Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Fallacy of Democracy

I've never given much stock to the notion of seeing something with my own eyes. After all, we, as human beings, are blessed with at least five senses (some says that intuition, that whisper in your heart, is also a sensory tool). Thus, my opinions are always formed with a combination of this five sense. Preferably, all should be present; in reality, things are not always perfect.

And that, I believe, is a good way to describe the Machap elections: imperfect. I had expected a degree of that quality, but what I got was imperfection in droves. It opened my eyes to the fallacy that is democracy in Malaysia. To see with my own eyes, rule after rule broken, with nothing more than a slap on the wrist as punishment, angers me. Serious politicking were made, acts which influenced further the outcome of an election, but with the immediate punishment one would mete out to a child caught with the hand in the cookie jar.

Having said that, though the trip to Machap was an eye opener, my eyes started closing when the sun rose highest. I was stationed to record the proceedings outside the election compound at Sekolah Kebangsaan Melaka Pindah. Eleven o'clock onwards, the stream of people became a trickle, the misdemeanours repetitive. Late afternoon, I was struggling to keep awake. Such was the boredom and lack of activity around the are. The heat and lack of sleep the night before didn't help, but after the adrenaline rushed morning, the second half of the day was disappointing, to say the least.

It turns out that the action were much more consistent elsewhere, with Komas my colleagues right in the middle of it. Unfortunately, for some of them, they were also in the middle of being harassed by officers of the law. They weren't helped much by their leaders, who spent more time kow towing with the locals rather than keeping their eye on the ball. From what I heard, their inability to keep the ball and run with it (ie be more responsible when their underlings needed help) was absolutely pathetic. The fault, then, lies with pairing of the teams. More thought should have been given regarding this issue, though perhaps a lack of time counted against this.

And it seems that despite recording a lot of the misdeeds, Mafrel will not really be doing anything other than hand over the footage and discuss the issue with the powers that be about the whole electoral process. I suspect that similar things have happened in the past, and yet it seems that the lessons were not learned all that well.

In conclusion, I will end this with the sixth, whisper in the heart sense: anger. Anger at the fake democracy, anger at Mafrel's possible inaction and almost definite lack of influence to make a real difference, and perhaps more importantly, the incompetency of the respective group leaders to protect my friends when they needed it.

*Written after the Machap by-elections mid 2007.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


It fell to the ground, splintering into a million indescribable pieces. They struck my foot painfully, pain shooting from my senses as quickly as the blood that came out of the open wounds.

But I wasn't so concerned about my foot, nor the pooling blood. My eyes were inextricably linked to the shattered pieces.

All one million of them.

"The stars are beautiful tonight," Nate proclaimed. I merely nodded my agreement, taking a long puff of the death stick stuck between my fingers. When we say beautiful, in Malaysia, it means that you can just about make out the shapes of the stars amongst the fog of the night.

We are outside of the house, me leaning against the curve of the back of my car, while Nate, with another death stick in his hand, is standing. Shirt tucked in, tight shorts, with slippers (my slippers!), he seems a perfect comedic figure in a Hollywood movie. The character created for laughter.

Next, Des sits cross-legged on the floor. He had finished his cigarette, and is leaning back on his arms, gazing upwards upon the night sky. Shirtless, he nevertheless pulled off his look well. "Yeah, it is. Quite clear, ah?"

Once again, I remained silent, the only sounds exhaled from deep within me, the recess of the poison that slowly seeps through the veins.

"Fikri?" It was Nate's voice. I looked over to him, shirt tucked in and all. "You alright?"

"No," is my answer. And with that, yet another long drag. Then a smile. "But it's OK. Everything will be alright."

We both looked away, and exhaled. It had been a long day.

Des took another drag of his own cigarette, and then asked a question about...Taoism, of all things. Nate leaned back and started, clearly in his element now.

"Well, with Taoism, and in fact with a lot of other religions as well, you have to consider that they think that satisfaction and happiness can be found just by being minimalistic with your lifestyle. The idea is that you don't take the stuff that you don't need."

Drag, and exhale. "That's why a lot of them are vegetarian. They believe that they don't need to kill animals in order to live a fulfilling life. It's just the basic stuff. You have the clothes on your back, the food on the table, a roof above your head..."

...a pause, pregnant in its dramatic shortness. He looked over at me, at the right moment when I flicked my gaze over to him, and it pierced right into the very essence of my soul, a deliverance that few help and advice ever achieved.

"...what else do we really need?"

I looked away, onwards and upwards to the fog covered stars.

Good question.

It may have been shattered.

But it's still my heart.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

No Doubt?

I am currently in the midst of making another short film, entitled 'Room'. It is a short film that is half-shot in Korea (South, of course) and Malaysia, and a production that is supported by my old uni, Monash.

What inspired me to do it? It is the notion of shooting a short film in two different countries, one that is not a common thing to be done for indie films. The idea came to me just as I was about to leave Korea, and I set about constructing a whole short film around it; the story follows a man who pursues his dream to become a filmmaker to go to Korea. While there, however, he finds himself missing his girlfriend more and more, and memories of their time together flashes back into the present.

Well, that's the idea. I have to admit that it is the spark to make a movie in two different countries that drove me to shoot myself (so to speak) over a period of less than a week. No crew, no camera man, no nothing. Just me...and the camera.

In essence, that is all that you need. But to drive that essence further, you need...passion. A spark for the spark.

It is that spark that I found myself looking for as I lay down on the park table/bench with Joanne in my arms and the candle wax threatening to sneak into my armpits. "What the hell am I doing here?" I thought. "The acting's terrible, the script is not great, the plot has several holes in it...I'm not ready."

It's that moment of doubt that creeps in, one which anyone can relate to. It is an illness, a disease that can lead to the destruction of dreams, and the hesitant moments that can take away achievements from the jaws of success.

For the director of a film, it can be fatal. It is a position of high regard, however big or small the production is, and a director is the party host, the man who sets the tone for the production. It is his satisfaction that everyone seeks for, the thumbs up at a good shot or the clap of the hands at the 'perfect' lighting arrangements.

Thus, doubt must not be, for if it creeps, then it crawls, grows, walks, runs, and bulldozes the production into smithereens.

So why am I doubtful?

I am doubtful because of the compromises that has had to be made to...well, almost everything. The location, cast, scheduling, camera shots, even sound, thus far in the production. I am doubtful because of the lack of support from some people. I am doubtful because...

...I am human. And it's only natural for it to creep in, for it to cloud the positives, of which there are quite a number.

Thus far, I am happy with my cinematographer, Temme. She's not experienced in making movies, but does have a keen eye on what makes a shot beautiful. I am thankful for Monash for their equipments, for Kerry Ann for her commitment as my assistant director, for Eunice for her great (and I do mean great) make up, and for those who have supported this production.

I am thankful for these people, for giving me the chance to make this movie. Good or bad, there is nothing else I want to do in life.