Following the local commercial success of Pontianak HarumSundal Malam, Malaysian writer/director Shuhaimi Babas is preparing a($526,000) RM2m sequel with her own company Pesona Pictures producing.

Pontianak, which tells the story of a female banshee fromlocal folklore, was the first local film to break the taboo of the horror genrewhich was banned in Malaysia for the past 30 years due to religioussensitivities. It grossed $842,000 (RM3.2m) when it opened in May, making itone of the most successful local films in Malaysia this year.

Up-and-comingactress Maya Karin will return to play the pontianak in the sequel, withshooting due to start in November witha release targeted in mid-2005.

To allow morecreativity for local films, the censorship board is reportedly reviewing itsguidelines. Pontianak executiveproducer Aida Fitri Buyong said the horror elements in the sequel would beincreased if the guidelines are relaxed.

Pontianak will open later this month in Indonesia on sixprints through distributor Sun Master, which is also trying to release the filmin Thailand where horror is a popular genre.

Pontianak will be screened at the Asia Pacific Film Festivalin Fukuoka, Japan and the Estepona Fantasy Film Festival in Spain. The film wontwo awards for best supporting actor and best editing at this year's MalaysianFilm Festival.

Meanwhile, Malaysia's most expensive movie, the $4.2m(RM16m) Puteri Gunung Ledang, whichscreens at Venice next month, is raising hopes of a local film-makingrenaissance. The film's marketing budget of $1.2m (RM4.5m) is unheard of inMalasia - as is the concept of promoting a local film abroad, in this caseNorth America, Indonesia, Thailand, China, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea.