Saturday, January 30, 2010

MENGENANG ANUAR ARAI, PhD, FILEM DAN DRAMA (UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA.)

Oleh Mansor Puteh


Amat mengejutkan. Berita kematian rakan baik saya Anuar Nor Arai tiba secara mengejut, secara tiba-tiba. Kita baca Al-Fatihan sebab ia adalah ketentuan Ilahi yang lebih tahu kenapa insan bernama Anuar Nor Arai ini mahu dibawa ke sisiNya.

Saya masih ingat pertama kali berjumpa dengannya dalam acara forum berjudul, ‘Siri Dialog Cerdik’ yang diadakan di Sudut Penulis dalam tahun 1982 dahulu. Saya, Anuar, Johan Jaafar dan Hamzah Hussin bercakap dalam forum yang membincangkan tentang Pengarah Hussain Hanif yang terkenal dengan filem garangnya seperti ‘Hang Jebat’ dan ‘Istana Berdarah’. Dan filemnya berjudul, ‘Jiran Sekampong’ telah dijemput untuk tayangan khas di Pusat Kebudayaan Pompidou di Paris Disember depan sehingga Mac.

Sebanyak 51 buah filem dan video dari Malaysia dan Singapura turut ditayang selama tiga bulan termasuk filem lama saya berjudul, ‘Seman’ yang ditayang pada 4 Januari dan kali kedua pada 29 Januari depan.

Kali terakhir saya bertemu dengan Anuar ialah pada 7 Januari lalu di pejabatnya di Akademi Seni dan Warisan (Aswara). Ketika itu dia sedang menulis kritikannya tentang dokumentari saya, ‘Bertahun di Residensi’ (The Residency Years) yang dia mahu persembah dalam sebuah acara tayangan dan forum di Aswara untuk pelajar-pelajarnya dan orang awam serta media.

Dia tunjuk saya muka satu tulisannya dan suruh saya hantar karangannya ke semua media. Tapi saya beritau dia untuk tunggu sehingga hari forum itu. Dia bersetuju dan akan suruh petugasnya untuk hantarnya dengan emel.

Saya masih ingat lagi apabila berkata, dia tulis bukan sebab saya rakannya; dia tulis sebagai sarjana yang berfikiran bebas. Saya beritau dia saya tidak kisah sebab tahu Anuar gemar dokumentari itu dan mahu bercakap tentangnya dan mendidik pelajar bidang perfileman di Aswara untuk menontonnya dan memahaminya.

Dia bercakap tentang ‘picturing’ atau ‘pegambaran’ (bukan ‘penggambaran’. Siapa kata Bahasa Melayu tidak kompleks?) Mungkin ini perkataan baru dalam bidang perfileman di Malaysia, tetapi inilah Anuar yang gemar lontar dan guna perkataan-perkataan yang orang lain tidak pernah guna dalam perbincangan tentang filem di Malaysia.

Dan Anuar buat saya rasa malu bila dia bertanya kenapa saya enggan terima tawaran mengajar di Aswara kursus teori dan kritikan filem untuk pelajar peringkat sarjana muda.

Saya hampir tersentak dengan soalan ini, walaupun ia tidak kedengaran seperti dia marah. Saya dapat rasa dia terkilan.

Lantas dia berkata, dia mahu ‘pelajar-pelajar mendapat perspektif baru’ dalam filem.

Saya tidak duduk lama di pejabatnya sebab saya lihat dia mahu terus tulis kritikannya tentang dokumentari saya, jadi sayapun meminta diri dan pergi dari situ, sebab dia tidak mempunyai banyak masa katanya, sebab dia akan ke Port Dickson untuk beberapa hari bersama pensyarah dan pegawai Aswara lain.

Saya juga masih ingat bagaimana dia telah pelawa saya untuk belarkon sebagai watak utama dalam filem terbitan pelajar Aswara berjudul, ‘Jimbo’ yang sepatutnya difilemkan tahun lalu. Persiapan telah hampir dilakukan, tetapi penerbitan tidak dapat dimulakan dan filem ini terpaksa dibatalkan.

Akhirnya dia mendapat seorang pelakon lain untuk main watak utama itu dan dia beri saya watak seorang wartawan pula yang hanya mempunyai enam babak sahaja.

Ramai orang tidak sedar bahawa Anuar telah mengarah sebuah filem semasa mengajar di Universiti Malaya, berjudul, ‘Johnni bikin filem’. Filem ini sepanjang lima jam, dan ia telah diterima oleh Pesta Filem Venice, tetapi pihak penganjor menarik balik tawaran apabila mereka diberi salinan dua jam yang pada mereka ‘tidak mempunyai struktur’. Anuar tidak faham apa yang mereka maksudkan.

Anuar juga telah mengarah sebuah teater muzikal berjudul, ‘Ronggeng Rokiah’ dan menulis banyak skrip drama televisyen yang diterbit dan diarah oleh orang lain.

Pendek kata, walaupun dia sibuk mengajar dia masih mempunya masa untuk berkarya. Dan setahu saya skrip yang ditinggalnya berjumlah berpuluh-puluh yang belum diterbit dan tersimpan dengan baik.

Walaupun Anuar bekerja di Aswara mula sebagai ketua jabatan filem dan kemudian pengarah hal ehwal akademik dan kemudian pemangku rektor sebelum dilantik sebagai timbalan rektor, tetapi dia telah meninggalkan kesan yang mendalam kepada pelajar-pelajar dan Aswara.

Tentu sekali amat sukar untuk Aswara mendapat seorang tokoh akademik dan intelektual bidang perfileman sepertinya.

Latarbelakangnya dalam bidang teater atau drama pentas termasuk minatnya terhadap bidang-bidang kesenian lain membuat fikirannya luas. Dia faham semua genre filem dan karya seni lain dan boleh terimanya asalkan ia bermutu dan baik.

Mungkin orang tidak sedar bahawa hasratnya untuk melihat penubuhan sebuah Sinema Malaysia tidak kesampaian; pandanganya yang bernas dipandang rendah dan dia sering juga dicemuh bila bercakap tentang filem.

Ada segelintir orang yang rata-rata tidak senang dengan kehadirannya sebagai sarjana berkelulusan ijazah kedoktoran dari University of Southern California (Universiti California Selatan – USC), yang merupakan sebuah universiti penting dalam bidang pengajian filem, kelihatan janggal di dalam khalayak yang dangkal tentang filem.

Yang nyata sekali ialah ketokohan dan kepakarannya tidak diguna sepenuhnya oleh kerajaan dan masyarakat umum kerugian, sebab perusahaan filem kita masih terkebelakang oleh sebab saranan dan penglibatan mereka yang terdidik diperkecilkan dengan perlantikan mereka yang tidak berpendidikan sepertinya.

Ini yang anih: Dalam zaman bila banyak – dan hampir semua pemimpin Melayu bercakap mahu galak anak Melayu mendapat kelayakan akademik cemerlang dari universiti terulung di Amerika dan dunia – anak Melayu yang sebegitu kecil yang mempunyai cita-cita tinggi untuk membangunkan bangsa dan negara yang tidak kurang dengan pengelaman dan kelayakan akademik mereka dipinggirkan. Lebih teruk lagi mereka dicemuh.

Inilah sebabnya kenapa perusahaan filem tempatan lesu dengan semangat yang kendur; pandangan ke belakang melekakan kerabat seni filem yang asyik pula dengan glamor dan perasaan bangga diri, dengan menyibukkan kegiatan mereka bukan dengan terus berkarya, tetapi dengan membuat perbuataan yang sudah jadi mual.

