Photography by Kim Mun / Hopscotch Studio; creative direction by Ibnu Aswan; art direction & styling by Joyce Lim; outfits by Emporio Armani; watches by TAG Heuer; makeup by Joey Yap & Wan Ning; hair by Gavin Soh; words by KC Yap & Celeste Goh.
As social and economic orders continue to experience high-speed change spurred on by the injection of new, digital blood, August Man Malaysia has widened the scope of its search for its latest edition of Men of the Year and is proud to present the following accomplished individuals who we believe reflect the dynamic energy, enterprising spirit, creativity and diversity of the era. This diverse mix also includes a twist in the form of a woman, one who has demonstrated more mettle than most men, one we are proud to count as part of our brethren.
In association with Meredes-Benz, Hennessy X.O, TAG Heuer & Emporio Armani.
The Grim Reaper
It all started with a long-distance relationship—The Long Distance Relationship that was shortlisted as the top-10 finalists at the 2011 BMW Shorties, to be exact. Over the last six years, Jared Lee and his entrepreneurial venture, Grim Film, have garnered a substantial résumé that not only consists of endearing short films that play with the heartstrings, but also comedic YouTube-friendly clips that honoured them with a YouTube Silver Play Button for crossing the 100,000-subscriber mark. This year, all hands are on deck for Jared and his team, as they brace for the next chapter with their brand new short film, The Last 7, (which, if you pay close enough attention, stars our 2013 Men of the Year personality, Nick Davis).
What would you say is your approach to success?
Well, I wouldn’t say that it’s been an endless chase after success. It’s always just been translating into visuals whatever I’d like to say on screen. All these accolades that we have picked up so far are just bonuses that came along the way. For someone who has never been to a film school, but being a film enthusiast who frequents the cinemas, I’m constantly trying to improve myself, with notable influences like Christopher Nolan, Edgar Wright and Martin Scorsese to look up to.
Grim Film has been around for six years. For a creative entrepreneur, how do you keep things fresh after so many years?
It goes without saying that for startups like ours, we have to dabble with projects that we may not have a personal connection with, if only to survive and to finally be able to do projects that we feel closer to. However, some do forget about what matters most; we get caught up with the commitments that tie us down as business entrepreneurs and we spend all the money we earned paying off bills that leave none for our personal projects. That’s why every year, I’m very persistent in putting away a part of our money, so to one day be prepared to work on more personal projects. This year, our hard work has paid off: we have put together a short film, The Last 7, and I’m glad to say that it has been shortlisted as one of the top-10 finalists for the 2017 BMW Shorties! I’m broke now, but you know, after wrapping up the project, we remain content, as compared to earning a lot of money doing commissions that your heart may not be fully committed to. Carrying out personal projects like The Last 7, not only it is a good reminder for my team and I, it is also the main reason why Grim Film exists in the first place—it feeds the soul.
Why do you think it is important to work on personal film projects from time to time?
I believe that the mind is made to be conditioned. There was a point in time when we were just working on commercials back to back. Over time, the mind was unexpectedly conditioned into a box that took me some time to get out of. That whole year, whenever I tried to write something for myself, it came out dry and uninspiring. I was afraid that we couldn’t manage a certain filming effect because we might not afford it, and in return, my creativity was affected. I had set an intangible limitation in my head without realising it. So I decided to take a month off from the commercial projects, and just write scripts without a care in the world, most particularly, the budget. You want a Michael Bay-style explosion? Put it into the script! It was only after the hiatus that I started to get my momentum back.
Figure 8 Out
It has been an eye-opening year for Malaysia, especially on the sports front, with the 2017 Southeast Asian Games held in August, in which the country played host to. It has become apparent to the public that Dato’ Lee Chong Wei is not the only sportsperson representing Malaysia on an international level, as many more younger faces stole the spotlight with their many glimmering medals. One of these faces belongs to the 20-year-old figure skater, who has seen much despite his tender age, being the first Malaysian to compete in the World Figure Skating Championships for two consecutive years. In September, Julian Yee came in sixth in the Men’s Singles category, thus, qualifying him to represent Malaysia and compete with the big boys at the 2018 Winter Olympics in February next year in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
How did you get into figure skating, especially at such a young age?
