Monday, June 23, 2008

Where The Heart Is

I am pretty sure that I've used this title for one of my previous posts. Nevertheless, it remains as appropriate as any to describe the video below:

It's cheesy, at parts. But it's OK. I like cheese.

And it's about unity.

As worthy a cause as any.

*Masterminded by Pete Teo. You can download the song for free right here.


"I can't tell you whether things will get better, or whether they'll get worse. That's the part that I don't know. What I do know is that the minutes, the hours, and the days will keep on passing. With this, things will become a little bit clearer, and you'll be in a position to know better as to what should be done.

That much I do know."

Fikri Jermadi, writer :)

Sunday, June 22, 2008


"This is Fikri, he's from Malaysia," said my ex-teacher, Mr Seo, introducing me to one of his newer students. She smiles, muttering some words along the lines of "nice to meet you." Mr Seo, however, doesn't let up. "He's a filmmaker," he gleefully informed her.

What happened next took me aback quite a bit. She actually took a step back, bowing a little as she does, and starts to speak to me in a more respectful tone. I actually shot a look at Mr Seo, asking him what he's doing. He smiled back, mischievously.

Not that it is a rare occurrence, however. I don't quite introduce myself as such most of the time, mainly as a result of my ego (or lack of). Despite having made a fair number of videos and short films, a bigger part of me feels far more comfortable describing myself as a writer than a filmmaker, though inevitably the latter will stick as the more sensational tag.

Herein lies the interesting subject. Or, rather, the interesting perception on the not-so-interesting subject. Here's the breakdown. Perception: the filmmaker leads a glamourous life, an artistic auteur who conjures cinematic magic from thin air and spends half their time on set with beautiful and talented actresses, and the remaining half bedding the said actresses (maybe). Wine, champagne and self-congratulatory toasts fill the air as we walk down the red carpet at our latest premiere in Cannes.

OK, so that's a bit overboard. But you get the idea, and the perception.

The reality, however, could not be more different. Perhaps, I hasten to add, I should say that my reality is very different.

I don't, for one, bed beautiful actresses. Though they're beautiful, they're not actresses :) Kidding.

For another, I don't drink.

The picture painted, however, is the result of the hard work, time, money and coordination conducted behind the scenes. While I don't go as far as having my own red carpets, we do have our own gatherings, parties and celebrations. It is, however, merely the end to the mean.

The mean, the picture not painted, is a process that is incredibly taxing on everyone involved. This is the process that consumes perhaps 90% of the time that you do call yourself a filmmaker, and it consists of worrying about money, compromising on the actors, rearranging the schedule to accommodate the timetable of others, rushing the shots because you can only shoot at the subway until midnight (and you still have two more scenes to go when the clock strikes 11pm), and wondering who is willing to give you five hours of their time just to hold the boom mic.

"I don't believe it," I told Vicky, whose film I helped him to make. "Surely there must be more boxes available." It's 2am, and we were looking for empty boxes for his film.

"Maybe the ajumma took them already," he mused. The ajumma refers to old Korean ladies who go around taking old boxes and recycling them. It is something impressive, mind you, and one that is worthy of a whole post on its own, but that is another story for another time. "They're quite quick."

"Yeah, but it's 2am," I countered. "Surely they must be asleep by now." Pause. "Let's check out the next street. I'm sure they'll have some there."

No sooner than the corner was turned when we saw, in the far distance, the unmistakeable figure of an ajumma, doubly bent over, pulling along a cart filled to the brim with flattened cardboard boxes.

Two scholarship filmmakers...beaten to the punch by 60 year-old grandmas.

Nothing glamourous about it whatsoever.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I Don't Believe It...

I feel for the Croats, who have played some marvellous football. On the balance of it, they probably deserved to go through against Turkey (who, miraculously, have led their opponents for only around five minutes during this entire tournament thus far).

But what a tournament this is turning out to be!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Pot of Gold

At Rainbow's End

During a journey, Audrey decides to take the first step and tell Edgar how she feels about him, with unexpected results.

Starring Linora Low, Oh Sang-yun and Claudia Low. Directed by Fikri Jermadi.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

An Italian Defense

Well, not much of one. Or rather, Italy versus Holland showed how much of a defence they had...which is not much. Watching the game, Italy didn't put up much of a fight, a surprising performance from the world champions. Nevertheless, Holland kicked some real butt, and I am very pleased with their performance.