Sampai bila mesti kerajaan dan pemimpin Melayu berundur dan biarkan mereka yang berkelayakan majukan perusahaan filem dan bidang kesenian lain?

Selagi pemimpin yang tidak ada kelayakan formal dalam bidang ini, dan mahu pilih mereka yang sebulu dengan mereka, selagi itu kegiatan seni di Malaysia lesu.

Perlantikan ke jawatan penting tidak dilakukan dengan mengambil kira kelayakan dan pengelaman tetapi keserasian mereka dengan menteri.

Siapa yang boleh mengambil alih tempat Anuar sebagai tokoh intelektual filem di Malaysia sekarang?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

NOTTINGHAM - UNIVERSITY OF TWO MALAYSIAN KINGS AND THE CURRENT PRIME MINISTER – IN JULY, 2009, PART II.

By Mansor Puteh


(NOTE: This is the second and final part of the essay I had posted earlier. The original essay was broken into two parts because it became very lengthy because there are a lot of things I want to write in it.)

Shahreza and I spent three days in Nottingham and during this short period of time we managed to see much of the city and by the time we left it, we were able to get around on our own pretty well, even without using the GPS.

We did not go to other interesting places in the city and its environs because we wanted to do it in our next trip there.

In the three days that I was on campus I could forget to notice the silence in it. There is silence everywhere you look at which is broken only by the sounds of the chirping birds and small waves that were created by the boats that some people were rowing in the lake.

There’s no one around like what one expects on a campus anywhere. But then it is the summer break when most of the students had left the campus for their long summer vacation leaving just a few to stay back to attend their graduation ceremony or commencement that was held in the field.

I noticed some Malaysians who had just graduated from the university with their degrees in various fields. How could I tell that? Because the women were wearing the Melayu traditional clothes called ‘baju Melayu’ over their togas or graduation gowns.

They seemed to be very happy and relieved to be able to carry the scrolls that they had just received from their vice-chancellor that they can take back to Malaysia, where they could start a new life.

Who wouldn’t be especially if one has to slog for three of four years to get to where they are now, a university graduate. Or in this case a graduate of Nottingham University – and be alumni of the university of two Malaysian Kings and the current prime minister.

It’s not that they are talking about it in this fashion. No one expects them to do it, but it can be an interesting writing for an outsider who can see how significant this detail or fact is. And it is not just for the casual conversationalists, but for the historians, too.

So I thought I was in a rural area in England like it is an extension of the wide plains I had just driven through earlier with my nephew, Shahreaza driving in our rented Ford Focus.

The driving from Cambridge where we had gone to do some visiting at the university there and the city to shoot video footage around the St. Catharine’s College had left an indelible mark in my awareness of England, especially the areas outside of London which I had not frequented often in the few trips I had made to the country.

In fact, last July I returned to the country after an absence of 18 years. And I had been there six times before, staying for two weeks at the most and one and a half days at the least.

And most of the time I was holed in London which is such a huge hole to have to wander around in.

Only once did I manage to venture outside of London which was to go to Oxford University and Stradford-upon-Avon in 1998.

And this time, 18 years later, I returned to England and rented a car for ten days and traveled all over the countryside which was peaceful.

It was in summer, but it was not a hot summer yet, as the weather was quite chilly which required the wearing of a light jacket for comfort. And it rained a lot too, sometimes very heavily when we were in the city or while driving.

After spending three days in Cambridge and doing what we were supposed to do there at the university, we drove along some rural roads and got to Nottingham.

This time we did it without the aid of the SatNav or Satellite Navigation system or GPS for Global Positioning System which we were using, because the gadget failed on us and we had to rely on maps that we downloaded from the internet that were given to us by a friend in Hitchin.

But the maps turned out to be confusing so we ended up having to make many detours and stopping strangers along the way and on the pavements to seek directions. Some of them took us away from Nottingham, but we somehow managed to get back on the right track and finally got there.

I was actually relieved to arrive at Nottingham University especially after hearing a lot about it and also reading about two of the Kings of Malaysia, the late Almarhum Yang diPertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan and the present Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah, had studied there in the 1940s, with the current prime minister, Najib Tun Razak following in their footsteps much later in the 1960s.

I ventured in the city and found how small and tidy it is with traffic flowing in an orderly fashion. On top of a hill in the city-center is an old castle which was where the legendary Robin Hood had frequented.

I tried to get there but the approach road did not take us there and we had to drive around the hill again and again. Maybe next time, I’ll try and see Robin there.

But I managed to spend a bit of a time visiting the many halal restaurants operated by the Indians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and the others.

This is where we stopped for our meals of kebab and fried rice and being able to see Nottingham from another perspective altogether.

And as we drove along the more quiet road, I felt a tinge of sadness especially at seeing the many rows of apartment and commercial buildings which are left vacant.

They must reflect the vibrant times that the city-folks might have experienced in the economic book which forced the developers to construct them to accommodate the growing population, many of whom had to be brought in from India and Bangladesh.

We got to meet some of them, and because most of them are Muslims we were able to strike interesting conversations with them. Some of them had met Malaysians who were studying at the university or living in the city, and also visitors who had come for a short stay there like the two of us.

And we also enjoyed eating the types of foods they sold and it saved us from having to go to India, Pakistan or Bangladesh to sample them. They are equally tasteful at the restaurants here as well as those in these countries including in Malaysia.

Yes, Nottingham is a city for me. It was unfortunate that I did not consider coming here to study, but I did not regret it because coming here allows me to see it in a totally different light altogether. Returning here in the near future, would be a blessing, especially if I am able to work on my film here and get it shown to many later.

Nottingham is not too far away from London, but it looks like it is so, especially if one is alert and is able to compare living in these two cities. Nottingham is not so world famous. It also cannot be compared with Liverpool and Manchester or Bristol. But that’s because it wants to be what it is.

And if not for Nottingham University, I doubt it if there will be many Malaysians who would have flocked to come here to study.

Of course the city has their own tourism office, but they hardly ever promote itself in Malaysia. They just exist for the local tourism.

Friday, January 22, 2010

VISITING NOTTINGHAM – THE UNIVERSITY OF TWO MALAYSIAN KINGS AND THE CURRENT PRIME MINISTER – IN JULY, 2009, PART I.

By Mansor Puteh



You don’t know you are on a university campus in England in the countryside because the whole place is covered with verdant trees and tall shrubs that cover most of the buildings much like the whole scenery you have seen throughout the trip there. And you want to ask if this is already summer?

I had not been too far inside of England to be able to see such a scenery and I liked what I was seeing. I wondered if I was able to return here in the near future to see it in a different climate so everything will look totally different like it is not the place I had been to but to a new one. In the middle of summer and Fall, the scenery will have a different tone, looking brown and gold everywhere; now it was green.

But anytime is a good time to be in England, especially for many Malaysians who have a strong fascination for this country despite it being one which had colonized Malaysia for many decades and somehow we have a way of being able to dance with in a tight embrace.

They are so few Malaysians who do not like England, as much as they do not have any hatred of Japan which had exhibited atrocities on the country in the Second World War and caused the death of many and hurting the many others.

So now many Malaysians will jump at the opportunity to visit England and Japan if they are given any opportunity to do so. Unfortunately, some go there to work illegally so no wonder the immigration authorities of the two countries are not reacting to this attitude which unfortunately, will affect all the bona fide travelers and visitors to the countries.

The scenery in Nottingham look well arranged or manicured and tidy, much like my long hair which seems to adapt well in the cool weather of summer than it could in the heat in Malaysia where I had just come from.

And the buildings on this campus are low. They do not scream out for attention and they blend well with the surroundings and with nature. So you tend to think you are still driving along trying to find the university you had flown from so far away – from Malaysia, to go to, until you see a signboard which says so.

So you have finally arrived at the university of two Malaysian kings – Sultan Azlan Shah of Perak and the late Almarhum Tuanku Jaafar, the Yang diPertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan, and the current prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak.

I can see why the university is outstanding; it shows all over.

And one immediately gets to cool down once one gets here. So I suppose it is very congenial if one has come to study or to make a lighting visit. It is also near a city which does not scream for attention; it has a tempo of its own. It doesn’t seem to be interested to compete with the other larger cities in England, much less abroad. It is contented being itself.

Forget London and the other big cities. Also forget Kuala Lumpur. Try and enjoy the city and its sights. This is almost the whole of England. It is not so cosmopolitan but still a trendsetter. Its history goes back in time to affect the history of the whole country.

Last July, I visited Nottingham University in England for the first time. And I liked it a lot. I have been to many cities, big and small in the 33 countries I have been to so far, to know why there is a certain attraction that I can find in this city.

It is a big city but small enough to make you not lose yourself; and it is also a small city with features of a big city.

And after half a day of driving around it, I could get the sense of direction to know how to go places and ending up at more interesting and out-of-the way ones, which expose different facades of the whole city and its dwellers.

There’s only one building at the center of the campus called the Trent Building with a tall clock tower. It also looks like a not-so-quite old castle. It was imposing nevertheless, as it is difficult to escape one’s view of it, even from outside of the campus as it stands above the trees. It is best to look at it from a distance to see the whole of it instead of just parts of it.

And nearby it and beside a lake is a tower which looks like a giant pencil. It looks like a chimney or an incomplete minaret of an ancient civilization that had been left behind.

Or, if you want to allow your imagination to run wild, it could be like a structure from the sky or from an alien space station that had fallen and got stuck into the ground.

Other than that, it was fun and a relief to be able to arrive at this university for the first time after driving for more than two hours along roads which are equally quiet cutting through wide plains which are only broken by small villages and towns along the way.

It was quite an enjoyable ride. There were so few vehicles and people we had met or seen along the way.

The quiet was quite a relief actually, but I got over it by busying myself by taking video and still photos, and listening to the radio.

This is England as much as London is also. Both strike different responses to the first-time visitors. Whereas one has ‘seen’ London many times in films, on television and the media, one cannot say the same with rural England, and especially of the areas that we had to pass through to get to Nottingham.

But one needs to get a least a cursory knowledge of Nottingham and especially of its famous Nottingham Forest to realize how at an earlier century there lived an Englishman who has since become a legend in the person of Robin Hood whose presence is still felt here and especially in the city where his personage is being kept alive for visitors.

Maybe it’s not too late for me to mention how many locals and Amrul, the Malaysian doctoral candidate at the university, had also called this city by its nickname of Notts.

I was surely lucky to be in constant communication with Professor Christine Ennew who was responsible for making our three-days stay on campus a memorable and interesting one. And through her, too, I managed to get in touch with Amrul, whom she is supervising.

But first on Christine: I have been told by some students how Christine or Chris does not like it when someone calls her Professor Ennew. The word somehow does not sound too good for her ears.

This is totally unlike in Malaysia where the university lecturers want everybody to call them by their job descriptions even if they are mere associate professors or even emeritus professors, which they take with them even if they leave the world of academia. But not many know what they are professors of and what researches they had conducted and are respected for, other than knowing them for their lofty titles.

To me, Chris is a very fast worker who had helped to arrange our stay at one of their boarding schools or halls to allow us to be close to the campus and be familiar with the environs so that we could return to the campus later to shoot a feature film there.

This would be the first Malaysian feature film to be shot mostly on the campus and in the city as well as in England, so Nottingham can be the university of two Malaysian kings and one prime minister and the location for the first Malaysian feature film to be shot in England, too.

Amrul took us to the supermarket to buy provision and cooked Malaysian food in his two-storey rented house where he was sharing with another Malaysian and a Siamese student.

Another Malaysian doctoral candidate at the same university called Rudy later came to join us for dinner of Malaysian food. So we have a mini-Malaysian restaurant here that serves the best Melayu food there is in the whole of Nottingham.

(NOTE: Chances are I might be returning to Nottingham in early March to attend the film event called ‘Four Films From Malaysia and The Residency Years’ held at Nottingham University, in conjunction with the Malaysian Night organized by the Malaysian Students Association of the university.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

‘TAK FAHAM ITU INDAH, SALAH FAHAM ITU BAHAYA’:

(NOTA: Ulasan ini pertama kali disiar dalam Pancaindera, Mingguan Malaysia, 17 Januari, 2010.)

Tahun 2010 sudah pun diisytihar sebagai Tahun Inovasi dan Kreativiti. Mansor Puteh telah terlebih awal memberi ‘tendangan yang pertama’ dengan mengemukakan sebuah karya berbentuk dokumentari dengan judul, Bertahun di Residensi (The Residency Years).

Mansor membawa satu pendekatan yang jarang-jarang dilihat di stesen televisyen tempatan. Baru-baru ini, dokumentari tersebut ditayangkan untuk media di FINAS.

Yang menjadi menarik di sesi ini bukanlah polemik tentang filem itu sendiri tetapi polemik berkaitan dengan komen Mansor terhadap para penilai filemnya yang dilantik oleh FINAS sebagaimana yang tersiar dalam Mingguan Malaysia tempoh hari.

Pada kebiasaannya polemik penting dalam penilaian sesuatu karya seni. Polemik adalah sesuatu yang sihat yang berupaya membuka banyak ruang untuk menilai sesuatu karya seni yang mampu membawa khalayak melihatnya dari pelbagai sudut.

Ini kerana karya seni ada kalanya bersifat ikonik, ia itu, maksudnya jelas; adakalanya ia bersifat indeksikal, ia itu, membawa petunjuk tentang sesuatu, dan adakalanya ia bersifat simbolik (atau ambiguous), yang tentunya boleh membawa pelbagai pendapat dan tafsiran.

Malangnya, sesi tersebut di FINAS tersasar dan membuatkan ramai menjadi terlalu emosional. Anehnya, Mansor Puteh kelihatan amat tenang walhal dialah yang sepatutnya lebih tensyen. Namun begitu, Mansor perlu peka kepada syarat dan peraturan FINAS yang bertindak sebagai penerbit, apatah lagi peruntukkan yang diberi adalah geran dan bukan pinjaman.

FINAS juga tidak perlu melenting kerana ia merupakan sebuah perbadanan dan bukan jabatan Kerajaan seperti, misalnya, Filem Negara. Apa saja kritikan sepatutnya dijadikan peluang untuk memperbaiki mana yang patut agar menjadi panduan untuk lebih berjaya di masa hadapan. Kesefahaman di antara kedua pihak tentunya akan membawa kepada kebaikan.

Kebelakangan ini, salah faham tentang medium filem kerap berlaku bukan sahaja di kalangan karyawan kita tetapi juga di kalangan media, birokrat, ahli akademik dan juga ahli panel juri di pelbagai festival tempatan. Produksi filem dikelirukan dengan ilmu filem. Seorang yang pandai menyelesaikan sesuatu produksi dengan baik tidak semestinya memahami ilmu filem.

Dia mungkin hanya mahir di segi aspek teknikalnya sahaja. Besar kemungkinan dia langsung tidak mempunyai ilmu atau kefahaman untuk menyelami pemikiran, estetika dan falsafah yang terdapat di sebalik sesuatu karya filem.

Dalam hal ini, Mansor sudah menerima nasib malang sebanyak tiga kali di tangan mereka yang tidak memahami karya yang berbentuk alternatif (yang berbeza daripada filem arus perdana atau mainstream).

Pada tahun 1987, Mansor mendapat pinjaman FINAS untuk menerbitkan filem cereka sulungnya, Seman.

Semasa filem ini masih dalam pembikinan, pinjaman dihenti disebabkan penilaian negatif yang dibuat berdasarkan tera sulungnya (atau rushes) oleh seorang ‘pakar’ (dalam produksi filem).

Namun begitu, Mansor dapat selesaikan filemnya dan berjaya membayar balik wang yang sudah diterimanya. Di atas usaha gigihnya, Seman berjaya ditayangkan di beberapa festival filem antarabangsa.

Skrip filem cerekanya berjudul Malaysian Snow pula tidak dapat diterbit disebabkan pelbagai kerenah yang datang daripada pihak bank (walaupun skripnya telah pun dilulus oleh FINAS, dan itu pun selepas rayuan dibuat apabila penilaian yang kurang memihak di peringkat awal).

Kini sejarah berulang lagi. Para penilai Bertahun di Residensi merupakan mereka yang hanya terpelajar dalam bidang penerbitan dokumentari, tidak dalam bidang filem. Ada yang kepakarannya dalam bidang produksi filem, bukan ilmu filem. Filem alternatif dinilai dari seperti filem arus perdana.

Yang tersurat tidak diselami dan tanda tidak dilihat sebagai petunjuk tentang sesuatu. Memang benarlah kata U-Wei Hajisaari: “Tak faham itu indah tapi salah faham itu bahaya”.

Bukankah lebih baik penilai-penilai dipilih dari kalangan karyawan berkelulusan dalam bidang filem seperti Dr. Anuar Nor Arai, Dr. Mahadi J. Murat, Hafsham atau pun U-Wei Hajisaari?

Atau pun dipilih dari pembikin dokumentari yang diiktiraf di peringkat antarabangsa seperti Amir Muhammad (The Big Durian, filem tunggal Malaysia yang ditayang di Festival Filem Sundance) atau pun Naguib Razak (The Boatbuilders of Mermaid Island yang ditayang di Saluran Discovery Channel)?

Khalayak sebenarnya dikelirukan selama ini tentang bentuk dan rupa dokumentari kerana sudah terlalu lama dibiasakan dengan ‘dokumentari’ terbitan stesen televisyen tempatan atau pun Discovery Channel dan National Geographic.

Pada hakikatnya, kebanyakkan dokumentari arus perdana adalah filem hiburan di mana struktur dan teknik penerbitannya dirangka agar dapat menarik perhatian penonton dan bertujuan mendapat rating yang tinggi.

Filem-filem seperti ini tidak sejujur filem alternatif seperti Bertahun di Residensi yang mengajak penonton untuk turut terlibat dalam penceritaan dan penghayatannya.

Namun begitu, polemik yang tercetus ini sudah membuatkan nama al-Marhum Tunku Abd. Rahma Putra al-Haj sebagai Bapa Kemerdekaan, menjadi buah mulut khalayak dan terpapar di dada akhbar dan Internet.

Tunku juga sudah menjadi lebih dekat pada kita melalui gaya penyampaian Mansor. Penemuan peti besi milik Tunku dijadikan premis untuk membongkar banyak yang tidak pernah diketahui umum.

Sekaligus, Mansor menambahkan lagi khazanah arkib tentang Tunku yang akan kekal dalam ingatan kita untuk selama-lamanya.

Mansor mengajak khalayak untuk melihat Tunku bukan sebagai seorang Perdana Menteri (yang sudah pun dipaparkan dengan baik sekali oleh Datin Paduka Shuhaimi Baba melalui filemnya, 1957: Hati Malaya namun tidak mendapat sambutan).

Mansor mahu kita melihat al-Marhum sebagai seorang insan biasa yang berketurunan Raja tetapi selesa berpakaian kain sarung biasa di khalayak.

Kini baru kita tahu bahawa al-Marhum tidak mahu dilayan di London sebagai seorang putera raja tetapi sebagai seorang pelajar biasa semasa dihantar untuk belajar di sana pada usia muda.

Baru sekarang kita tahu bahawa al-Marhum juga pernah menerima nasib yang sama seperti karyawan filem tempatan apabila tidak menerima royalti hasil daripada skrip Mahsuri penulisannya dengan pelbagai alasan daripada pihak penerbit.

Ternyata Bertahun di Residensi adalah satu pengembaraan, catatan dan rakaman peribadi Mansor, sekaligus memperlihatkan beliau sudah lebih tahu tentang beberapa aspek kehidupan Tunku yang tidak diketahui Syed Abdullah, anak angkat Tunku sendiri.

Dalam satu adegan, Syed Abdullah diperlihatkan kembali ke Residensi tetapi hanya sebagai seorang pelawat biasa walaupun pernah menghuni di sana.

Dari segi pendekatan penerbitan, Mansor menggunakan apa yang digelar formalist atau pun expressionist. Pendekatan ini jelas melanggar segala konvensi dan peraturan dalam berkarya dalam filem. Maka tidak berasas beberapa komen seperti ‘kamera goyang’, ‘gambar yang melompat-lompat’, ‘framing tak betul’ dan ‘gambar gelap’.

Perlu diingat, bahawa buku dan pengajian seharusnya tidak dijadikan sandaran. Cukuplah sekadar menjadikannya sebagai rujukan. Jika dijadikan sandaran semata-mata, akan sesatlah jalan. Ilmu itu berlapis, maka perlu dipadankan dengan petunjuk dari Tuhan. Maka dengan itu, akan adillah sesuatu penilaian.

Mansor Puteh tahu apa yang dibuatnya. Sudut pandangannya jelas. Bertahun di Residensi merupakan satu pengembaraan yang amat peribadi, sesuatu yang seakan-akan dirakam oleh beliau sendiri. Kata pengarah filem tersohor dari Sweden, Ingmar Bergman: ‘Jika mahu tahu apa yang diperkatakan oleh seorang karyawan, lihatlah bagaimana ia memperkatakannya’.

Jika mahu tahu apa yang ingin diperkatakan Mansor dalam Bertahun di Residensi, lihatlah bagaimana ia memperkatakannya melalui teknik komposisi, sinematografi, suntingan dan penataan cahaya yang jelas melanggar segala peraturan pembikinan filem biasa.

Aerial shot Kuala Lumpur yang menampakkan bangunan-bangunan pencakar langit seakan ‘dilihat’ oleh Tunku.

Mansor menguatkan adegan ini dengan syot arkib yang menunjukkan Tunku turun dari pesawat selepas misi Merdeka ke London. Visual pembangunan pesat di Kuala Lumpur seakan membangkit-kan satu pertanyaan: Sekiranya Tunku masih hidup, apakah Tunku akan gembira dengan keadaan Malaysia sekarang?

Apakah rakyat hidup dalam keadaan harmoni dan muhibbah sebagaimana diimpikannya sewaktu mencapai kemerdekaan dahulu?

Visual Stadium Merdeka diulang-ulang. Inilah tempat yang amat bersejarah yang telah dibina khusus untuk pengisytiharan Merdeka dan di mana telah bergemanya laungan Tunku yang keramat. Apakah ianya kini berdiri sebagai satu monumen yang sudah dilupakan asal usulnya?

Perlukah kita menilai semula Stadium Merdeka sebagai simbol untuk membakar semangat agar kita dapat menjadi rakyat yang benar-benar merdeka? Atau apakah stadium bersejarah ini sudah tidak ubah seperti foto-foto dalam buku The Residency Years dan hanya menjadi tatapan semasa minum kopi?

Inilah persoalan-persoalan pada hemat saya yang dibawa oleh Mansor melalui visual-visual yang ‘sarat dengan makna’.

