Sunday, July 26, 2009

Film director Yasmin Ahmad (1958-2009)

She passed away last night. See here. Yesterday there was already news that she'd collapsed during her press conference from a stroke.

I'd admired her work ever since I watched Sepet. Or maybe before that, when I was doing my internship at Young and Rubicam KL and I found out about her Petronas National Holiday ads. It's Malaysians like her, I thought, that put Singaporeans with all our superficial racial harmony agendas, to shame.

Unfortunately, the only time I met her was at a free screening of Muallaf, which was awkward because I didn't actually like the movie, since it pulled its punches. But of course it was daring enough to actually take on the issue of Islam, and what filmmakers in Singapore have dared to do that? (I know of one, but he was called up for questioning by the ISD and his film was confiscated and he was forbidden to even discuss what happened thereafter.)

She was scheduled to shoot her first film in Singapore next year. It would've been called "Go, Thaddeus!" She'd already proven her worth with two short films advertising the importance of family love.

She quite liked us, although we kept on mispronouncing the titles of her films. We never censored and marginalised her and called her a traitor to her race the way Malaysia did. Of course, if she'd been born in Singapore, she would've been outspoken about the ironies we have here, and we would've destroyed her in our own way just the same.

I'm glad at least that she lived to see the elections of 2008, with the breaking through of a post-racial Malaysian politics. If only I knew there were other film directors like her around.

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