It’s something that I grew into, for sure. I started when I was four, and of course at that age, who has a clue what they want to do with their lives? My mother was in the Ice Skating Association of Malaysia, and it was only natural that me and my older brother, Ryan, got into figure skating. Initially, it was all pretty much for fun, and I had only competed in ISI-sanctioned (Ice Skating Institute) competitions that were regarded as recreational skating. It wasn’t until I was in primary school that I started seeing it as a challenging sport; I started questioning why there were some spins that I couldn’t get right, and I would spend hours on end practising till I got things right. I’m proud to say that I’ve learned all my double jumps by the age of 12. I’d say that I’m a determined person; I’d keep trying until I get the result I want.
What would you say is your approach to success?
It’s all about setting realistic goals. For me, goals are something calculated and within reach. Not only that, once you have set the goals, you have to put your words into action. You have to be disciplined and work towards them. There is no point in setting goals, within reach or not, if you don’t put in the effort to make them come true.
In order to get the proper training, you have turned far away from home to Ontario, Canada, and even started a GoFundMe page following your recent qualification to represent Malaysia to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics. How do you cope with the struggle?
It goes without saying that it is an honour to be given the opportunity to represent Malaysia at the Games for the first time. Unfortunately, since figure skating is still a relatively new sport in Malaysia and is not designated as a core sport for the country, we were not able to get sufficient funds from the authorities to compete at the Games. It is an uphill climb, but I’d prefer to treat it as a motivation for me to work harder. Personally, it’s something worth investing in. I don’t mind going the extra mile by crowdsourcing for funds myself and going down the lesser-known path, if it means promoting the sport in our country, and in turn, putting Malaysia on the map for this sport. I started this journey more than 10 years ago, and I want to go off on a good note, but it does not necessarily mean being an Olympic champion; there’s still a 50/50 chance that I might not win. But if at the end of the day, I’m able to give back to the community, so that future figure skaters (or any niche sports personalities, really) don’t have to go through a time-consuming and expensive route as I did, it’s more than I can hope for.
Paint The Town Red
Together with his iconic Chaigo motif, graffiti artist Kenji Chai has taken over many of the streets across Malaysia, and even in neighbouring countries, with his colourful, larger-than-life artwork. His work generally depicts that of nature and beasts through his creative eye, and his many masterpieces have seen the light at more conventional platforms via collaborations with notable brands, such as Volkswagen and Tiger Beer. More recently, he was one of the six local creative personalities involved in Braun Büffel’s Büffel Art Project in partnership with UNICEF Malaysia, where each personality of different disciplines gave a snippet of their own vision of a Braun Büffel art piece.
How did it all begin for you as an artist?
I grew up in the ‘90s, and comics with cartoons that were famous at the time, such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Street Fighter and Dragon Ball. They were some of my favourites and were largely my inspiration growing up. I still remember when I was in secondary school, I would waste away my time at boring classes doodling, whether it was on the pages of my textbooks, or even, shall we say, “vandalising” the chair and desk I sat on. I was never at the top of the class, but those school days remained fond to me, mainly because I got to explore my love for art, which would one day play a big part in my life.
What would you say is your approach to success?
It has never been about impressing anyone else but myself. We are our worst critics, and I believe that once you impress yourself with what you do, you will impress everyone else naturally. I treat everything I go through in life as an experience; the more you do, the better you become, and the more mistakes you make, the more experienced you will be. Personally, rather than figuring out the perception people have on me, it’s more important for me to leave an indelible mark in the world, whereby when we look back on our lives, we have done everything that we wanted to do and done them well.
You are constantly collaborating with international and local brands, and we look forward to your session at the DCODE’s House of 1A event later this month. Which collaboration would you consider to be the highlight for you this year?
I’m grateful with what I have achieved locally with the brands I have collaborated with, especially Tiger Beer, which has had my back for four years now, engaging me with all sorts of projects it has up its sleeves. This year’s project with it was especially meaningful: 3890 Tigers is an awareness project in helping the conservation efforts of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to save tigers from extinction.