A lot of neutrals naturally plumps for the likes of France, Germany and England when it comes to playing good football. While those are not surprising, I'm not particularly surprised, given that these nations have a relatively big scope to draw upon; not just within their own national boundaries but also from areas won of conquests past. Holland's ability to consistently produce quality football players (though admittedly they do have some help from their own colonial past: van Bronckhorst and Boulahrouz also qualify for Indonesia and Morocco respectively) have always provided plenty of food for thought for me.

So, I suppose I can say that I'm not particularly surprised at the quality of the Dutch performance. I am, however, a bit more so at the amount of criticism that the Italian team has received. Yeah, they didn't play well, but many commentaries talk about the game as if the Dutch never existed on the pitch to begin with.

My biggest qualm, however, lies with criticism regarding the midfield players selected by Donadoni. I have read on at least two websites of the fallacy of selecting the Milan midfield trio of Gattuso, Pirlo, and Ambrosini. "They only managed to finish 5th in the league," moaned the naysayers. "Why are they selected ahead of the likes of de Rossi?"

Such proclamations exposes a shallow depth of knowledge with regards to the subject at hand.

Taking just a look at the players who were selected, if you had said that Gattuso and Pirlo would have started the match beforehand, I doubt whether much complaints would have been heard. Ambrosini's selection was a bit more surprising, but I can totally understand Donadoni's thinking: perhaps a deeper understand amongst the players (especially those from the same club) would help. After all, no matter how much one player is eulogised, football is a team game, and it is on the basis of this philosophy that the World Cup was won to begin with. And these are quality players, the kind who would find a fleet of other clubs lining up to sign them should they become available.

As it turns out, it was a ploy that did not quite work, and no doubt Donadoni would have learned something from the game. There were plenty that was wrong with the team, but blasting the midfield for being from Milan seems absurd to me.

After all, since when had the finishing positions of any particular club should influence the quality of a player (or bunch of players)? With regards to Milan, there were plenty of reasons that they finished 5th in the league, and the quality of midfielders is certainly not at the top of that list. Misfiring strikers (Gilardino), injured players (Ronaldo, Inzaghi), an over-reliance on one player (Kaka), an ageing defence, an inconsistent keeper (the play-acting Dida) and having Pato only for half a football year are all contributing factors.

Perhaps the naysayers would do well to actually watch some football before the European Championships.

Maybe then they would look less like idiots in their assessments.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Of Heartbreak and Happiness

Captain, record-holder, and talisman for the home nation injured in the first game, jeopardising two years worth of hard work and preparation.

A maiden victory for a rising young star, precisely at a time when the sport needs it, a result of perseverance, speed, and more than a little bit of luck.

Fine are the lines that divides the heartbreak and happiness that sports brings.

Why is it that I love it so?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

PAS and Move

An interesting anecdote I came across online about the leader of the opposition party, PAS.

Nik Aziz, the Menteri Besar of Kelantan, too prays five times a day and many times in between. But he will switch off the lights when he prays because his prayers have nothing to do with matters of state. So he does not want the rakyat to pay the cost of his prayers. The electricity consumed during those few minutes he prays is cheaper than the cost of a cigarette. Nevertheless, it is still the rakyat's money so the lights must be switched off.

The Kelantan police are in a dilemma. Menteris Besar and Chief Ministers need to be escorted by a retinue of police outriders and bodyguards. Even Khairy Jamaluddin is flying around in a helicopter while campaigning in Rembau. And Khairy is just the son-in-law of the Prime Minister and holds no government post. But still he is surrounded by 50 Mat Rempit who will not allow anyone close lest their boss gets in harm's way. Nik Aziz, however, refuses a police escort because it will be the rakyat that pays for it. At times, he walks around the kampong all alone, unescorted.

“You can't do this,” lamented the Kelantan Police Chief. “You are endangering yourself. Someone might harm you.”

Nik Aziz just laughs it off and replies, “Who would want to kill an old man like me? What would they gain?”

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

P.S. The Children

With children hogging the limelight in 2007, and not for all the right reasons, Fikri Jermadi looks into the reasons why, and sees a definite future for them...

Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted.”
Garrison Keillor, author

In a lot of ways, it has been an annus horribilis when it comes to our children. The headline grabbers seems to have been largely negative in nature. With abuses in schools, both by teachers and children, cases of kidnapping and suicide, there are a lot more downs than ups.

Has it always been like this?

