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Saturday, March 18, 2006


Johan Jaafar on Malay films & literature

I can't help but just fully agree with everything that has been written by Johan Jaafar in his weekly NST column, Point Blank. Nevermind the fact that most of what he wrote was on Brokeback Mountain.

"..We have many great novels published since the first Malay novel Hikayat Faridah Hanum appeared in 1925. We have hundreds of great short stories written in the history of modern literature. And the Malays have a repertoire of marvelous myths, legends and court narratives that need to be retold in a different medium.

Yet, our filmmakers are ignoring them and creating ludicrous scripts meant for imbeciles. Which is sad.

During the golden era of Malay cinema, directors used stories from Sejarah Melayu, Hikayat Hang Tuah, and folk stories like Puteri Gunung Ledang, Anak Buluh Betung and Bawang Putih Bawang Merah. Even bangsawan stories were adapted to film. Some of the best period comedies of P. Ramlee were adapted from Malay comedic traditions like Nujum Pak Belalang and Musang Berjanggut.

I cannot understand why novels by A. Samad Said (Salina), Usman Awang (Tulang-tulang Berserakan), Abdullah Hussein (Interlok), Arenawati (Sandera), Adibah Amin(Seroja Masih Di Kolam) and Khatijah Hashim (Merpati Putih Terbang Lagi) are not filmed.

Why not adapt short stories by Keris Mas, Ishak Haji Muhamad, Shahnon Ahmad and Anwar Rithwan? In fact there are many short stories in English that are ripe for the picking. These are Malaysian stories that reflect our very own values and worldview.."

I salute Mr. Johan Jaafar for such an insightful writings. I just wish there are more people like him in the industry. I guess that in Malaysia, filmmakers just don't really appreciate Malay literature that much. Such a sad story indeed. What a shame even a former war-torn poor nation of Cambodia (a country which there are still millions of active landmines) could make a movie, 'Neak Sre', from an adaptation of Shahnon Ahmad's famous novel, 'Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan'. Iranian movies were nowhere to be heard of, say 20 or maybe 10 years ago. Look at them now. Perhaps, maybe we could learn a thing or two from these countries. Where are our film industry heading now? Try ask our famous Prof. Madya.

On another note; I'm waiting for Amir Muhammad's semi-musical documentary film, Lelaki Komunis Terakhir . I bet it could possibly be another controversy, people would think like; ahh the Communists were the bad people, always be seen as the nation's enemy and now there's this fellow producing a film on the life of Chin Peng, ex- Secretary General of the Parti Komunis Malaya. Whaat is he trying to prove? But it came a bit quite a surprise as the film came out lulus 100% tanpa potongan by our Film Censorship Board (LPF). Perhaps the LPF are trying to be more liberal now, which i think is good for the growth of the industry (oh suddenly the famous Yasmin Ahmad's - LPF issue comes to mind). I guess if it's not directed by Amir Muhammad, maybe i wouldn't be interested enough to go and watch it. Well, let's just wait for the movie. I wouldnt want to comment much on it.

Personally i would much prefer if someone would make a movie say on Dato' Onn Jaafar for instance or any other pre-independence national leaders. Why oh why there hasn't been any film on these historic events lately.. save for Lt. Adnan, Embun, Paloh, Bukit Kepong.

haih.. think i should stop now. so later folks.

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