Di akhir filemnya, Mansor mencuit para penonton dengan visual sekumpulan remaja bermain gitar dan bernyanyi dalam suasana tanpa cahaya. Maka timbullah lagi persoalan: Apakah makna kemerdekaan bagi mereka ini?

Benarkah remaja-remaja ini (putera-putera Merdeka) mewarisi apa yang benar-benar diimpikan Bapa Kemerdekaan kita? Lebih tepat lagi, apakah minda mereka sudah merdeka?

Karya Mansor Puteh memainkan peranan sebenar sebuah dokumentari, ia itu, engaging the audience in a discourse.

‘Membaca’ karya Mansor memerlukan sedikit usaha. Karya-karya daripada pembikin generasi baru seperti Mansor, U-Wei Hajisaari, Anuar Nor Arai, Mamat Khalid, Wan Azli Wan Jusoh, James Lee, Amir Muhammad, Ho Yuhang dan beberapa yang lain, adalah karya yang terhasil dari minda yang sudah merdeka; yang tidak dibelenggu oleh karya arus perdana yang bersandarkan keuntungan semata-mata. B

ilakah karya-karya alternatif karyawan-karyawan ini akan mendapat perhatian khalayak? Selagi penerbit-penerbit filem dan stesen-stesen televisyen tempatan tidak berusaha untuk memerdekakan minda rakyat Malaysia daripada santapan karya arus perdana yang mediocre dan bersifat hiburan semata-mata, maka selagi itulah karya alternatif tidak akan dapat dinikmati oleh khalayak dan memerdekakan minda mereka.

Maka akan sia-sialah segala usaha institusi-institusi pengajian tinggi dan agensi-agensi kerjaan yang berkaitan untuk melahirkan orang-orang seni ‘yang inovatif dan kreatif’.

Slogan akan kekal sebagai slogan dan hanya menjadi retorik semata-mata.

Dalam adegan di akhir filem Seman arahan Mansor Puteh, watak utamanya menyampaikan sebuah monolog: “Aku gagah berani, menentu masa depan sendiri. Aku tidak bersenjata. Cuma kekuatan di dada. Aku manusia biasa”.

Kata-kata ini sebenarnya luahan yang timbul dari lubuk hati Mansor sebagai seorang karyawan yang terpinggir di negara sendiri; yang tidak dapat peluang untuk berkarya seperti diinginkannya; yang berhadapan dengan mereka yang tidak berilmu untuk melihat apa yang diperkatakannya tentang bangsa dan negara yang dicintainya.

Mungkinkah kata-kata sebegini juga pernah terlintas di fikiran al-Marhum Tunku semasa berusaha menuntut kemerdekaan dahulu di mana beliau berhadapan dengan sang kolonialis yang berdolak-dalik dan penuh kerenah?

Karya seni yang baik mampu membawa pelbagai cetusan dan tafsiran. Mansor sudah berjaya melakukannya dalam Bertahun di Residensi. Mansor Puteh hanya ‘manusia biasa’ tetapi luar biasa dalam kebiasaannya.

Negara memerlukan karyawan yang inovatif dan kreatif untuk memberi inspirasi kepada para remaja dan graduan dalam bidang seni yang akan menjadi karyawan nanti.

Para penilai di kalangan panel juri festival filem juga perlu dipilih dengan teliti supaya karyawan yang inovatif tidak menjadi mangsa mereka yang kurang ilmu penilaian. Negara memerlukan insan-insan seperti Mansor Puteh untuk memerdekakan dunia seni filem tanahair daripada karya picisan yang kosong di segi pemikiran.

Mahukah kita membenarkan ianya berlaku? Atau pun mahukah dibiarkan Mansor bermonolog bersendirian lagi seperti protagonis dalam filemnya, Seman: ‘Aku pejuang bangsa, tak tahu khianat kepada negara. Aku pahlawan perkasa, sambut seruan pertiwi, semurni kasih bunda, sejernih embun pagi.’

Jika mahu mengenali seorang karyawan yang tulen, lihatlah karyanya. Untuk mengenali Mansor Puteh, selamilah watak Seman dan isis kandungan filem Seman.

Kata-kata Seman itu seakan tangisan yang penuh dengan sedihan. Tangisan itu sebenarnya tangisan Mansor Puteh sendiri. Tangisannya bukan di luar tetapi di dalam, yang telah berlanjutan selama lebih tiga puluh tahun yang penuh perjuangan yang perit dan sengsara. Berapa lama lagikah kita mahu membiarkannya bertangisan berseorangan?

(Hassan Abd Muthalib adalah Karyawan Tamu Kanan di Fakulti Teknologi Kreatif dan Artistik, UiTM, Kampus Puncak Perdana, Shah Alam.)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

‘THE RESIDENCY YEARS’, THE CINEMA AND TUNKU --- AND RELIGIOUS STRIFE AND TODAY'S MALAYSIA.

…COULD IT BE FOREIGN HANDS AT WORK ON THE CHURCHES, SO MALAYSIA BURNS?
by Mansor Puteh


PROLOGUE:

Malaysia and Malaysians are lucky that we do not react in the same manner as the others who could be made to over-react with the slightest provocation.

So what seemed to be a sure disaster, did not happened, much to the chagrin of those who were trying to create the destruction of the country and its social fabric, which was not torn, just shaken slightly.

Malaysia could never come in the way of the other countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. Malaysians are made of sterner stuff, who do not bend or falter. Even Iran was able to withstand intense provocation better than we can so its perpetrators are not able to do much other than to chew their own teeth in despair.

As it had happened before, many times before in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan and other countries which have been torn to pieces not by those who were living in them as their citizens, but the strife and destructions that were wrought by foreign elements who masqueraded as the locals and started the first fire which later ignited the countries.

This is a very cheap and simple way to distract them from staring at their common enemies, so they fight with each other thus saving their real adversaries who do not admit having created new terrorist groups in those countries.

All that they had to do was to burn down a house of God or a prominent building or personality, and the factions from the other side will retaliate while the foreign agents leave the job to the locals and see what sort of destruction they could do on each other.

This seems to be the latest strategy used by the enemies of those countries to destabilize them further so that they are left behind in development and modernity.

Whereas these were some of the most peaceful countries in the world where one can roam far and wide in without worrying about one’s personal safety. And the American Peace Corp had sent their volunteers to live among the rural villagers who were embraced like they were their own kinds.

Now the Americans and other westerners can’t be sure of their personal safety sitting in entertainment centers or hotels in the cities of many countries.

In Malaysia, there were elements which had tried to create fiction between the Melayu here and those in Indonesia. But they had failed.

But because of that those whom the Indonesians had earlier targeted, the tourists and visitors from the west and businesses owned by Singapura were spared.

* * * * * * *

It is eerie, the way I see it; that the documentary on Tunku Abdul Rahman called ‘Bertahun di Residensi’ or ‘The Residency Years’ which I wanted to produce by looking at him from a new perspective and angle with non-verbalized questions posed in it, has become more significant today than when it was first shot on 20 June, 2009.

This documentary called 'Bertahun di Residensi' or 'The Residency Years' had a naiveté about it. On the very first day itself, I managed to unveil the safe in the official residence of the first prime minister of Malaysia called The Residency that had not been opened for more than 30 years.

They opened the safe and found 44 items owned by Tunku which are estimated to worth RM400,000 and they are described as 'national treasures'.

Fortunately, there were no personal papers belonging to Tunku which incriminated political personalities, so the authorities in Putrajaya were first to come to the function so they could seize them before they were shown to the public, if such papers were in the safe.

