Alternative title: The Arsonist
Directed by: U-Wei Bin Haji Saari
Runtime: 70 minutes
Language: Malay with English subtitles
Un Certain Regard
1995 Cannes Film Festival
Based on the short story “Barn Burning” by William Faulkner, Malaysian filmmaker U-Wei Bin Haji Saari’s film is a powerful tragic drama of generational, class and cultural conflict in rural Malaysia. Kaki Bakar, also known as The Arsonist, depicts the struggles of an immigrant family and the son’s coming-of-age. The son, Kesuma, must forge his own identity against the intimidating presence of his father Kakang, an itinerant labourer proud of his Javanese heritage. Kakang fights social inequality by torching the property of those who slight him, leaving Kesuma simultaneously proud, fearful and ashamed, and leading to a clash of wills between father and son.
The restoration of Kaki Bakar (The Arsonist, 1995) was made possible using a master betacam video with burned-in English subtitles. This video was uncovered in 2019 at the director’s hometown in Pahang, Malaysia.
The film was originally shot on standard definition video and recorded onto 35mm film for theatrical screening purposes. This 35mm release print has been preserved by the Asian Film Archive since 2006 but was exhibiting symptoms of vinegar syndrome.
Upon close inspection and comparison, the images from the betacam video was found to be of better quality and displayed more information than the 35mm print. The images from the 35mm print displayed inconsistent aspect ratios in between reels and presented numerous moire defects, deeming them unsuitable for use in the restoration.
To digitally restore the video, over 200 hours were spent on restoration work that included deflickering, dust removal and stabilising. The video noise has been cleaned up and checked at every sequence before and after upscaling, with attention paid towards the original sharpness and grain of the film. Noise reduction and hum removal were carried out to improve clarity in the dialogue.
Digital scans of the 35mm print have been made and are preserved by the Asian Film Archive.
The video restoration was carried out by IMAGICA Lab.Inc. in 2019 and completed in 2020.
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