Thursday, September 5, 2013

Tanda Putera

I rarely watched movies in cinemas, and the times that I do I rarely include Malay movies in my to-watch list (the last one that I did was KIL, which I thought was great).

But the recently controversional Tanda Putera had really piqued up my interest. Judging from the review (or rather lack of it) I was curious to see just how bad the movie is, and if I could find any merit out of the whole thing. After all, don't judge something until you see every side of the story is one of my philosophy in judging (the second one is simply: do not judge at all).

And I'm feeling a need to be judgmental with the movie, so I gave it a watching anyway.

To sum up in simple words: the movie was boring.

But lets look at the controversional part first, of course. I kept reading how they point that the movie is racist in its bad depiction of painting the Chinese as the bad guys in the May 13 incidence. There have been reviews which asked the question: why the focus on only the Chinese Communist that wanted to overthrow the government?

That question is quite valid, as I see the movie doesn't really show the Communist in a much clear light: even if they try to show that it's the Communist which are the 'bad guy', the fact that they keep showing a bunch of Communist Chinese (along with other background Chinese, affiliation with the Communist not clearly shown) seems to allude that the Chinese are the 'bad guy' here.

Sure we get the part where the Malay were all gung-ho in fighting, but their action seems pretty tame compared to the Chinese counterpart. What confused me, really, is what is the movie actually trying to achieve?

Throughout the movie we are shown into the glimpse of the life of Tun Dr Ismail and Tun Abdul Razak, with the whole racial tension and some focus on some related common folks in between. There was also the story of a group of friends as they go through the time of conflict, but I feel that they could have used a much better sets of characters if they really want to show reconciling between races after such terrible incident. The whole movie is generally all so jumpy that I'm wondering if they might as well do away with the whole racial tension and instead put it clearly that this movie try to bring into light the story of those two historical figure.

Heck this movie might as well be summarized into tales of two dying political figures who aren't honest with others to tell that they are dying. Because that's pretty much the 'moral' which I'm getting from the story: people who don't want to tell others of their problems might think it is noble, but I view that as rather selfish.

But perhaps I should have seen that coming with the poster right?

Now I get it! The blood splatter is the one from sickness rather than bloodbath...

I'm more dissatisfied with the lack of coherent storyline in this movie: if they were really serious about going through the May 13 incidence, then so much more could be done - even if it meant showing some past which in today's light would have been utterly unacceptable. I would really like to see someone tackle this subject with a view from all side, rather than the 'victims' side only.

The last suggestion might be crazy, but let it be known: by understanding and empathizing with each side, we're much closer to mutual understanding and respect, as opposed to continue putting on our tinted glasses and view each other from our own perspective. I would like to see someone daring enough to throw out the truth rather than cherry picking them, for the sake of sensitivity or the sort... I mean, come on. They really shouldn't underestimate the minds of moviegoers.

I've read from secondhand comment that the director have dramatized some part of the movie to make it more interesting. Well, I could see that working in showing the story of the two figures, but even so it feels... so flat. I'm not really feeling anything, really. As far as I remember it was them just talking about unity and the sort, and shouting angrily now and then on Communist and radical elements creating trouble. But I couldn't really remember if there was a moment where they were out to really change something.

Well yes there was the scene with the New Economic Policy, visit to rural Malay community... but was there a conscious effort at instilling better racial unity? Supposing that even then in the real world these leaders didn't do such things, but there must have at least be some effort at reconciling with the various races now, would they?

In the end, I can only say I like Ida Nerina role as the office worker in the prime minister's office: her presence was at least entertaining.

I also like how in between all this, they manage to focus on Mahathir in his early days, even then kicking up a storm with everyone else. And the moment I saw him on screen I'm waiting for his Kedah accent to make themselves heard hahaha.

And those are perhaps the two things which entertain me throughout the movie. The rest are all simply not-really-there for me. But is the story potential racist? Perhaps, and for that I blame it on them not going further than the whole Chinese-are-ungrateful-lot-which-are-easily-influenced-by-the-Communist-to-overthrow-government coupled with the hidup-Melayu chant thrown every now and then.

(and of course, the where-are-the-Indians? question deserved to be asked too, heh)

No wonder this movie is a flop: there's simply not any interested audience for it. Not even those who are in for storytelling, I'm afraid.

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