Numbers Game
The first impression says no. However, the numbers do speak a certain truth. The first half of the year revealed statistics of of over a hundred and fifty children under the age of seven who were abused. In a third of the cases, they are parents of the children themselves. According to statistics posted on Shelterhome's website, the previous years have seen even sharper increases in crimes against children. In 2001, there were slightly over 1000 cases; that figure rose sharply to 1656 in 2004.

“It is a situation that can become normal in our lives,” said James Nayagam, executive director for the children welfare organisation Shelter, in an interview with The Star. “In typical Malaysian manner, we only take action when something happens. Only after people die tragically are issues raised.”

But why is it this year, of all the years? Is this to say that, generally speaking at least, Malaysians have been different before this? That we have always prevented rather than cured? I don't think so. Such cases, not just with children, but with others, have always been happening. Mother Nature groans its displeasure by landsliding and bringing areas of Highland Towers, Wangsa Maju and Bukit Antarabangsa to the ground, yet we still plough on with construction of hillside apartments and houses.

We don't even have to go too far or too extreme for that. Our beloved Prime Minister, in diagnosing the high number of reported crime last year, encouraged the implementation of even more CCTVs to be installed. Once again, the point given the spotlight, is one that is intended to catch people in the act, rather than one that prevents the crime (although of course, if a CCTV is around, one might think twice about committing such acts). In fairness, he did advocate stronger information links between the police and society at large, but it's not the point given much attention by the national media. And thus, not the point given much attention by the public at large.

Ah, the media. The media's role can't be discounted for their role in this, the headlines potential purveyors of fear. “We see the newspapers paying so much attention to the Nurin case,” said Raflly B. Nann from the Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation. “I can understand this, since the killer has not been caught.”

At the end of the day, the statistics are mere numbers that is reported. No matter the number of cases being reported, the amount would still be much higher than it should be. Bearing in mind that these are only the number of cases reported. Many incidents go unreported, because of fear, intimidation, threats, and in some cases, protection of the family honour.

Family honour, my ass.

Old School
School pride also plays a part. The earlier part of the year, the newspapers are peppered with words such 'student' and 'abuse' just on the first page alone. Stories of how a primary school headteacher slapped not one, not two, but 22 Year Four pupils for failing to hand in their homework came to our attention. As did the case of not 22, but 170 students forced to sit in a pond as punishment for clogging up the toilets with their sanitary pads. A student swearing in class? Here's another slap for you. Then a 7 year old boy in Kuantan was attacked by his older schoolmate, who had been slapped on the wrist earlier in the year? Honey, call the police. “People may think I’m being unreasonable,” said the boy's father, Arif Sharif, “but they should remember that it was my son who was injured and traumatised.”

It seems that for a long time, such incidents were kicking back the Prime Minister's speeches all the way to the second page, taking over the front page podium. It became a hot topic for a while, as the nation witnessed both students and teachers deliver their stinging rebukes on one another. Perhaps a cartoon by Lat captured the moment best: a 'before' picture of a student and teacher walking to school, and an 'after' picture of the same student and teacher, only this time they each have their own lawyer. It's not enough that the milk in their canteens turned sour.

I suppose the nature of that particular outcry can be understood. After all, beyond the family, teachers and schools are generally accepted as one of the major influences of a child's life. I mean, the kids are already being corrupted from MTV, which infuses them with Western culture, or with The Golden Compass, which can convert people, apparently. So when news of teachers alleging to have offered RM15 to students to keep quiet about their 'private tutoring' sessions come to light...well, you can imagine the outrage.

But, within the bigger picture, things could've been a lot worse.

When Death Comes Knocking
For the longest time, not a day passed by without the mention of Nurin somewhere in the media. Even today, the name warrants a reminder to parents everywhere to buckle up, and tighten the leash on their children ever more. One suspects that within the next years, even, the death of Nurin Jazlin Jazimin will strike sympathy from the public.

"There are many other cases out there that warrants attention,” admitted Raflly, “but we need to start thinking about methods of prevention, how to ensure that this doesn't happen in the future, rather than just look at the statistics and think, 'Oh, this is bad.'”

Change is also at the forefront of the Subashini suicide case, who apparently committed the deed over her poor exam results. “This is sad,” said the Education Minister, Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein.

But it is not just sad, for sadness does not capture and convey the emotional impact of the situation, nor does it effect the change required. Perhaps educating our younglings that as sure as there are many rivers to the sea, so is the road to success. Chasing those all important As is not what it's all cranked up to be.