A Tale Come True
Clinging on to his first and only true love for film, Reuben Kang went on a one-track-mind pursuit of a filmmaking career since he was 16, starting with an internship at a production house that produces television commercials, where he learned the ins and outs of visual storytelling which he has been exposed to since he was young.
In 2012, he co-founded JinnyboyTV with former Hitz FM radio DJ, Jinnyboy, and it has been week after week of YouTube short films that not only strum the heartstrings, but also have the viewers ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing), calling out the differences of urban Malaysians’ cultures, lifestyles, and sometimes, eccentric habits.
This year on Malaysia Day, Reuben, together with their ever-growing JinnyboyTV crew, hit their five-year milestone with the release of their first feature length film, By MY Side. Reuben’s directorial debut starred local leads Marianne Tan and Brandon Ho, telling the time-honoured story of first love and relationship from the perspective of two childhood lovers thrown into hardship when one of them migrates overseas to further his studies.
What was it that made you choose filmmaking as a career path?
I grew up watching a lot of TV, and I have always loved good films that speak a universal language, and cut through any cultural and generational gaps, yet remain relevant through time. You know, like the works of Walt Disney. I like how certain movies have such a strong impact that they linger in your thoughts long after you left the theatre or the TV is switched off. I knew I wanted to create films that inspire others, like how I was inspired by them when I was young.
What would you say your approach to success is, especially on a social media platform as prevalent as YouTube?
Passion is the cliché answer, I suppose. You definitely have to love what you do from the get go, but on top of that for me, it’s always important to remain humble, and never ever do it just for the fame and fortune. If success and fame do knock on your door one day, don’t get big-headed about it, but instead, channel them to sharing your experience and knowledge with the next generation of filmmakers, so to help keep developing the industry.
Do you think what you do as a filmmaker contributes to your target audience or to society as a whole?
I believe that what we do as YouTube filmmakers is basically giving Malaysians a voice on the world stage. We always write stories that represent us, you know, sharing a little bit of our culture and lifestyle with the world. At the end of the day, we hope that when people watch our videos, they can relate to the content, and they would feel a sense of pride towards their roots and culture.
After the debut directorial film, By MY Side, are there any upcoming projects that you are currently working on that you can share with us?
I am grateful for the opportunity to live out my dream of directing my own feature-length film since I was 16. This is something that I will definitely cherish for the rest of my life. By MY Side was a good learning curve, and I feel that I have so much more to learn. I look forward to continue growing as a filmmaker, and working on bigger and better projects. In the meantime, we are still churning out content for our YouTube channel, JinnyboyTV; it is good practice to hone our skills and perfect our filmmaking style, as we start thinking about working on our next feature-length film. That’s still at the very early stage, but it is something to look forward to in the foreseeable future.
Ahead Of His Time
In the short four years following his studies, Andrew Ngo has turned his college venture and keen sense of style into an entrepreneurial pursuit and co-established two clothing brands, Idotshirt and Stoned & Co, adding to the proof that fashion is no mere idle business.
Despite how things have worked out, his journey into fashion didn’t quite start out on the right track; in fact, Andrew at first enrolled as a pharmacy student as his family felt strongly about him having a career in the professional world. But upon demonstrating an overwhelming sense of conviction in creating something of his own, including starting his own clothing brand on the side, his parents relented and Andrew was allowed to switch paths to business and marketing and later pursue a business in fashion.
Today, Idotshirt is a popular online T-shirt platform that allows for customisation and a fun, personal shopping experience, while Stoned & Co offers streetwear with an independent spirit, in exceptional quality. As it is, Stoned & Co has captivated hip-hop artists such as Migos and The Game. Going forward, Andrew and his team will be launching a full collection at Isetan, The Japan Store in Lot 10, with plans to further establish the brand’s reputation overseas by way of collaborations.
“While I hope that the brand will do well internationally, I really want people to know that it comes from Malaysia. Thanks to social media, it’s a lot easier to reach out to the outside world and just share a piece of Malaysia with the global community,” hopes Andrew.
How did you find coping with risks and challenges at a young age?
