In a first for the Malaysian film industry, Till Death: Azalea's Wrath is officially the first locally-produced film to premiere exclusively on Netflix
Also known as Dendam Azalea, the horror flick is now streaming on Netflix in over 190 countries worldwide, making it the first Malaysian film to make its debut exclusively on the streaming platform.
Written, directed, and produced by Sein Qudsi (whom you might know as a member of R&B group Ruffedge), the movie stars Khir Rahman, Vanidah Imran, Nam Ron, Kodi Rasheed, Zain Hamid, and Zulaika Zahari.
Ahead of the movie's premiere, we got to sit down with the director and cast for a chat about being in a Netflix-exclusive movie and what it means for the future of content and censorship in Malaysia:
1. First things first, what is Till Death: Azalea's Wrath about?
The movie follows a couple - Suraya (played by Vanidah Imran) and Azman (Khir Rahman) - who had just lost their baby due to complications during childbirth. In a bid to start afresh, the couple adopted a little boy and moved their family into a new house.
Little do they know, the house carries a dark secret... and a vengeful spirit seeks justice for her undue death.
2. It's not just a horror movie; part of the supernatural arc is tied to a murder mystery
Zulaika Zahari, who plays the titular Azalea, gave us a teaser of her character:
"My character Azalea was a nice lady with a child, and they used to live in the house [the couple moved into]. But her child got kidnapped, then [the kidnappers] killed my character and stuffed her into a water container, and that's how dendam Azalea began."
Spearheading the investigation is Bakri, an inspector played by Zain Hamid who's been on the case for several months despite the lack of leads... or even a body.
"[Azalea] went missing, so we don't know if she got kidnapped or has died or was killed. The case is considered a cold case, but he has a strong instinct regarding [robbers] Samad and Dan, so he kept following them."
3. The movie will also highlight how the loss of a child affects relationships and a family, especially for the mother
"I did not want to just make another horror movie that's only focused horror," director Sein Qudsi said, adding that he wanted the movie to have "a strong relatable story at heart".
"Apart from the horror genre, the main theme of this film is family support. Losing a child is a great loss and affects a family in many ways - especially the mother," he explained.
Vanidah Imran, who plays Suraya, chimed in, "Of course, the big picture is a mother's love. Mothers would do anything for their child, regardless of whether it's your own child, or a child you cared for. Nobody can break that bond."
4. Lead actress Vanidah Imran drew from her personal struggles for her role, having experienced the loss of a child herself
Opening up about her own experiences with post-natal depression and miscarriage, Vanidah said, "I almost went through post-natal depression when I had my first child, so when I got this role, I understood the stress and what depression was about, and of course, losing a child... it's something else."
"For Suraya, she lost it at birth. Between my daughter and her brother, I lost one in between, about two months in. It was very disappointing, although it was only two months plus, but I know what it felt to [lose a baby]," she added.
5. Kodi Rasheed, who plays a minor antagonist in the movie, rejected a long-term project because it has always been his dream to work with veteran actor Nam Ron
Nam Ron plays Dan, whose "full-time job" is to rob rich people's houses.
"My character in this film is considered an antagonist, because he's involved in a crime that led to the supernatural events and spiritual revenge in the movie," the veteran actor added.
As for Kodi Rasheed, it was a dream role that he did not hesitate to take up, as it gave him the opportunity to work alongside the veteran actor.
"I play Samad, who is Abang Nam Ron's [character's] partner-in-crime. So in his last job, he accidentally killed Azalea and because we wanted to get rid of evidence, we stuffed her in a water container. But after a few months, her spirit started disturbing him, so he tried to tell Dan but Dan didn't believe him. Last sekali... watch to find out!"
6. Netflix's involvement in the film was only confirmed after shooting had wrapped, but it was no doubt an exciting surprise for the cast
Sein hopes that having Netflix onboard as a distribution option for local films can "bridge the gap" between Malaysian films and other countries.
"To know that audiences in 190 countries will have the chance to watch this film is amazing. It's a major opportunity that gives hope to filmmakers like myself to create more content that we believe in," he said.
Nam Ron added, "Another thing is, with Netflix, it's good competition for our industry. Last time, we only relied on Malaysian productions and cinemas, now we have healthy competition to maybe help improve our film industry in terms of quality."
7. Last but not least, we had to ask - what do they think about calls to restrict and censor LGBT and sexual content on Netflix?
"I just feel this - as much as people are saying we have to protect the younger generation, it doesn't mean that it's gonna influence them. At the end of the day, it's how you raise them and what you taught them at home. Like for me and my children, I always have conversations with them, and they're very open with stuff like that," Vanidah Imran said.
She added, "We all have our own beliefs, our own religion, our own cultures, so hold on to it. Those are just stories being told, those situations happen all around the world. The main point is - open your mind."
Kodi Rasheed echoed the sentiment, saying that he personally prefers a looser grip when it comes to censorship for Malaysian audiences.
"There's definitely a need to be mindful of the sensitivities of our culture in Malaysia, but no matter how much you restrict, if people want to consume such content, they will look for it. Even if you block sites like Netflix or YouTube, they will find a way."
A Netflix original series based on a Malaysian author's novel is also slated to be released soon. Read more about the upcoming Ghost Bride TV adaptation:
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