“Tiger Stripes”, a Malay-language horror film made history by becoming the first Malaysian film to win the top prize at Cannes Critics’ Week. The debut feature of Malaysian director Amanda Nell Eu and producer Foo Fei Ling won the EUR10,000 grand prize at the side event at Cannes dedicated to a filmmaker’s first or second movie.
The film is also still in competition for the Camera d’Or prize, an award for the best first feature film presented in one of the Cannes’ selections (Official Selection, Directors’ Fortnight, or International Critics’ Week). Previously, only three Malaysian films, all by male directors — “Kaki Bakar” (1995) by U-Wei Saari, “Karaoke” (2009) by Chris Chong Chan Fui, and “The Tiger Factory” (2010) by Woo Ming Jin — had ever been invited to Cannes.
The success of “Tiger Stripes” highlights the rise of not just Malaysian, but also Southeast Asian cinema. In April, “Hunger” by Thai director Sitisiri Mongkolsiri was Netflix’s most-watched non-English-language film. “The Big Four,” by Indonesian director Timo Tjahjanto, was previously the second-most watched non-English movie.
Produced under Eu’s production company Ghost Grrrl Pictures, Tiger Stripes centers around a 12-year-old girl who can’t make sense of what is happening with her body as puberty hits. The film stars newcomers Zafreen Zairizal, Deena Ezral and Piqa, as well as established actors Shaheizy Sam and Fatimah Abu Bakar.
“It felt amazing and also unreal, but it’s very real,” Nell Eu told Nikkei Asia about the “Tiger Stripes” premiere at Cannes and the win. “It’s what I and the team have been dreaming of,” she added.