Risks and problems should be viewed from a different perspective. In life, we are faced with many problems, a different one every day, for different people. Looking from the perspective of how we can solve it, as compared to looking at it as an issue giving us a hard time, helps a lot.
What have you come to learn from the time you started?
As far as dreams are concerned, I used to get worked up when things took a little longer to come my way. Over this period of time, I’ve learnt that everything needs time; we need to be a bit more patient. Eventually, things will just fall into place.
What inspired the creation of your brands, and what do you hope your customers take away with them as the business grows?
I used to care so much about what people think of me, to a point where I would go crazy over branded clothing. But, along the way, I discovered a genuine appreciation for good design, quality and the feeling they gave me. Having found that feeling, I wanted to recreate that in my own brand and share it with my customers.
There is no better way for the local rock band to celebrate their 20th anniversary, which happened just last month, than to be recognised for their perseverance and talent after all these years. For lead vocalist and guitarist Saiful Ridzuan a.k.a Dwan, guitarist Muhammad Abdullah a.k.a Ham, bassist Sim Keng Lee and drummer Adil Ali, this is only just the beginning of SevenCollar T-Shirt’s next 20 years. So far, the new single Lines has paved the way this month, with a music video in conjunction with the band’s anniversary, directed by Jordan Suleiman. Following on its heels is another newbie Black Rain, with a music video directed by Shimy Abdul Latif, before leading up to their fourth studio album to be released sometime next year—almost 10 years since their last studio album, The Great Battle.
How do you think the local music scene has changed in the last 20 years?
When we first started, there was a clear distinction between underground music and mainstream music. We were considered to be in the former category, and unlike the latter, we didn’t get much media attention. It was a challenge in itself to get airtime on the TV or on the radio, not to mention, performing live. However, over the last 20 years, the underground music scene has established itself in the Malaysian music industry. People started paying attention to us, and with the high demand came a high supply of new platforms for bands to perform. There was no such thing as an open mic back then, but right now, music-related F&B outlets like The Bee and Gaslight Café provide platforms for up-and-coming musicians to showcase their own music styles to the public. Even when it comes to distribution of our music, Spotify provides ample help in getting our music out to a wider audience.
What would you say is the secret to a successful long-term relationship for a band?
Over the last 20 years, we have seen so many local bands come and go. It’s not to say that they were bad, most of them were good bands with talented musicians; some people are very opinionated, and they always want things their way. To achieve success together as a band, we believe that you have to know the part you play in the band, and that you don’t overstep your boundaries. Don’t get too big-headed and get caught up with what happens to you. It’s not to say it’s been smooth sailing for us the last 20 years; there have been many obstacles when we could’ve broken up and gone our separate ways. We have to constantly remind ourselves why we started the band in the first place, and we strive to stay true to those reasons. Each band member must be willing to make sacrifices for those reasons: to make music and express our thoughts and feelings through the music we make.
How do you think your fans have kept you true to the commitment you have for a band?
We have been performing to large audiences and hearing them sing along to all of our songs… What we felt when that first happened during our live performance, we still feel the same kind of elation even till this day. The fact that there are people out there who don’t care how much they have to pay to see us, and would make their every penny’s worth immersing in our music and enjoying themselves… It’s crucial in keeping us motivated and going strong. To be appreciated is very important to any human being, and we are grateful that we have lived to see the day, when we have reaped what we have sown so many years ago.
The Art Of Hosting
A steward of culture, Joe Sidek has been spearheading the annual month-long George Town Festival in Penang since its beginning back in 2010. What initially started as a commemoration of the city’s inauguration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site has over the years taken on a life of its own and grown into one of the most anticipated and, more importantly, diverse cultural festivals in the region.
Today, not only does George Town Festival showcase the heritage, culture and talent of the local community, it also serves as a world stage for artistic and musical performances, exhibitions, street art, and theatrical plays by artists, playwrights, actors, photographers, dancers and choreographers from all over the world.