The discovery of the safe was all due to the production of the documentary that had brought me back there for without which the safe would still be in its original position without anyone wondering what it might contain.

I was quite familiar with the residence having visited there when I was young, when my sister, Rokiah stayed there with her husband, the nephew and first adopted son of Tunku and Mak Engku, Tun Sharifah Rodziah Barakhbah. So I got to visit the residence and later stayed briefly at the Residency Lodge which was just outside of the main entrance of the residence.

And without using words, I had described how Tunku might have felt if he was allowed to 'return' to the country which he had managed to free from the yoke of colonial British rule.

I did it by showing a shot from a helicopter courtesy of the Polis diraja Malaysia's (PDRM) helicopter unit where I showed the iconic buildings all closely related to Tunku - Stadium Merdeka, Dataran Merdeka, Parliament buildings and the Residency and the city which is now sprawling with many tall buildings.

One commentator remarked in a preview screening of the film how he wondered the capital city of Kuala Lumpur which I am showing in the opening scene could not have happened in the way it did if it was not for Tunku.

From the height, we could not show anyone below in the streets. And the unspoken question I wanted Tunku to ask, from the presentation of the imagery or symbolism is if everybody in the city and the whole country are happy, and if they are living in perfect harmony and in the true spirit of Muhibbah.

Or, if that is not so and if there are still squabbling and discontentment and enmity amongst fellow Malaysians.

These are the questions I want to pose by showing this shot. They are there, but they are not asked verbally. Those who are not familiar with film techniques, can never decipher this particular scene so that it looks like what it is a shot of the city from a helicopter.

Even the painful strains of the ‘rebab’ do not ring a bell in them. But they are supposed to carry loads of meanings, in the context of what is happening in the country today, with the religious strife and church-burning and what else.

Therefore, what I later want to show with the showing of the Residency from the sky and the arrival of Syed Abdullah in his new Proton Saga at the Residency is how the Tunku wants us to return to this place and the time when there was peace and understanding; when Merdeka was a distance away.

It was also during a time when the whole country called then British Malaya was truly united with no religious strife or church-burning anywhere.

Syed Abdullah opens the coffee table book with more photos of Tunku and his family that he had taken when they were living there, and came out Tunku, who brings us all back to his time, when Malaysia or Malaya was still at its infancy.

It was a time of less distress, when people were living in harmony which was not perfect, but they were contented and happy, before they were segmented and infused with alien values that inculcated political decadence, in the pursuit of personal gain and the expense of the interest of the majority where losers insist that they are still relevant so much so that the country's real talents in politics and administration cannot surface to replace them and their old ways of conducting official government business.

This is what my documentary on Tunku called The Residency Years wants to say. And it is happening at such a time when interesting social, cultural, political and worse, religious issues have been created without anyone knowing when they will end and in what way, if they would create greater strife.

EPILOGUE:

Malaysia has come to a standstill, as those who are responsible for what had happened wonder what did they do to get Malaysia to be at such a spot.

It has also left many agog of not knowing if what Tunku had left us had been in vain; if his mission to form an independent country called Malaysia was a futile effort at conciliation.

That Malaysians to not have an emotional outlet, a vent to release their pent-up emotions and personal feelings is a fact which many have long denied, is a fact.

It is basically a psychological as well as a sociological device great cultures had created or introduced to ensure that the citizenry can enjoy life to the fullest while accepting diversity in all forms and styles, while dampening that that are damaging.

As such America has managed to become what it is today, a country which is at peace with itself, purely on the creation of Hollywood and the arts scene that they had placed at strategic places that have managed to act as the relief centers to release those emotions that are created, even though they may have racial overtones, but alas they are for academic discourses and not fodder for politicians to ignite fire with.

In Pakistan, it was reported that because of the ban imposed on the performance of a local art-form, the villagers became incense and agitated easily so much so that the only distraction that they could find was to be engaged in militancy, with much prodding from the local warlords.

And in Malaysia, because of the poorly developed cinema and the arts, many Malaysians are now finding it interesting and entertaining to attend the many political forums or ‘ceramah’ that are held on most nights.

If America does not have Hollywood and the vibrant arts scene, surely, the same thing would happen to the country with many of them getting their daily fix of distraction attending political forums and rallies that will surely be held in every other county in the country, so much so the whole country would be inflamed without much of a prodding from anyone.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

ENGLISH FOOTBALL FANS ARE JUST VICTIMS OF AGREESIVE MEDIA CAMPAIGNS?

…HOW LONG WILL THEY CONTINUE TO ALLOW THEMSELVES TO BE HOOKWINKED BY THE ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS?
By Mansor Puteh


THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE IN MALAYSIA WHO DON’T SEEM TO REALIZE THAT THEY HAD BEEN MADE FULL USE OF, BY THE MEDIA TO BE SOMEBODY WHOM THEY ARE NOT AND LIKE SOMETHING WHICH THEY NEVER LIKED BEFORE?

I find it strange for many Malaysians who say they are ardent fans and fanatics of some of the football clubs in England. They are willing to spend long hours watching football matches on satellite television and waking up groggy the next morning.

They also wear their favorite football team's tee-shirts and other souvenirs around them and shirts or jackets with patches of their favorite clubs' logos. And their vehicles are also stuck with many stickers of the clubs.

Some of them even have names of their children from those of their favorite strikers and other players.

And during the World Cup finals, there are also many of them who suddenly change their loyalty and now support whatever country they choose, like they are also clubs. They have suddenly become imaginary citizens of those countries who fly their flags everywhere.

How could anyone in his right mind think of supporting a foreign country like he is a citizen of that country?

I do not care for the New York Yankees or the Red Socks American football teams, despite having lived in New York City and Boston in my university days in America.

In fact, I also do not have any interest in American football to start with and had not seen a full game when it was broadcast on television. I do not know most of the names of the players except for some of the more colorful ones.

And how could anyone be so passionate about giving his undivided support for a football club of foreign countries of a city which he has not visited before and can never do so in his life-time?

Why would any Malaysian want to fly the flags of foreign countries and paint their faces in the colors of those flags anyway? I find it odd.

It’s not enough for some of them to have a foreign American or British accent, but to be seen flying the flags of those countries and putting stickers of their flags on their vehicles, should be a strange sight.

But alas, many do not care if they are a strange sight anymore these days.

How could they allow themselves to be victims of such media campaigns which must have started in the early 1970s when Malaysians had television and when the advertising agencies started to get foreign advertising executives who gave them the idea that Malaysia is no more but an extension of the west, so everything they did had to complement this pseudo-ideology which continues to happen till now even when those foreign executives had long left the country and whose places had been taken over by the locals.

But alas, most of those in the advertising industry in Malaysia are not Melayu who had also studied abroad. So their fascination for things local is too restricted. Worse, when they had already developed some biases of their own that reflect in what they do for their clients.

The government had tried to Malaysianized the film industry and they have managed to do it with some measure of success. But there is still a lot for it to do before this can truly happen.
How come I am not into all these? I do not have any interest to support any English league football club or foreign country during the World Cup finals?

The reason is because of my advertising background, having a degree in it, to make me realize that all of this happens because of some ingenious advertising campaigns by the agencies who know the real weaknesses of many Malaysians.

So they devised an advertising strategy to attract their attention and to distract them to the other less important things in life and become ardent fans of a new game of brand loyalty.

In the past no one talked about foreign football clubs. Now many do. But there are many still, who do not care for them, and I am one of them.

So I hope those who claim to be fanatics of those clubs and countries, to be fully aware of their senses, and accept the fact that they are no more victims of shrewd advertising campaigns than they care to admit.

Shouldn’t they start to think about their personal interests and other hobbies that they can develop so that they are not seen to be groupies?

