Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Lost Communist

My head was elsewhere for much of the week, but when I was finally able to reattach it to my neck, I learned that Amir Mohmmad's latest film, The Last Communist, has been banned by the Ministry of Home Affairs, apparently to "guard the public interest" after a series of articles condeming the film appeared in the Malay language newspaper, Berita Harian.

The film, described as:
... a documentary inspired by the early life and legacy of Chin Peng, exiled leader of the banned Communist Party of Malaya. Interviews with the people in the towns he lived in from birth to national independence are interspersed with specially composed songs in the mould of old-fashioned propaganda films ...
was passed without any cuts by the Censorship Board. And when the film was screened for Special Branch officers, they found nothing at all objectionable in its content.

Sure, the name Chin Peng, stirs unhappy memories for the many Malaysians who suffered greatly during the Emergency, but the film does not feature an actor depicting Chin Peng, and does not seek to glorify the man, but rather to retell an important episode in Malaysian history. Chin Peng's autobigraphy is freely available in the bookshops here and I don't remember riots in the street over that.

And what's more (and this is where things really begin to get Pythonesque), according to Amir on his blog:
No one in Berita Harian has seen the documentary. And no one interviewed by Berita Harian had seen it either.
I am of course incensed, but sadly not at all surprised. This kind of silliness is a fairly common feature of the intellectual landscape here and doesn't exactly enhance Malaysia's image in the eyes of the world, particularly as the film is currently doing the rounds of international film festivals.

I asked the lawyer-at-home what he thought about the case and he replied, "Don't worry lah. Today it's banned, but tomorrow it'll be unbanned. That's always the way with things here."

He may be right. But my heart goes out to Amir who has put so much time and money into the project, and whose only agenda, as far as I can see, is to make good art.

And excuse this big-mouthed Mat Salleh for sounding off, but I really do care about the direction this country is headed ...

11 comments:

lil ms d said...

for greatness to happen, obstacles must be challenged and won.

ahem.

the wise great sage

fathi aris omar said...

For more comprehensive compilation of news reports & comments on this "Lelaki Komunis Terakhir", see my blog :)

dreamer idiot said...

Yeah, I feel a great sense of outrage at this. How could such person still be allowed to hold his position as a journalist/columnist, when he blatantly and outrageously spews such poison words that stinks clearly not only cultural philistinism, but cultural bigotry and far worse, hatred? (It really mystifies and pains me deeply).This person is also the very same person who viciously denounced Yasmin Ahmad for her cultural betrayal and misrepresentation in Sepet and more recently Gubra.

There is nothing wrong with cultural pride or being a cultural champion, but going overboard and attacking others in these ways is beyond dount, shameful for any journalist, and if taken strictly by the letter of the law, seditious in its undermining of our multicultural society.

Greenbottle said...

I'm dissapointed that this unfortunate thing happens yet again; not that i'm too keen to watch Amir's films which seem to me at times trying to be too clever by half .

It would do well for malaysia if those in power realise that this is not the way to go in their quest to become err... a 'developed' nation. It would be far more positive if they just let the film be shown and they come and jump at amir's aesthetic throat.i'm sure amir would be more than glad to hear criticisms and arguments and wouldn't even mind if they pan it to their hearts' content ?

And by the same token 'dreamer idiot's comment above is just doing the very same thing as those that he criticised as being philistines and bigots. I feel that they have every right to villify yasmin as the those that love yasmin's fims have every right to defend them. We need healthy discussions and i personally feel that even hatred and vitriolics on both sides can only create better malaysian films in future.

Dreamer idiot should realize that those that criticize yasmin's films have their own perspectives too. As much as i hate films by say, yusof haslam or those scenario gang, i feel that the audience are entitled to their views and have every right if they want to be entertained by films which to me only fit for monkeys.

Jane Sunshine said...

Have to agree with the 'lawyer-at-home'. Sigh.

Joo Khai said...

i'm a recent grad newly returned from melbourne, and i do too care about the direction this country is headed. we are all saddened by the "old-school bigots" (yasmin ahmad's words) and hopefully speeding up their impending demise.

i came here via this fathi aris omar, hehe. looks like he made the template comment. anyway, care to read this writer-wannabe's take on communists? it's all in the last line.

thejook.blogspot.com

lil ms d said...

SB - this is where PEN comes in :)

Perhaps we should get all your readers (wow Fathi Aris!) to meet one of these days and see where PEN Malaysia should head.

While I do not agree with the vitriol hurled at Yasmin's Gubra or any writer for the matter, I do agree with greenbottle - hey, at least we all know what's happening on the ground lah. Now what do we do to address this?

See you!

bibliobibuli said...

fathi - thanks a lot for the links, i found the articles you linked to very interesting reading and they certainly filled in a lot of background for me (btw - your blog is fascinating)

dreamer idiot - seditious? dunno about that but defamatory certainly - i guess amir could sue - the lawyer-at-home thinks he might also have a case for suing the government particularly if he incurs financial losses

greenbottle - thanks. glad you mentioned yasmin's film. i haven't seen gubra yet but very much want to. (I'm so blur, i only wake up to the fact that a film has been and gone when i suddenly decide i'd like to see it) but i have been astounded by the criticism it has attracted in some quarters ... i feel very sorry for yasmin and proud of her courage ...

jane sunshine - *sigh* indeed - you can't even work up a good head of outrage ...

kook - did indeed drop by your blog and very well said ... didn't know about local films with dialogue in tamil and chinese being taxed as foreign films - something else to make me angry

ms d - for sure we need to get thinking about this and discussing it - it's high time for an organisation like PEN so that issues can be thrashed out and writers support each other

bibliobibuli said...

oops - soory - jook ...

dreamer idiot said...

Greenbottle, I concede that you have a pertinent point there, in the the right of each person to hold their personal views, however I guess I was really worked up, less because the person held those views than how he went about them, viciously promoting 'hate' without really addresing and critising the real substance and issues raised... I do not subscribe to a 'tyranny' of sbsolutely 'correct/moral' opinions, but I feel that there are still certain limits and boundaries in which divergent and opposing opinions are expressed, such that they remain productive for dialogue.

Thanks for the reminder though.

Anonymous said...

"It would do well for malaysia if those in power realise that this is not the way to go in their quest to become err... a 'developed' nation."

Actually, it would do well for Malaysia if _everyone_, both in power and not, to realize that this is not the way to go.