Being most inspired by diversity and people as a whole, regardless of age, gender and background, and to promote dialogue and outreach among exhibitors and visitors, Joe has made a concerted effort to ensure that the festival is accessible to all, with zero to minimal admission fees, and caters for both traditional and contemporary showcases. As a means to give back and foster talent and appreciation for the arts, Joe has also launched several fund-raising initiatives with the aim of giving out grants and free community and student tickets to the festival’s shows, as well as organising educational workshops.
George Town Festival has come to encompass a great range of cultures and age groups. What is your philosophy of the festival?
It’s about the culture of the people, the reality, and watching and feeling it, experiencing things that one may not be familiar with. For example, we can’t blame the young for not having enough exposure to certain traditions and cultures if they have no access to them or are being charged a high price. One way we are creating this access is by showcasing culture out in the open. For example, the murals by Ernest Zacharevic have reportedly been seen and photographed by over 10 million people. That’s one way of showing that art is not so elitist and that you don’t have to be clever, rich or educated to appreciate art.
What is your secret to organising a successful festival?
You have to be relevant. Things are changing, taste buds are changing, so you can’t follow the same formula from 20 or 30 years ago. A festival need not always be about the traditional; it’s about capturing the energy and spirit of the time, the fashion, music and what is now. Also, it’s not always about the tourists. We have to educate the locals first. The locals should be our most important audience.
Empowering The Next Generation
Having an experience of over 20 years in social work, mentoring and counselling youth and families, Daniel Tan realises that there is a great need in the community for social services. With his special interest in building positive self-worth and values into the lives of youth at risk, he founded Yayasan Generasi Gemilang (GG), a not-for-profit organisation, aimed to see under-served children not only break free from the poverty cycle, but be empowered to be a positive contributor to society—to one day give back to their communities and build a better future for their families and the generations to come.
The work at GG is more than just charity; it’s about restoring dignity in humanity. Last year, GG provided for 8,537 children, 18,525 youths and 3,839 adults, across 46 schools, two universities, 12 organisations, seven communities and seven institutions. In Daniel’s own words, “As a Malaysian who loves Malaysia and the people in it, what better way to demonstrate love in action than by serving those whom society has side-lined?”
As the founder of GG, how would you like the organisation to give back to society?
There are many individuals, especially our generation of millennials, and organisations that are passionate about social work, and want to do something positive for the nation. I hope that my life and my work can be a living testimony to inspire people to believe that they too can serve their own communities with their own unique talents and visions. I want to encourage and inspire more young Malaysians to see that they can do something for their own communities and for the nation, regardless of how seemingly small the impact or task may be. I believe it’s not the size of the task, but the size of the heart that matters most.
What would you say is your approach to success?
For many people, success in the traditional sense is about numbers, accolades, position titles or achievements. To me, it’s about significance. It’s about seeing our beneficiaries being empowered to become positive contributors in their own communities, and circles of influence. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if they forget my name, as long as other people’s lives are affected by the little things I do to make an impact on their lives. It’s not about what I have achieved, but how much others have gained through my service.
What are the projects you are working on with GG?
Last Christmas, we ran our first campaign that encouraged people to ask their friends to, instead of gifting another Christmas gift to them, gift it to a child in need. The well-received campaign raised over RM150,000 in less than two months, and we managed to provide daily breakfast for an entire year to 276 under-served children in six schools across the Klang Valley, with spare change to provide brand new school uniforms, shoes and bags to begin the new school year for an additional 71 children in need. It was an opportunity for the public to participate in a meaningful gift exchange, knowing that they helped others at the same time.
This year, we are switching things up a little by encouraging the public to buy gifts for friends that will give more; every gift bought will not only help a child in need, but also come with an e-card and discounts for the recipients, so that everyone will get something during this wonderful time of the year. This campaign runs throughout the month of December, and 100% of the funds raised will be channelled towards helping under-served children under the GG platform.
From The Heart & Soul
SAW TEONG HIN
Over the years, in favour of commercial viability, many original, personal works of art have been left untold on screen. Only on occasion are Malaysians privileged to watch a good feature-length film made locally, of heart and soul. Among those occasions was this year’s biopic You Mean the World to Me by prolific commercial film director and filmmaker Saw Teong Hin of Puteri Gunung Ledang fame.
