Somehow one knew that this would happen sooner or later. The fact that Amir's film passed the notorious Film Censorship Board was simply too good to be true. I don't know where to begin in condemning this un-democratic, fascistic decree by the Home Affairs Ministry. One can only hope that this is just a bureaucratic snafus, the result of inter-agency ineptitude and miscommunication--but I doubt it.
This unfortunate ban is a mere symptom of a much larger and malignant disease, namely protecting the corrupt status quo at the expense of cultivating local talents and creativity. Amir is just one the many supremely talented Malaysians who suffer the wrath of the system which values sheep mentality over independent-mind and critical thinking. Just see what happen to Profs. Jomo KS, Terence Gomez, P. Ramasamy, Farish Noor, to name but a few.
Have they (the people in the government) ever wonder why some of Malaysia's best and brightest decide not to come back and work abroad instead? The answer's obvious. For as long as we have these mindless zombies controlling the reins of government, there is little hope to stanch the brain drain that is flowing out of the country right now. Isn't it sad that somebody like Amir gets high recognition from all around the world--even the film opens in the prestigious Berlin Film Festival--but is shunned and ostracized by his OWN government? And is this the same government that laments the fact Malaysia has slipped further down the world ranking of higher instutions? Go figure...
Oh, by the way, I'm bemused by the remark in Berita Harian (as quoted in the article below) as to why Amir did not make a film on Malay historical figure. First, how many more Hang Tuah movies the Malaysians need to suffer through? The government spends RM 15 million (correct me if I'm wrong) to make Puteri Gunung Ledang, and the movie is shit-for-brain--maybe except for the first fight scene at the market between Hang Tuah (yet again!) and the local gangsters, which is kind of sleek. Second, it's the whole false premise of Malaysian history = Malay history. The Malay archipelago has been the global crossroads for centuries, especially between the two great civilizations of India and China. To say that Malaysian history is solely shaped by Malay history and historical actors is ignorant at best, and chauvinistic at worst. And then one can also delve into the debate of what is the Malay race and what is the definition of Malay culture and history. No, I don't want to get into this debate right now because I don't feel like writing a 30-page research paper on this topic. Suffice it to say that the current Malay historiography--at least in Malaysia--is very ethnocentric and narrowly-defined, indeed. That's what happen when you have a race-based, communitarian-style political system.
Anyway, below is the article in MalaysiaKini about the ban. Keep up the fight, Amir. No matter what, we still going to have the HELP Institute to screen all your future "subversive" films.
'The Last Communist' banned
May 6, 06 9:06pm
Having survived the scissors of the Film Censorship Board, Amir Muhammad’s musical documentary, The Last Communist (Lelaki Komunis Terakhir) has been slapped with a ban from the Home Affairs Ministry.
In a faxed notice to the film’s production house Red Films yesterday afternoon, the ministry said that the ban was to guard “public interest”.
This comes in the wake of daily articles in Malay-daily Berita Harian since May 3, criticising Amir and his film. On May 5, an article questioned why Amir did not document Malay historical figures instead.
The Last Communist chronicles the life of ex-communist leader in exile Chin Peng. Screening across the country was to start on May 18, despite strong resistence from certain parties.
When contacted, a spokesperson for Red Films said that her company would definitely appeal for the ministry to lift the ban as Amir had worked very hard to produce the film.
“We are willing to hold discussions with the ministry and screen the movie to the authorities. After all, this film is about history. We are not trying to glorify anyone,” said the spokesperson who requested anonymity.
She added that Red Film could not comment further as Amir is overseas.
The film was premiered at the prestigious Berlin Film Festival-Forum in February this year, and has since been screened at 11 film festivals across the world.