First Feature Film From Brunei ‘Yasmine’ Was Directed By A Woman


“Where on earth is Brunei?” you may be asking. It is a small country bordering Malaysia, and according to the UN, it boasts the second-highest standard of living in south-east asia, behind Singapore. Also, its citizens are among the richest in the world, thanks to vast oil and gas reserves. The country is a tourist hotspot for shopping and eating. But there’s one thing missing…

A film industry. Unlike other Asian countries who have a thriving entertainment industry, Brunei is way behind, until one woman stepped up and decided to change that statistic.

The very first commercial feature film is set to be released from the tiny country, and what’s awesome is that it is directed by a woman! Her name is Siti Kamaluddin, and the film is called ‘Yasmine: The Final Fist’. No release date has been set at the moment, but it has been creating a bit of a buzz around the world on popular websites such as the Guardian, Indiewire, and Screen Daily.

These sites draw a likening to the film ‘Wadjda’ which was the first film ever to be released from Saudi Arabia, and was also directed by a woman by the name of Haifaa Al Mansour. Both these films are showing how women are the catalyst for breaking barriers in regions where they have previously been oppressed and not allowed a platform to raise their voice in any way.

‘Yasmine’ is the coming-of-age story of a girl who wants to become a champion at silat – Brunei’s hypnotic and dance-like answer to kung fu – despite her single father’s opposition.

It was made on a budget of $2million, with a $120,000 development grant from Brunei Economic Development Board. While they had a pretty decent budget for a feature, the process came with its own challenges. Brunei only has a population of roughly 400, 000 so they had to look elsewhere to fill roles on the film.


“I’m Bruneian, my line producer is from Malaysia, and it’s been a challenge getting extras. Normally you’d go to talent for this stuff but that doesn’t exist here, so we have to do it all ourselves: advertising, calling schools, sending text messages,” said director Siti in an interview with the Guardian.

Working with inexperienced crew is challenging, and it’s my first time directing a feature film, so all of us are going through this,” she adds. “It’s been a wonderful journey, but I’m not going to kid anybody by saying it’s easy.”

The lead actress is a Brunei local Liyana Yus, 20, who had never previously thought of acting as a career, but decided to give it a go.

“All of my friends have been asking me, ‘How did you get the part?'” she laughs shyly. “Being an actress never crossed my mind, but I thought I’d go for the audition and I got the part.”

In Muslim country where alcohol and live music are banned, it is a pretty big deal to see this film being made. It shows that women aren’t afraid of challenging the status quo and are willing to seek new frontiers. Feminism in its finest form!

Siti says the film is an important cultural statement about Brunei to the rest of the world.


“You see a typical Hollywood high school movie – it’s all about their lives,” she explains. “When Yasmine goes to school, she’s wearing a tudong (hijab). She has her boy problems, she fights with her parents, her grandmother eats ambuyat (a local delicacy) and lives in the water village and uses a water taxi [to get around]. I make it look really normal. Not like in a documentary-style film, but in an everyday setting. I just want to show that, yes, this is part of our culture, but actually, everybody is the same.”

The last film to be made in Brunei was in the 1960s was a guide on how to be a good citizen produced by the Ministry of Religious Affairs. It seems the release of ‘Yasmine’ will change the landscape of the highly regulated broadcast industry there, and hopefully encourage a generation of women as well as men to be creative and turn to media as a powerful platform to raise their voices.

Forget any of the ‘Karate Kid’ movies, coz this film looks badass! Directed by a woman, starring a girl in the lead role, check out the trailer below uploaded by Origin Films:



17 thoughts on “First Feature Film From Brunei ‘Yasmine’ Was Directed By A Woman

  1. Siti Kamaluddin just lied to you. The last film was Ada Apa Dengan Rina…nominated Best Picture -comedy in ASEAN international film festival 2013,
    Won special jury award.
    ADA APA DENGAN RINA was also played in Spore Asean Film Festival 2013, Luang Prabang film festival 2013, and Jeddah Asian film festival 2014!!

  2. Dear Ehsan, those are ASEAN Film Festivals. They have never gone further than that. If you look at the movie cinematically, Apa Ada Dengan Rina is just another television movie played on the big screen. Yasmine was cinematically made and it portrays Brunei pretty well. Apa Ada Dengan Rina is an embarrassment showing how Brunei men are perverted, and you think it’s humorous. I’m not being biased, I’m being realistic. You want people to support you, make good films. There’s a difference between a normal film and a feature film.

    1. Nicky, Huh? Jeddah is not ASEAN even Korea is NOT ASEAN.
      Whatever it is, a lie is still a Lie.
      For us Bruneian, AADR is the 2nd BRUNEI MOVIE!

      and what did yasmine portray? Fighting for Love? a Bruneian Stupid Girl fighting For Love? a Bruneian stupid girl who doesnt even wear tudung properly(Brunei is an Islamic Country hence Wearing a proper headscarf would portray Brunei PERFECTLY) who fights for LOVE. how CHEAP is that. Cheap bitch fighting for love. they’re trying to corrupt youngster’s mind!
      Infact, Liyana yus is a pretty decent muslim girl who wear tudung wherever she go before becoming Yasmine. but eversince she started acting as Yasmine, she removed her headscarfs and wear sexy now, is that what you call Portrays Brunei pretty well? What kind of role model is that? oh i bet you’re not a muslim so you wouldnt really care much about that. duh!
      Still, i think it’s Cheap for a girl to fight for love!

  3. Overall the movie was directed poorly but the acting was good because we all must agree that anybody could write any great story with plenty of good/great ideas and support/help from others/friends as well. Obviously, the result of the movie would be very poor as well. As for the recommendation, the movie was not a good one which needed improvement on how the story went on from one movie scene to the next until the end of the story.

    Now we talk about the actions in the movie, most of the fights were poorly performed which we could tell that the actors & actresses were lack of experience to do the action for the fight scenes and needed more training on which part they were poor at regardless of what the martial art was. Any of you can refer to any great actor such as Donnie Yen or Jackie Chan for Kung Fu or Scott Adkins for flipping around or Iko uwais for Silat and many more (you do your research yourself) if you would like to understand what I would like to explain about actions in a fight scene. Plus, drama is easy but the action part is not. (please don’t refer to bollywood stunts or actions because they are not making any sense and ridiculous)

    Next, most of the dramas in the movie were good in general except for Yasmine fell in love with a guy who was not in part of any action in the movie at all to explain why Yasmine had a feeling for him. This is a poor way to describe how a girl fall in love with a guy or anybody. Seriously, Adi was just doing the Silat technique without any fight and Yasmine fell for that? Just like that? That would be ridiculous, unless he learned a voodoo technique to mind control Yasmine to fall in love with him which was even more ridiculous. It would be fine if the movie was supposed to be a horror movie.

    There were a lot of things needed to be considered in this movie which was I don’t want to proceed any further because the director should know what to do as a director, to give a good or great result. It was not supposed to be a perfect one because “nothing is perfect for sure” but try to do better next time.

    As for the conclusion, for sure it is easier to say than to get the job done. However, there were more cons than pros in this comment for this movie which I am being fair for everybody who agree and disagree, ladies and gentlemen the worst part of the movie was Yasmine and two of her friends went through a simple and easy training and did very good Silat during the tournament……. Seriously, I am done writing and you figure out the rest.

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