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From Malaysia to Indonesia: A Malaysian’s creativity on the world stage


From Malaysia to Indonesia: A Malaysian’s creativity on the world stage

29 November 2023

From Malaysia to Indonesia: A Malaysian’s creativity on the world stage

Like many Malaysian students, Hafiz Ibrahim initially wanted to pursue medicine after high school. Instead, fate led him to pursue his Mass Communication degree majoring in Film and TV at Curtin University, Australia. One thing led to another, and Hafiz is now a successful film director and partner at Passion Pictures Indonesia.

“It has been an enriching journey so far. I’ve worked with big industry legends and some of the greats, including the late Yasmin Ahmad.”


Making his scene-sational mark in the industry

Hafiz started his filmmaking journey by creating advertisements in Malaysia. His first job was at Leo Burnett Malaysia, where he was hired by the late Yasmin Ahmad to work as a producer-copywriter. His career is now flourishing in our neighbouring country, Indonesia.

One of Hafiz’s latest projects, Pesan Dari Hati, in partnership with Viu and Grab, was recently announced as Indonesia’s National Winner for the Best Branded Programme or Series at the Asian Academy Creative Awards 2023.

This is Hafiz’s third time winning an award, and it will definitely not be the last.

He bagged his first award in 2016 for the Malaysian telefilm Tulus Ikhlas, which won the Best Drama or Telemovie category at the 21st Asian Television Award. His second award, and his first in Indonesia, was the Best Single Drama/Telemovie/Anthology when Cerita Tentang Percaya emerged as the National Winner at the Asian Academy Creative Awards 2022.

“Film is a universal language – everyone everywhere can understand and feel it. Human nature will always need entertainment.”

For Hafiz, he strives to create something that people will still talk about, even years after it was produced.

“I worked on this Raya ad for PETRONAS, if you’ve seen it before, the one with the single mother and seven sons? Every once in a while, I see people sharing the video on social media, and it makes me happy to see how it can still emotionally affect people after all these years.”


Exploring creative freedom internationally

His previous works took him abroad on multiple occasions, including Vietnam and Indonesia. So, when the opportunity came to run a company in Jakarta, Hafiz could not let that golden opportunity pass by.

“There are more opportunities for growth in terms of marketing and experimentation – the market is less conservative here in Indonesia than it is in Malaysia.”

When asked about his opinion about the emergence and usage of artificial intelligence (AI) in the creative and media industry, Hafiz is optimistic. According to him, people can and should use AI to help them in their work.

“It is a tool to empower you, not to replace you.” For instance, using AI to help with idea generation can facilitate the process. “As much as the machine is learning from us, we should learn from them as well,” he adds.


Navigating the cultural differences

Hafiz and his family have been in Jakarta for seven years. Despite the many similarities, the transition from Malaysia to Indonesia was still a bit of a challenge. “Indonesia is not as cheap as people think – living here can be pretty expensive. And the traffic jams, phew, let’s not talk about them!” he laughed. And for him, no matter how good the food is, nothing can ever beat the good Penang food he grew up with.

Hafiz recalls taking around six months to get settled in and getting used to the local slang and language, but he now considers himself as one of the locals.

“I’ve been doing Karate for a long time, and I continue it here in Indonesia. I’m in this association with over 2 million members, and I’m one of the few foreigners in it. So, yeah, I guess they see me as one of them now,” he chuckled.

The working environment is also quite similar to Malaysia. The younger generation in Indonesia, in his opinion, is very entrepreneurial and holds a lot of potential.


Keeping an open mind for the future

Hafiz has no idea what the future has in store for him and where his career will take him next. But for him, Malaysia will always be close to his heart.

His famous last words?

“People say that the grass is always greener on the other side, but home will always be home. And that’s Malaysia.”

Hafiz is looking forward to using MyHeart to connect with other creative Malaysians globally and exchange ideas and perspectives on creating even more engaging content that can enrich the community and bring more exposure to Malaysia.

If you’re a Malaysian residing abroad like Hafiz, join MyHeart to be part of a global community with Malaysians at its heart.