Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Seruan Merdeka

Today theSun highlighted a story I have done  on an interesting documentary Return to Nostalgia where a film maker and his team go to search for one of the lost classic Malaysian made film Seruan Merdeka. Read the full story here.   

Headline: Quest for Reel History
By Bissme S
Some  of our classic films have been lost to time. In an effort to document this era of Malaysian cinematic history, award-winning Malaysian filmmaker Woo Ming Jin (below) decided to go in search of one such lost classic, the 1946 Seruan Merdeka (Cry for Freedom). Together with a team from Greenlight Pictures, the film production company he founded in 2004, Woo’s quest for that classic is captured in his documentary, Return to Nostalgia. The one-hour documentary is being aired tomorrow at 7.30pm at Content Malaysia Pitching Centre, Platinum Sentral, in Kuala Lumpur. Entrance is free.
“I have always been fascinated by Malaysia’s cinematic history,” says Woo, whose previous films have been screened at prestigious film festivals in Berlin, Cannes and Venice.
“There hasn’t been much written about Malaysian films before the 1960s. In fact, many of these films are presumed lost.”
Woo got the idea to do the documentary early last year. Production started in April and took four months to complete.
“By delving into this project, [my team and I learned] more about our country’s early cinematic forays,” he says.
When asked why he chose to focus on this one film, Woo says: “Seruan Merdeka was one of the first independentlyproduced films in the country. “I discovered that the film faced many of the same trials and tribulations that I am facing today as a filmmaker, and that struck a chord with me.”
He points out that 70 years after Seruan Merdeka was made, the Malaysian film industry today is still struggling with the same issues that were prevalent back then. Seruan Merdeka was the first Malaysian film made after World War II. It was meant to resuscitate the local film industry, which came to a halt during the war.
The film was produced by the Malayan Arts Production house, which was established by businessman S.M.A.H. Christy, and directed by B.S. Rajhans. Seruan Merdeka was also the first local film to employ a mixed-race cast of Chinese and Malay actors, with Salleh Ghani, Rokiah Hanafi and Siti Tanjung Perak as the leads.
The story takes place after the fall of Singapore in 1942. Lieutenant Rashid and his friend, Leong, are prisoners of the Japanese. The two manage to escape, but Leong is killed in the attempt. The Japanese begin a hunt for Rashid, even capturing and torturing his family members to find out his whereabouts. 
In Woo’s documentary Return to Nostalgia, it showed how the team managed to get its hands on a copy of the script, which was written in Jawi but was disappointed to discover that the final page had been torn off. Undeterred, the team members decided to put their copy of the script to good use. They recruited actors like Ledil Putra and Jasmin Chin to enact certain scenes from the film. The documentary also showed the team managing to track down Wan Khazim Wan Din, who is possibly the last living individual to have seen the original Seruan Merdeka on screen when it was first
The team travelled all the way to a small village up north to meet him but discovered that he has been admitted to hospital. These were some of the challenges the team faced in its quest for the film. Woo admits that one of the biggest challenges was finding accurate information on the film itself
“Some of the books and articles written about Seruan Merdeka contain factual errors, and that complicated matters.”
On the aim of the documentary, he says: “We wanted to make a documentary that is both entertaining and informative. We hope it will raise awareness on the historic aspect of Malaysian cinema, and also to promote our cinematic heritage to the younger generation of filmmakers.” Return to Nostalgia has been screened at the recent Busan International Film Festival in October, as well as on South Korean television.
“We hope it can raise our cinematic profile in the world too,” he says.

Below are the scenes from the Return from Nostalgia 

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