Dewi at an upcoming silat tournament, and to win over her childhood sweetheart and silat champion Ali. When Yasmine connects the dots and discovers that Dewi is Ali's new girlfriend, she freaks out, and her yen for victory becomes even stronger. Yet that's dampened when her father enrolls her in a strict Muslim school, where she chooses to wear a red head scarf to symbolize her individuality in a school hierarchy of conservatism.
History sidebar: Although the term “pencak silat” was chosen in 1948 to be a unifying name to describe the Indonesian martial arts, silat is believed to have originated during the powerful Malay empire of Srivijaya (seventh century to 13th century). Some legends hold that unlike most martial arts, silat was not created by a man. A woman named Bima reportedly founded the style of bima sakti, which incorporates a philosophy of never being the first to strike. It also teaches that even if you’re hit, you should try not to hit back. Another version of silat’s founding tells that while she was washing clothes in a river, a woman named Rama Sukana observed a monkey fighting a tiger. She later used the monkey's movements to avoid being physically abused by her husband.
Burton Richardson, Black Belt’s 2015 Self-Defense Instructor of the Year, teamed up with the magazine to make an online course called Silat for the Street. It teaches the techniques from the Indonesian martial art that he’s deemed most effective for modern combat. Click here for details!
Yasmine's first silat teacher in the movie claims to be a master of tenaga dalam,
something akin to chi
in the Chinese martial arts.
However, the filmmakers chose not to delve into the subject, which is unfortunate.
Considering that Yasmine
is a family film, you may find the action is rather lightweight, especially compared to the popular silat-based film series The Raid.
However, Yus holds her own. She spent several months training in kuntao,
a Chinese art widely practiced in Indonesia. That gave her the skill base she needed to endure the fight choreography, which was created by Chan Man-ching, a longtime filmmaking associate of Jackie Chan.
The best thing about Yasmine
is that no matter where the plot’s twists and turns take viewers, at the end of the day, it's the silat that brings Yasmine peace, love, friendship and a deeper understanding of herself and her life. It's almost as if the young martial artist was walking in the footsteps of silat's foremothers.
Watch the trailer for Yasmine here.
Photos courtesy of Originfilms.
Go here to order Dr. Craig D. Reid’s book The Ultimate Guide to Martial Arts Movies of the 1970s: 500+ Films Loaded With Action, Weapons and Warriors.