Monday, July 14, 2014


By Mansor Puteh

Is America or American filmmakers still stuck to the past? I thought films on slavery in the early years of the country are now passé. But this may not be the case.

‘12 Years a slave’ should not have been made; it does not prove anything other than to show the acting prowess of some of its lead actor.

Last year’s Academy Awards would have turned out to be much better if it did not distract the attention of the members of the academy and public.

The world did not seem to care with such a film; so no wonder it did not go on well with the audiences in Malaysia and in many other countries including even in America itself.

At best, it should have been made as a television feature.

American slaves now do not have to speak in pidgin English; they can be expected to speak in proper English, as what the producers and actors in this film had chosen to do.

So one did not get to hear some Black or African-American slaves saying, ‘I is not happy…’ or ‘You is a good man…’ anymore. They can all sound like they had gone to college.

And like the many others, I also chose not to watch this film in the cinemas and even on DVD.

I also decided to pass watching ‘American Hustler’ in the cinemas and even on DVD as well as on the planes when I was flying from here to New York City and to Tehran earlier this year.

I chose to watch other programs especially documentaries. ‘I is happy’ to watch documentaries of people and places anytime.

What’s important and interesting in America and in American cinema may not be interesting to many elsewhere throughout the world.

‘12 Years a slave’ may have won numerous Oscars for its creators, but it still does not mean that it is an interesting or important film for the rest of the world, as did ‘American Hustler’.

Many Malaysians may share the sentiments of many Americans concerning these two particular films, but they are generally the unofficial spokesmen for America and American Cinema. I am not and never can be. America has their own persons who can do the job for them, especially those in the American Motion Pictures Arts and Science (AMPAS).

The Malaysians who marvel and wonder and admire at these two films which were the hot films in the last Academy Awards are mostly those who are not qualified in film, or who are brave to make their own stand.

They end up using the position of the Americans who boast about the greatness of these two films, and repeating whatever that has been said of them, using their own way or style and trying to sound original in their views, by not admitting that their views are second-hand views on them.

One must therefore look at films the same way one looks at fashion or food; we have Muslim fashion as well as food.

It seems that the theme for literature and also cinema concerning problems between the Whites or Caucasians and the Blacks or African-Americans are only present in America. The other countries in the west also do have Blacks but there does not seem to be that many novels or films that deal with such a subject.

’12 Years a slave’ therefore came as a surprise for me and also for some others, especially when I thought the subject of slavery in America had been dealt with over the last many years that there could not be anything more on the subject for anyone to use to produce a film with.

Not until the last year’s Academy Awards when this film appeared.

One therefore tended to think that it would deal with the same issue in the same predictable way. It does in many ways. Yet, the members of the Academy did not just push this film aside and on the other hand gave it some measure of importance and prominence, like they had not seen such a film before, like they wanted the Americans and the rest of the world to also take note of the long-standing issue concerning the Black-White issues of the past.

For me ’12 Years a slave’ is old hat.

From where I came from such issues really do not mean much.

For any Muslim such issues concerning the Black and White had been dealt with so long ago that it is not a problem anymore with many of them coming together and forming union that created off-springs that had benefited from the genetic make-up of their parents.

Over the centuries, there are now many Muslims comprising of people with mixed backgrounds.

 And any Muslim does not seem to notice or care anymore about how the other person looks like.

In America, it seems, this may still be an issue worthy of some discourse and enough for some to spend scores of millions of dollars to come up with films.

Most Muslims today do not remember the African-Muslim man called Bilal and what he stood for.   

Bilal ibn Habshi, an African man from Ethiopia was freed of bondage and he went on to cry out the azan during the time of the prophet, after he was chosen to do so by Prophet Mohmmed, pbuh.

But who will want to make a film on Bilal anyway? Bilal who? Even the Muslim and Muslim filmmakers do not know who he was anymore. They only know the ‘bilal’ who is an officer in the masjid without knowing why he came to be known by that name. But they know who sleeps with who in Hollywood… 

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