Free Malaysia Today
September 4, 2013
How can Finas justify this work by Shuhaimi Baba, investing millions of ringgit and in the process jeopardising our racial harmony. For what? The truth?
I’ve watched Tanda Putera. Aside from wanting to know what the hype was about this film, I considered the price of the ticket as my contribution in support local filmmakers. Hopefully, the small amount I paid, to some extent, will be able to help develop the local film industry.
According to media reports, Tanda Putera cost around RM4.5 million, with the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas) contributing RM2.5 million and the Multimedia Development Corporation RM2 million, excluding sponsorship from GLCs such as MAS.
With that huge amount of investment, the technical aspects of the film was far from satisfying. The quality of computer generated images were messy. The settings, props and costumes also fell short of capturing the atmosphere of the 60/70s era, unlike Bukit Kepong or Leftenan Adnan. Is it because the producers wanted to save on budget?
After watching it, I wondered if the film was about the history of May 13, or something else?
There were the infamous scenes depicting youths urinating on a flag pole. But, it’s not clear if this incident really took place or derived from historical facts. If true, where and what is the source? Before this, we never heard about it. So we want to know the facts, either from police reports or notes by historians.
It is not clear from the scene where the flag pole is located. Was is it in the compound of Harun Idris’ (Selangor Chief Minister) residence or at the government office or a hawkers area? If it is linked to the residence, it’s probably an assumption just because the pole is flying the Selangor flag. Or, is the urination scene a figment of the director’s imagination?
According to an eyewitness account by one Habib Ahmad, based in Kampung Baru at that time, it is almost impossible that the incident took place in the Menteri Besar’s residence.
So, if it did not happen at the residence of the Chief Minister, then where did it happen, if at all it did? This scene is not a stunt that can be fictionalised. It is directly related to the history of May 13.
The events of May 13 intensified early in the movie seem to incite anger and portrays the opposition as cooperating with the communists. Communists and opposition parties are painted with the image of the Chinese as well as the DAP logo emblazoned here and there in that particular scene. A reminder to the director – DAP is not a communist party. DAP is opposed to any struggle through the use of weapons.
Director owes viewers an explanation
I thought that this film would retell the May 13 incident in chronological order and include solid witness reports. I was hopng it would provide a clearer picture about what really happened. But the director abandoned the topic of May 13 halfway through the movie. The topic was dropped after embedding the DAP logo and the image of communists in viewer’s minds.
The rest of the movie revolves around Tun Razak’s family and his friendship with Tun Dr Ismail, and several brief scenes about his efforts in creating Felda, the implementation of the New Economic Policy (NEP) and the struggle to fight the communists.
The characters of Razak and Ismail were well cast and played by Rusdi Ramli and Zizan Nin. I could not see or understand the significance between the incidents of May 13 and Razak’s legacy.
If this film is not about the history of May 13, is it about Razak and his friend Ismail? If that were so, certainly more time should have been spent developing the important and memorable contributions by Razak, such as his efforts to establish Felda.
Is this a fictional movie, hiding behind history and half-truths so that the director or producers need not be accountable to the audience or anyone? I can understand that any adaptation of the first source to another medium may be manipulated with elements of fiction to make it more entertaining.
However, the nuance between fact and fiction should be clear. But in this film, fiction and fact were mixed and messed up. Anyone not familiar with the history of May 13 will assume that all the scenes are 100% based on facts.
Finally, I would like to ask director Shuhaimi Baba what this film is all about? History or fiction? I’m entitled to an explanation because Tanda Putera is funded by tax payers’ money collected by the government from all races, Malay, Chinese, Indian, even from Umno, DAP and PKR members, Muslims, non-Muslims, the poor and rich.
If this is a historical film, then it belongs to the people and they are entitled to an explanation. If it is fiction, the director must be responsible for the images or scenes in her work. I support freedom of expression and freedom of creativity and I will defend the right of Shuhaimi Baba, if she is honest.
Nevertheless, I wonder how Finas can justify this film, investing millions of ringgit and in the process jeopardise racial harmony. For what? The truth?