Many Malaysians are indeed groupies, who cannot function without having groups to join in, where everybody wears pretty much the same style of clothes and who also shout the same slogans.

What I find to be pathetic is how many of them who would also say pretty much the same things, on the matches which they had first heard on television being described by the football commentators.

And even our local football commentators are sounding like those they had heard from England, when they were exposed to them when they were younger. Now that they have become football commentators themselves serving the local television stations, they start to sound like those in England that they had seen or heard earlier.

Just listen to the way those foreign football clubs fanatics talk about the game they had just seen and one can tell if they are original or just a repeat of what they had heard on television, or what they had read in the trade magazines earlier.

Many Malaysians are now proud of the wrong things and activities. Everything foreign is good. Anything that is local is bad.

This is also one of the major strategies adopted by the local advertising agencies who do not want Malaysians to admire their own kinds who appreciate their other fellow Malaysians are doing.

They want to force everybody to be like them. So no wonder, those in the advertising agencies are some of the most ‘alien’ beings in Malaysia; they do not care if they look more foreign than the foreign tourists.

And when they have their annual dinners to celebrate the industry’s fraternity, they tend to even overdo this, and pretend that they are not Malaysians but pseudo-Americans.

One of the main victims of such an attitude is on how many Malaysians who have become so callous and who suffer from an identity crisis. They have acquired a different set of values which may not be compatible with the local ones.

They have also created a hatred of local sports, so much so that those who favor local football are those who are not too financially well-off to be able to appreciate foreign league football.

So now we see more Melayu supporting the local state football clubs as opposed to the non-Melayu who favor the foreign ones.
The fact that most of the local state and national footballers are Melayu is also another big distaste to them to be able to fully appreciate local football.

It is ironic how in Singapura where most of their footballers at the district and national levels are also Melayu, yet the crowds that frequent the matches are mostly the non-Melayu, so when their country won a major price in a Malaysian league tournament some time ago, many of them turned up at their stadium to greet them, irregardless of whether they are Melayu or non-Melayu.

Only some of them will grow out of their fascination for the foreign football teams and countries, when they grow older and wiser. But there will be some others who will take it to the next generation by encouraging their children to be like they are.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

WHAT IS MY FILM DOING AT THE POMPIDOU CENTER IN PARIS TODAY, 4 JANUARY, 2010.

…’SEMAN’ (A LOST HERO) IS WOKEN FROM HIS LONG SLUMBER TO SHOW ITSELF TO THE AUDIENCES THERE.
By Mansor Puteh



Today, exactly 29 years ago, I was in Paris for the first time.

I did not return to the city or country since then, as my activities did not take me there for anything. But today, my early film, ‘Seman’ (A Lost Hero) which I made in 1988 after spending three years on it, will be shown at the Pompidou Center in its first screening. The second screening will be on 29 January.

This film was shown in few other festivals abroad where it was also nominated for best film in a festival in Portugal which I attended. The film which won the award went to an American independent film where there are a lot of sexual scenes showing a woman masturbating openly called ‘A White House’.

Other than that, it was also shown in special screenings in London and Manila in 1988 and 1989, respectively. And it was also shown on Astro few times, and became quite a hit amongst the film students where it was shown few times at the local film schools. It was also shown on satellite television in Malaysia, so some people go to see it.

I’m not sure after its screening in Paris today and on 29 January, there would not be any more surprise invitations for this film to be shown to the other audiences anywhere in the world.

That this film was meant to be my master’s thesis for my university in New York City. But for some strange reasons I declined to submit it and want to wait a while more before I can come up with a new film to show to the faculty and be done with it.

And my film is not the only film from Malaysia to be invited for two screenings each at the center; there are 50 more films from Malaysia as well as Singapura which have been selected by the organizers for the screenings which would last for three months, called, ‘Malaysia, Singapura: A Retrospective’ organized by the center.

Many old films made by the studios in Singapura will be shown during this time. The program started on 16 December with the screening of Hussain Hanif’s ‘Jiran Sekampong’, or ‘Friendly Neighbors’. Unbeknowst to the organizers and many, this film is basically an exact remake of the popular American television drama serial, ‘Peyton’s Place’, which was also shown on Malaysian television once.

Unfortunately, for a film retrospective program of this nature, which is massive, news on it is almost zero. There is no write-up on it in any Malaysian newspaper and there is also no mention on the entertainment programs on television, much less a discussion in public forums.

The organizers didn’t realize how this program which they are organizing which highlights films from the two countries could become an interesting discourse; that they had chosen Malaysia and Singapura to highlight should be a cause for celebration knowing how prestigious their center is not only in France but throughout Europe.

It seems that the French do not know much about self-promotion as much as the Americans who know it best; they now get the others to do that for them, so their films are now being promoted and distributed worldwide by the others who didn’t know better how they have now become their lackeys.

So the Americans now have a lot of time to sit back and see which other countries to destroy and blame the others for wanting to retaliate like they are telling the Americans and their allies that they are not to be taken for granted and be used as targets for their new weapons of mass destruction.

When I was in Paris in January, 1981, I visited the Pompidou Center but did not enter the building to see what they have inside, if there are exhibitions. I saw crowds of people trying to enter it, so there must be something wonderful happening in its premises.

I was only contented to be there, and to be able to see the building and take some photos of it from a distance. I managed to walk about around it and see street performances. That was that with the center for me. Maybe later, I thought.

And true enough some 29 years later I managed to get my old film shown in this center, to a crowd which I expect to be predominantly French, who may not have seen any Melayu film from Malaysia.

The center also selected some videos made by the Chinese videomakers from Malaysia who express their feelings for the country and in relation to their status as the Chinese diaspora. So no wonder, their videos managed to attract considerable attention in festivals in the Far East and Europe, where such videos are still considered to be rare.

I can bet in time soon, such videos will not be regarded as they are still today, if the festivals abroad have gotten used to seeing them, since they tend to look like each other with the same type of characters and themes favored by the videomakers.

‘Seman’ was first shot in 1985 and it took only 12 days of filming in some parts of the country. And in 1986, we went to Japan to shoot some scenes in Tokyo, inside the Shinkansen bullet train and also in Hiroshima when we arrived there two days after the Hiroshima Day of that year.

We had earlier wanted to go there during this time, so we could shoot the footage at the Hiroshima Memorial Park with the almost destroyed building in the center and being surrounded by a huge crowd, but we changed our mind when we felt we might not be able to find a nice budget hotel to stay at.

We ended up putting up at the local YMCA which is not too far away from the Hiroshima Memorial Park. And when we got there two days after the Day, there was no crowd, so we were able to shoot anywhere we liked, and managed to get interesting footage for the film.

Nordin Kardi played the lead part in this film. At that time he was a lecturer at Universiti Pertanian Malaysia (UPM) now Universiti Putra Malaysia, named after the first prime minister of the country.

And now Nordin is not only a Tan Sri (a honorific title) but also a vice-chancellor of Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM).

I got many of my friends from the Melayu theater to play parts in the film. They had not been discovered before, and had not acted in films or television. But many of them were later active in the industry and continue to be till now, with most of them being recognized nationally as serious actors who are adaptable to play many differing parts.

Coming back to the 51 films and videos from Malaysia and Singapura in the program at the Pompidou Center in Paris, I am sure there are many people in both these countries who will now be able to see them for what they are; that the old Melayu films which many Malaysians are proud of to claim as their own, are actually films of Singapura.

They were made by studios in Singapura who were owned by Chinese Singapurans. The only element that is found in many of these films is that they were directed by Malaysians.

So it is not fair for Malaysia and Malaysians to claim these films as our own. They are not our film heritage, but that of Singapura’s. And there should not be any dispute on this, as what is happening at the Center in Paris is proving.

