WHAT does it take for a non-Muslim to apply for an Islamic bank account in Malaysia?
Ho Yuhang’s short film, Potong Saga, offers a comical exaggeration of one community’s misguided assumptions. In one scene, the protagonist played by Namewee nervously contemplates the sacrifice he assumes he has to make to qualify for the bank account, as he watches his mom chop up a slab of roasted pork.
(pic courtesy of Namewee)
It is left to the viewer to interpret the parallels and ponder how he and his friends could arrive at such assumptions in the first place. The irony of casting Namewee would not be lost on those who recall how the rapper unwittingly landed in the spotlight with his infamous Negarakuku song in 2007. He seems sporting enough to let the joke be on him this time around.
Ho’s Potong Saga, released on 17 Aug, was the first in a series of 15 films to be released on the internet by the short film project, 15Malaysia. Yasmin Ahmad’s Chocolate was the second film released, on 19 Aug.
If you like what you’re watching so far, you can expect more of such thought-provoking entertainment in the coming weeks. The films, which explore socio-political issues in Malaysia, are being released over a period of one month. The final release is aptly scheduled to fall on 16 Sept, the anniversary of the formation of Malaysia.
Aspects of Malaysian life
Since the films are released on the internet and don’t have to be certified as kosher by the government, the directors have a lot more latitude in how they want to depict the socio-political issues in Malaysia. “In terms of film, local production on TV is under such strict censorship … that what comes out is very difficult for people to relate to,” Pete Teo, the producer of 15Malaysia, was quoted as saying in an AP report. “I think when you are on the Net, because there is a lack of that sort of regulation, people tend to … be more honest,” he said.
The issues tackled by 15Malaysia range from corruption and race relations to social apathy and even paedophilia. “Some are funny, others serious — all try to deal with aspects of Malaysian life. Each filmmaker was responsible for choosing his or her own subject matter,” says the FAQ section on the 15Malaysia website.
Amir Muhammad (pic
courtesy of Amir)
The directors, who include award-winning Amir Muhammad and Tan Chui Mui, have even roped in politicians to be cast members. Among them are PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, Parti Keadilan Rakyat information chief Tian Chua and supreme council member Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, and MCA vice-president and Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
“Since our project is about Malaysia, we feel it is entirely appropriate that we invited participation from our political representatives,” says 15Malaysia. “Every one of them joined us without imposing party political spin control or censorious stipulations. We retained final cut rights to every one of our films.”
Singer songwriter Teo produced a similar project last year, dubbed the “Malaysian Artistes For Unity”. It came up with the “anti-racism national unity” song and music video Here in My Home, released around the time the nation went to the polls in March 2008.
Moving on to a similar but bigger project seemed like the natural thing to do for Teo. This time, his project found a sponsor in Packet One Networks (P1), the wireless broadband service provider. P1, which is part of the Green Packet telecommunications group, sees the development of Malaysian arts and culture as its corporate social responsibility.
Green Packet chief executive officer (CEO) CC Puan thinks 15Malaysia complements the group’s efforts. He equates wireless broadband with mobility and freedom. “We want to enable people to bring broadband with them, to bring the internet with them, to bring freedom with them,” he says in a video message.
“There’s no culture without [the] arts. I think that’s No 1. That’s why we are supporting [the] arts. The second thing: without creativity, there’s no innovation. I think that’s fundamental to why we are embarking on this project,” says P1 CEO Michael Lai.
The film directors of 15Malaysia (source: 15Malaysia.com)
P1 subsidiary Ruumz, the homegrown social networking website, is the official online delivery partner for 15Malaysia. “We want to grow and enable the internet as a platform for the discovery of Malaysian talents … be it in the form of filmmaking, applications development, music making and all that. We want to enable that and this is just the first step,” adds Ruumz CEO James Chong.
Open to other views
But why 15? It seems there’s no other reason than it being a “nice round number”, according to the FAQ section.
“15Malaysia is as much about you as it is about us,” it says. “Your film can be about the pothole outside your house, the dirty drain next to your school, the favourite Malaysian food and so on. Whatever it is, it must be about Malaysia.”
Cindy Tham is thankful she does not have to make any sacrifices to have an Islamic bank account.
The Nut Graph needs your support