Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Hassan Muthalib & Merdeka

Aug 31, tomorrow, Malaysia will be 60. theSun got a  film scholar and best selling author Malaysian Cinema in a Bottle  to select 10 films and documentary that showcase  the history of our country.   

Headline: Capturing The Malaysian Spirit  
By Bissme S

Tomorrow we will be  celebrating our 60th  Independence Day.  In honour of this  momentous event, we asked  Hassan Muthalib, the renowned film scholar and author of  Malaysian Cinema in a Bottle to  pick 10 local films and  documentaries that showcase our  Malaysian spirit. Below are his selections and  why they are a reflection of our  independence:

Year:  1956 
Director:  Unknown

Hassan says this 26-minute  documentary, produced by Malayan Film (the precursor of  Filem Negara), looks at how Malaysia’s first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman negotiated  our independence from the British. 
“There are so many meanings  behind the images in this  documentary. The editor did a  great job putting them together. There were many closeup shots of Tunku and these gave the  impression that he was well received by the British. 
“There’s also an image of Tunku sitting at the same table with [the  British] having dinner. That shot is enough to tell us that we are now equal to the colonials.  
“When Tunku returned home  from his London meeting, he  received a garland from his  supporters. The garland tells you  that the non-Malays [also  supported] him. 
“He was driven around in an  open-hood car with thousands  (lining] both sides of the road to  welcome him. [He received] a 
hero’s welcome for getting our  Merdeka.”

Year: 1959 
Director: P. Ramlee 

Made two years after our  Independence, Hassan says this Ramlee classic asked the pivotal question: Are we really 
“At that time, a lot of Malays could not read and write. Subtlely,  with a touch of humour, Ramlee  shows that our colonial mentality has not disappeared, and that  education is going to liberate us.” 

Year: 1961 
Director:  P. Ramlee 

Hassan says Ramlee, who had never gone to film school, cleverly  used film subtext to tell his stories.
“In this movie, Ramlee shows  how the mentality of successful Malays has not changed even even  after Independence. They are so  status conscious that they look  down on the working class Malays. 
“Also, women are bold in his  films. You see Saloma’s character in  this film giving her lover money,  and you have Normadiah’s 
character daringly expressing her  love for a man." 

Year: 1987 
Director:  Mansor Puteh 

Hassan says this is a modernist feature that tells the story of a young man who wants to write  better scripts and create better 
movies. But his films are not accepted,  so he gives up. This, to me, is an  expression of how director Mansor feels that trying to be a better filmmaker in Malaysia is an uphill  task that gets you nowhere.

Year: 2006 
Director: Amir Muhammad 

This documentary was earlier  cleared for screening but eventually was banned after questions were raised why the communists should be highlighted in a film. Hassan explains that the communists were the first to fight for independence as they wanted  the British out of the country and to stop exploiting our economy. 
“Amir focuses on Chin Peng, the  leader of the Malayan Communist Party. He traced the place where Chin Peng was born to the last place he [went] into hiding.  Hassan says Amir told the story through interviews he had with the people at these places who knew about Chin Peng, the communists, and their daily life. 
“Indirectly, one gets the impression that the people, especially the youngsters, have forgotten about the communists.”

Year: 2007 
Director: Shuhaimi Baba 

This film, says Hassan, is told from the perspective of a group of young people who want to produce a book 
on the country’s independence.    
“Today, some people say that we were never colonised in the first place but if we were never colonised, where does the word Merdeka’ come from?”

Year: 2008 
Director: Wan Azli Wan Yusof 

Hassan says in this film, the director questions how Malay youths have lost their way. It looks at two youths from Kelantan who come to Kuala Lumpur and end up involved in gangsterism. They kidnap women  and sell them into prostitution. 
“The film was shot with a hand-held camera. The shaky scenes  show the world is full of tension.”

Year: 2012 
Director:  Edry Abdul Halim 

Hassan says this fantasy story, about a man who only grows old every four years, allows us to see 
the history of our country through the character’s eyes.  
“The visual effects are fantastic. Archive images from the past are well used in the film.”

Year: 2016
Director: Ahmad Yazid 

This documentary film traces Malaysia’s formation, using archive footage that has never been broadcast on television, says 
“It uses cutting-edge visual effects to highlight events leading up to Merdeka and eventually, to the birth of Malaysia.”

Year: 2016 
Director:  Chiu Keng Guan

Based loosely on the true efforts of the Malaysian national football team which successfully qualified for the 1980 Summer Olympics, this movie highlights the rekindling of the Malaysian spirit. 
Hassan says: “The director shows a TV journalist who wants to leave the country, but in the end, she did not go. The film also shows how a sporting event can make us forget our differences and come together as Malaysians." 

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