It is just too bad that the center is not organizing any forum to discuss this with the audiences there, so we can bring up such issues and be done with it, once and for all.

This is not such a small issue; it is a major one since it affects ownership of intellectual and creative properties, for which Malaysia and Malaysians cannot claim to be theirs.

There is still time for the organizers to come up with such a forum and have it during the program which ends in March.

There’s no point for them to bring in 51 films and videos from the two countries at huge expense, without having even one forum to discuss an interesting issue concerning the works so that we can look at all of them in the proper perspectives so we know where they stand and how important or at least interesting they are and should be to many, and especially to those who do not care to find out which is which.

Many of those who might have seen the films would not have much of an idea on how they came about and be able to see them in its proper context.

But I thought it was good for the Center to have such a program for their audiences that stretches for three months and for linking the cinemas of the two countries since its early history is linked tightly and it is difficult for the early Melayu films to be discussed without relating it with them.

In recent years, the cinemas of both countries had changed drastically to signify the differences that each of the countries had acquired so Singapura and Melayu films can be distinguished as one are mostly in Melayu and the other, Chinese.

Friday, January 1, 2010

MALAYSIAN BLOGGERS ARE BOGGED DOWN WITH SMALL ISSUES, BECAUSE THESE ARE ALL THAT THEY CAN WRITE ON.

…THEY CAN NEVER TAKE ON THE BIGGER ONES OF THE WORLD. WHILE BLOGGING IN MANDARIN AND TAMIL IS ALMOST NON-EXISTENT.
By Mansor Puteh



THIS NEW YEAR IS NOT GOING TO BE A NEW YEAR IN THE RIGHT SENSE OF THE WORD, BUT JUST AN EXTENSION OF THE OLD YEAR.

I M POSTING THIS ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE NEW YEAR IN THE GREGORIAN CALENDAR OR OF THE COMMON ERA.

AND I CAN BET MOST OF THE THINGS BLOGGERS IN MALAYSIA WILL BE CONCERNED ABOUT ARE GOING TO BE THE SAME ISSUES THAT HAD BOGGED THEM LAST YEAR AND THE REST OF THE PREVIOUS YEARS SINCE THEY STARTED TO BLOG.

WHILE I TRY TO LOOK AT ALL OF THEM AND THEIR PECULIAR ANTICS AND WRITE ON ALMOST DIFFERENT THINGS THAN WHAT THEY COULD COME UP WITH, THE BIGGER ISSUES INSTEAD OF THE PETTY ONES.

MAYBE SOME OF THE BLOGGERS FROM AMONGST THE AMATUER POLITICIANS AND COMMUNITY LEADERS OUGHT TO TAKE MORE INTERESTS IN DRAINS WHICH ARE CLOGGED AND HIGHWAYS WHICH ARE ALWAYS JAM-PACKED DUE TO POOR ROAD DESIGN THAT INVITE REPETITIVE ROAD ACCIDENTS, IF THEY WANT TO BE OF ANY USE TO THE COMMUNITY AND COUNTRY.

This is what’s happening in Blogsphere in Malaysia.

Blogging in Melayu is more widespread than in English while blogging in Mandarin and Tamil is almost non-existent. Does this prove something?

In fact, even Dr Mahathir now writes more in Melayu than in English, so he is able to get the right people to access his website to see what he writes most of the time. There are so few of his essays that are in English.

So most of the comments he gets are from Melayu who write in Melayu instead of in English with only few non-Melayu commenters.

So you want to wonder what the bloggers of Malaysia who do it in Mandarin and Tamil write on and what are they fascinated about. You can’t because you don’t know what they write.

Most likely they don’t write as passionately as their brethren who write in English in their blogs.

The Chinese and Tamils who blog in Malay do not sound like their brethren who do in English.
The English language has a way of making them feel empowered, because they think they are more expressive in this language than in Melayu or Mandarin or Tamil.

In fact, I have not come across blogs by politicians and community leaders in Malaysia which are in Mandarin and Tamil only.

Or, are there blogs in Mandarin and Tamil by bloggers in other countries other than from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong?

There are many blogs which are in Melayu, created by the Melayu in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapura. There is hardly anyone from Brunei and South Siam who are blogging in this language.

Why are those who write in English feel powerful with their words and thoughts?

Because they know what they write can be read by more, compared to writing in Mandarin or Tamil when only those who are literate in these languages are able to follow them. And chances are, they are also of the same race as they are so there is no need for them to bring their woes to.

Does it prove that vernacular school background does not take one very far; it only can take the students who study in Mandarin and Tamil to a certain point.

So no wonder many of the Chinese and Indian students, as well as the Melayu ones opt to study in the national schools once they go to secondary school so much so that there are only so few vernacular secondary schools in the country.

Worse still, when one by one they are demanding compensation and financial support in order to maintain their schools or else they would collapse.

What they are not aware of is how by doing so, they disregarded their self-respect, and can not call their schools ‘independent schools’ anymore. They are now dependent on the charity of the government, from which they had turned their backs from, to prove that they could remain independent of it and of charity because they thought they were able to conduct business with the full support of their own business community.

Now they are feeling helpless, so they want to seek financial allocation from the federal and state governments, or else they would collapse. They cannot depend on their own communities to survive.

And there is no university which offers courses in Mandarin and Tamil. In fact, there is no cry from the leaders and educators of the respective communities to compel the government to allow them to establish universities whose only medium of instruction is Mandarin or Tamil.

So, what’s the cry for the need to maintain and sustain the so-called vernacular schools by their respective community leaders?

It is no more a cry of discontent. It is also a cry of helplessness by communities who prefer to be displaced so they can feel displaced at their pleasure, since this can give some of them some measure of satisfaction for being able to construct their imaginary fortresses in lands which their ancestors had come from so far away to flee from their immediate miseries.

It is also mostly a philosophical matter and not just political as what many of them had made it out to be.

Whatever it Malaysian bloggers mostly write on the same tired issues.

Many of them have been in the business for many years and have managed to get millions of hits but there is nothing that kicks the imagination of the better qualified.

They mostly get hits for whatever they write which is mostly on the current issues, those that are on the front-pages of the newspapers dealing with scandals and more controversies.

Not many of the bloggers in Malaysia come up with pieces which are thought-provoking in the positive sense; many are general essayists or hacks.

No blogger in Malaysia deals with international issues, concerning the Middle East problems and such lissues. The world to them is restricted to what they hear.

But they do care for the environment, the more colorful global issues, but they can’t write anything on them because their minds are restricted by their limited capacity to elucidate them.

So these issues remain outside of their realm of thinking.

Besides, there are not many hits that they can get writing and posting such pieces anyway.

Maybe some Malaysian bloggers should start to write about the small issues that affect them everyday such as clogged drains, interrupted electric power supply and also of uninterrupted noise pollution by inconsiderate neighbors who keep on renovating their houses to turn them into their mini-palaces.

These are the sort of issues that some of the petty community leaders and other politicians should be dealing with, and not those that they were not elected to do.

How many of the members of parliament and state assemblies in Malaysia have blogs where they bring such matters to the public’s attention?

In fact, most of the drains which were clogged long before the last 8 March, 2008 general elections are still in the same condition.

And the roads and highways such as the JLT-II or MRR2, in Pandan Jaya are still clogged even during the off-peak hours.

Didn’t the assemblymen pass by this highway, to know that it is clogged still and why it still happens?

They only know how to hang banners to greet them for all their respective religious and cultural holidays.
This is the only way they think they can show their presence and tells everybody they are their representatives in parliament and the state assemblies and nothing else.