Filmed in Hokkien, written and directed by Teong Hin, the movie gives insights into the filmmaker’s personal family history and his estranged relationship with his now late mother. According to Teong Hin, the script was conceived at a point of time when he was reflecting on life and felt motivated to create something of personal significance. Due to the initial lack of funding, it was turned into a stage play, which premiered at the George Town Festival. The successful run of the play subsequently opened doors for Teong Hin, and his story eventually made it onto the big screen.
What touches us the most about the film, is the honesty the filmmaker has put into it; the courage to expose his personal side and put himself in a position of vulnerability. In doing so, Teong Hin has also allowed his audience to feel closer to the man behind the masterpiece. Such is the human quality of a true artist that the industry lacks. For his work, Teong Hin was awarded Best Screenplay at the 2017 Malaysia Film Festival.
What personal significance does the film hold for you?
The film is my way of giving my mother her due. I had clearly misjudged her, which I only came to realise with time and maturity. I began to understand where she was coming from and see from her point of view.
What do you hope your audience will take away with them from the film?
The understanding that family is the most important aspect of life. As you can see from the film, it might not always be the smoothest of things, but the strange thing about family is that no matter what, we will always go back to each other. There will be moments you totally hate them, but know that those intense emotions come only from one place—love.
What do you find most challenging as a filmmaker and what can you share with the next generation?
The hardest thing to do for any filmmaker today is to stay relevant, seeing that everything changes so quickly and so much is being produced. Judging by what I do, I believe I still have a shot because I’m keeping to the humanity theme. The things I do are about humanity, a universal theme that is not affected by trend and is therefore timeless. And the best stories often come from the heart. Do what you know best. It may not be the most exciting one, but it will be the one that you can tell with the most detail and nuance.
Never Back Down
While she may come across as an Internet sensation to many, thanks to controversial videos and images of her standing up to religious officers at a transgender dinner function and flashing the digitus medius at a Hudud forum that have gone viral overnight, Siti Kasim is to us a stellar force of social phenomena whose beauty comes from her ferocity in holding her own and speaking up for others, for what’s right, in educated fashion and with reason. In doing so, she has humbled us and exhibited more gumption than most men have.
Beneath the strong, unapologetic exteriors of Siti is in fact a woman of substance, a litigation lawyer by trade and a co-deputy chair of the Malaysian Bar Council Committee on Orang Asli Rights. She has been defending the Orang Asli’s rights to their lands against unlawful logging and mining, and actively speaking against the growing influence of religious extremism in Malaysia.
Siti also recounted how she once faced the intimidation of around 20 cab drivers after intervening a negotiation that prevented a couple of foreign visitors from being charged RM60 for a ride from KL Sentral to Chinatown. She eventually gave the visitors a free ride to their destination in her niece’s car. For all that, we are honoured to have Siti Kasim as one of our brethren.
Where do you think you’ve developed that voice, that courage to speak up?
My mum is a very strong person as well, a survivor; I believe I might have taken after her. To me, I cannot understand when someone says to me, “Oh, I wish I could speak up just like you.” You can. What makes you think you can’t? I believe it’s the fear, our number one enemy. Also, I think it is because of the limited knowledge that they might have on the law. For me, as a lawyer, I know what is libellous and scandalous, I don’t say things that will put me in a position where I’ll be mistaken for being seditious. People need to equip themselves with the knowledge of our rights as well as the rights of the police and various authorities. Ultimately, my philosophy is that if I don’t speak up for myself, who’ll speak up for me.
Many have kept silent in minding their own business, while you speak up for others. What are your thoughts on that?
We cannot ignore what is going on around us. Whatever that is happening in our country will affect us eventually, regardless of race, religion, etc. What affects one race or community is bound to affect the rest. It’s time for us to stand up together, and let oppressors and people in power realise that they must take notice of us and cannot just be entertaining one part of society.
A message for the guys.
Stand up for issues you feel strongly about. Anyone can stand up for what’s right. Don’t be selfish or just stand aside with the excuse that you have your own private businesses and loved ones to protect. It is mostly men who are in positions of power, with the resources and influence to help, so speak up for what you feel is right.