Thursday, October 26, 2006

Coming to Stockholm

Lelaki Komunis Terakhir screens on Nov 16, 21 and 26 at the Stockholm International Film Festival.

It is placed in a category called Collage which contains, I trust you will find, some intriguing titles.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Last Communist sequel in progress

By Fathi Aris Omar

The Star. 19 Oct 2006

PETALING JAYA: Not discouraged by the ban on Lelaki Komunis Terakhir (The Last Communist) in May, filmmaker Amir Muhammad is now completing a sequel to the controversial documentary.

The new film focuses on former Malay guerillas of the 10th Regiment of the defunct Communist Party of Malaya (CPM).

Named after Apa Khabar Orang Kampung, a popular song by the late Sudirman Arshad, it records the daily lives of former CPM members staying in the Ban Chulabhorn Pattana 12 or the 12th Chulaborn Development Village, not far from the Narathiwat-Kelantan border.

The village, developed following a tripartite agreement between the CPM, the Malaysian Government and the Thai Government, is said to be the original base of the 1,000-strong 10th Regiment.

Of the 140-odd families currently living there, fewer than 20 residents were born in Malaya. Of these, 15 – now in their late 70s or early 80s – were interviewed for the sequel.

Amir, 34, said he and a five-man crew spent some 10 days in August recording the current way of life of the former guerillas.

According to him, one of those interviewed, Pak Majid – whose original name is Idris Yusof – had served in both the British and Japanese armies before joining the CPM.

“He said no one had ever asked him about his experience, so we talked for three hours. His story is very interesting,” Amir told mStar Online, The Star’s Bahasa Malaysia news portal.

Apart from interviews, the film will also incorporate CPM propaganda materials, including its radio broadcasts, films and leaflets.

Amir said the sequel had been planned earlier and not in reaction to the criticisms directed at The Last Communist, banned following protests by various quarters, leading to a controversy involving film activists and politicians.

Hopefully, he added, Apa Khabar Orang Kampung would be approved for commercial screening early next year.

The film, now in the editing stage, is scheduled for screening at a film festival in Iran in January.

Asked how confident he was that it would be approved by the Censorship Board, Amir said: “If Remp-It can be approved, why not my film? There are no sex or violent scenes. Only old people talking.”

On a related note, Amir said the former guerillas were given 2.4ha of land each for agriculture development but none of their efforts was successful.

As a result, many of the young people from the village had migrated to other places to look for jobs.

In the light of the insurgency in the southern Thai provinces, he added, they had also been accused of involvement in the separatist groups.

Most of them had denied this and the Thai Government also believed they were not involved, he said.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Amir tidak serik dengan komunis!

Oleh Fathi Aris Omar

MStar. 17 Oktober.

(The full article in Malay can be read here.)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Story of his life

We knew him as Pak Kassim. Most of the village called him Pak Majid. His real name was Idris Yusof.

When we interviewed this 86-year old for Apa Khabar Orang Kampung, I found his story one of the most compelling accounts in the whole village.

As a young man he had been part of the British reserve army; then he joined the dreaded Kempetai (the Japanese military police) and was jailed for this after WWII; and then he joined the communists. He was part of the 10th Regiment's 'Long March' into South Thailand in the mid-1950s. He would not see his native Malaya/Malaysia again for 5 decades.

He told us that no one had asked him to tell his life-story before.

And so he talked.

For 3 hours.

And nothing was boring.

His pithy, poignant account, laced with occasional sarcasm and a touch of braggadocio, and punctuated by his raspy smoker's laugh, actually form the backbone of Apa Khabar Orang Kampung... although we do of course hear from other folks as well. I decided this structure early on, even before we started editing. He also spoke on guerrilla food, propaganda, Malaysia's development, Islam, the sultans, his own family...

Three weeks after the interview, on 18 September, he passed away peacefully. I only found out about it this month. So all the while, we were actually editing the story of a man who is no longer with us. Unlike Rashid Maidin, he was not a top leader, so the news didn't get any coverage.

Even in the regiment he was a somewhat controversial presence due to his previous links to not only the British but the Japanese.This position as minority-within-minority probably contributed to his more individual take on things; he didn't just recite slogans; his unorthodox, contradictory journey gave him an almost iconoclastic bearing.

We remarked that he seemed quite healthy even though he had complained of various ailments. He certainly did not falter or complain of fatigue when talking to us. Now I know why. He was, quite literally, telling the story of his life.

The documentary will be dedicated to his memory.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Invite to talk

I will be giving a talk and slide-show presentation on the making of Apa Khabar Orang Kampung. It should last an hour, after which buka puasa delights beckon from dozens of eateries nearby!

Where: Silverfish Books, 67-1, Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar Baru, KL.
When: 5:30pm, Saturday, 14 October.
How Much: Gratis, dong.
Inquiries: (03) 2284 4837.

By the way, the boy in our promo postcard that you see is named Awie. He is the first person who speaks in the documentary.