Mathew Ngau Jau: Sape’ Master…and soon to be film star!

Mathew Ngau Jau is a fine artist, dancer, singer, Sape’ maker and performer.

And a role that Mathew never imagined himself embarking on is…an actor.

Mathew and Azwan getting direction from Dain Said.

However, Mathew has just recently concluded a 12-day shoot in Kuala Lumpur for a film titled “Iman Untuk Bulan” which also stars fellow Sarawakians Alena Murang, Arafah Edruce and Sabahan actor, Azwan Kombos.

The East Malaysian cast for Iman Untuk Bulan (L-R: Arafah Edruce, Alena Murang, Azwan Kombos, Mathew Ngau Jau)

The film, directed by Dain Said and produced by Apparat, the company that also produced the award-winning feature films Bunohan and Interchange, aims to celebrate indigenous East Malaysian culture, and to nurture greater cross-cultural awareness between East and West Malaysia while celebrating Malaysia’s rich cultural heritage through film.

‘Iman Untuk Bulan’ revolves around BULAN (Alena Murang), an established Kenyah musician based in Kuala Lumpur. In the midst of completing her album, she receives a package from her grandfather – a broken sape’ that belonged to her late mother. She starts having nightmares and is unable to play her music.

Bulan meets STEPHEN (Mathew Ngau Jau), an elderly Kenyah man who agrees to fix the sape’ but first needs to escape from his old folks home. Together with IDA (Farah Rani), Bulan’s manager, AMIN (Azwan Kombos), a caretaker from the home and DAYANG (Arafah Edruce), a mysterious shaman, Bulan and Stephen embark on a journey that leads to reconciliation and self-redemption.

For a musician and craftsman like Mathew, acting does not come naturally, what more being on a film set. However, with an open mind, persistence, discipline in rehearsing and remembering lines, the 66-year old managed to plough through 11 days of shoot, including doing minor stunts on his own!

So, as Mathew had just realised – never say never.

Mathew Ngau Jau:
As a simple man from upper Baram, never have I imagined that I would be acting in a movie here in Kuala Lumpur. I’m not an actor, so I was quite nervous and overwhelmed. Thinking to myself, “Can I do this?”.

The other motivation for me was that the storyline includes aspects of Kenyah culture, which is why I was willing to push myself to try. I suppose that made the decision easier. I get a chance to not represent our community, our language and our culture in a movie…and that is quite a big deal for me. I sure hope I do it justice!

Mathew’s interview with Astro Awani.

The Tuyang Initiative’s role in this project was to manage and represent both key talents and first time actors in this film, Mathew Ngau Jau and Alena Murang, including deal negotiations. Throughout the filming process, Tuyang also supervises and works closely with Mathew and Alena in bridging the communications and relationships with the production company (Apparat) to ensure deliverables on both sides are done well and fairly. Other responsibilities include aspects of consulting the filmmakers in areas of Kenyah and Sarawakian language and culture.

Dialogue review with Mathew.
Mathew teaching Azwan to make “bunga jarau” in between takes.

“Iman Untuk Bulan” will be released on Malaysia Day, 16th September 2018 as an Astro First Exclusive (on Channel 408).