Amir Muhammad, a film maker, made a musical semi-documentary titled Lelaki Komunis Terakhir or The Last Communist, which chronicled the life of ex-communist leader in exile, Chin Peng.
We all know who Chin Peng was, but for my overseas readers, the man led the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) in several decades of bloody guerrilla campaign during the communist insurgency which began in 1946 and ended after the Haadyai Peace Accord in 1989.
Amir explained that the 90-minute film did not feature actual interviews with Chin Peng or even depicted his photos, but interviews with people who lived in various towns previously known for communist activity. In fact Chin Peng was only mentioned once during these interviews. Amir said the film was never meant to be commercially screened but to serve as a historical documentary. It certainly wasn't communist propaganda.
Amir added that the film had been passed uncut in various countries, including neighbouring rabidly anti-communist Singapore. Amir said of Singapore: “The censorship board, whose job is to monitor these things, had obviously found nothing objectionable in the film; this is why it was passed uncut.”
It was scheduled for screening on May 18 in Kuala Lumpur. But knowing Malaysia, just to be on the safe side, because the film depicted Chin Peng, bete noire of and political ammunition for some Malays, Amir did a special screening for the Police Special Branch, who OK-ed the film as not prejudicial to the security of the nation or public order.
But it was suddenly banned by the Home Affairs Ministry last Friday. Why?
Amir said that the culprit has been Berita Harian, which last week published a series of adverse articles criticising the censorship board’s decision in approving the documentary. The damning articles included interviews with politicians, film makers and academics. Needless to say, after the sh*t stirring, all those people lambasted Amir and his film.
Amir said no one in Berita Harian has even seen the documentary. And no one interviewed by Berita Harian, namely those politicians, film makers and academics, had seen it either. He said some of them didn’t even know of its existence until Berita Harian told them.
Well, none other than Puteri UMNO chief Noraini Ahmad described the censorship board’s approval of the controversial documentary as inappropriate because it was wrong to glorify Chin Peng.
Glorify? Our UMNO miss, had jumped to the conclusion, without even seeing the film, that it glorifies Chin Peng!
Then, Malaysian Film Producers Association president Ruhani Abdul Rahman expressed her shock and disappointment over Amir’s decision not to promote the dignity and struggle of nationalistic heroes. She asked: “Are there no Malay heroes that Amir can promote (angkat) through his documentary?”
Somehow Ruhani missed the point that it’s a musical doco on a man who fought against the government of Malaysia, unless she had meant that Amir should have depicted (glorify?) Rashid Maidin instead because Rashid being a Malay could be considered a Malaysian ‘hero’?
Hah! Now we come to the real reason. Berita Harian’s assistant entertainment editor, Akmal Abdullah, questioned the scheduled screening of the movie in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, which he described as Chinese majority areas. Hellooooo, I thought most of the people in KL and Penang are Malaysians?
Akmal said: “We hope that after this, Amir and film makers from the new generation of Malays, will pay more attention to the struggles of heroes from their own race...”
“… from their own race …” Doesn’t that say it all as to why Berita Harian had sabotaged the screening of the film. And in the eyes of Akmal, Amir as a Malay has been a disappointment. I reckon Amir should have depicted the top Malay communist, No 2 in the CPM, Rashid Maidin. Amir might have just got away with it. He should heed the clarion call of Negara, Bangsa dan Agama [Nation, Race & Religion]
But good ole Amir socked back, saying Berita Harian is a culturally chauvinistic newspaper, and its central objection to his film was that Chin Peng is an ethnic Chinese.
The irate film director also dismissed Akmal’s suggestion that the movie was intentionally planned for screening in Chinese majority areas, but rather, cinemas equipped to screen the movie, which is in digital-video format, could only be found in Penang and Kuala Lumpur. Well, Amir old chap, what can you expect of a bloke who walk around with a racist view of Malaysia. He would be sure to miss inconvenient facts like this.
Racism is well and very much alive in Malaysia.