For some, however, it is a necessary evil. After all, not everyone can afford to get their children the best of education. Just like everything else, the price of education goes up by the hundreds per year. Multiply this by seven if you're going to England. So you need your scholarship. You need to continue the rat race, so that you can get higher up the ladder of life.

But we need to change this. Numbers alone do not define a person. Numbers alone do not properly identify the potential that a child may or may not have. Numbers and grades alone are merely the construct of other people. "But if parents and society still place great importance on examinations,” continued Hishamuddin, “what can we do?"

What can we do?

Right to Children

We can change. Change, by default, is a natural process; indeed, it is the very axiom of evolution.
We can change the way we do things. Teachers can change their approach, their way of teaching. Parents can change, by encouraging children to take part in activities other than tuition after school hours. Students can also change, learning to go to the appropriate channels to seek help when needed, and support when desired.

While not advocating that its time we grow an extra head (though that might come in handy), a shift in mentality is needed. Not for us, not for the people who no longer call childhood 'home'. But for those who currently do, and for those who will do so in the very near future.

And c
hange has to come from us.

But what about the children now? In the current society where such achievements are lauded and applauded, where do we stand now? Is this how children are supposed to grow up? What kind of future do we have when the only achievements that are truly lauded are the numbers on papers? Big numbers does not equal success. Big money does not equal happiness.

If Joachim Theis, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office Youth and Partnership project officer, has his way, we would be paying more attention to them. Not in terms of actually guarding them 24/7, but in terms of listening to them more. “Every child, right from birth, is entitled to human rights,” he said in an interview with The New Straits Times. “It is the most fundamental right. Without the right to expression, children are limited in their development and are at greater risk of abuse and exploitation.”

The same recipe worked well for other segments of society who were discriminated against. The black people in American refused to be slaves. They marched for it, fought for it, and in the conventional sense at least, are no longer slaves; they are no longer blacks, they are African Americans.

Will children get there as well? Will we be able to advance our cause by according them similar rights? After all, equal rights is a form of protection: protection of discrimination, abuse and hurt just because you are what you are. History has shown that this protection provides great buffer from the outside, and allows those within it to grow.

But where can this line be drawn? How can we legally decide the divide between being disciplined and being assaulted? Because in New Zealand, that's the difference between a child learning his lesson and a father being sentenced to 9 months probation and anger management. Upon first reflection, this might smack (no pun intended) of overreaction. Do a child deserve their right? In a word, yes. Should that right be abused? In another word, no.

But don't parents also have the right to discipline their children in a way that they deem fit the 'crime'? I would also say yes. It is in preparing our child for the future that we need to take the utmost care, and ensure that certain lessons are heeded. Sometimes, it takes a smack to ensure that it gets knocked in the head. Kids need to know that if you break the rule, whatever rule, the chances of them being punished one way or another is quite high.

Of course, excessive force and violence from the parent would not be welcome, at all. Unfortunately, it is here that the grey area arise: what is excessive? What is violent, for that matter? It doesn't take a genius to know that hitting your kid with a baseball bat or pouring hot water on them is not right. But three smacks on the bottom? Smacking a child's wrist if they get caught stealing sweets from the shop?
Aren't these a little over the top? Should these be the acts that gets people convicted of assault?

Perhaps there should be a whole other right accorded to children. Throwing the phrase around like 'human rights' might sound great, politically, projecting the image that you're willing to do something. But saving our children, providing a better future for them is different than protecting the people of Sudan from genocide, or fighting for the rights of minorities in Malaysia. While this is not to say that they are any less human, the sort of protection and care that they need is more specific, and more specialised.


Ultimately, when it comes to children, it is a complex issue. For the most part, this is due to the fact that they are not mature enough, not strong enough, not able enough, in some situations, to tell us what they truly need. The dictum, that parents knows best, still holds true for a large part, especially for younger children.

And even if they are, the chance for them to do so is limited. “There are too few opportunities for children at all levels of society — family, school, community, workplace, media, governance and politics, and civil society — to express their views,” added Theis.

Perhaps a clue to the answer lies in the past, our past. Perhaps society have forgotten what its like to be a kid. Maybe the answer as to how we should treat our children, and how to shape them for a better future, lies in us asking ourselves,
what were we like as children?

How would we have our futures changed?

*An article written and published as 'Missing Childhoods' on THINK Online. Contact me for references.

Monday, June 02, 2008

An Adamle Defense

It's the easiest thing in the world to disparage the ECW commentator, Mike Adamle. Brought in at the turn of the year, he hasn't exactly shone in terms of both interviewing and commentating on matches. It's obvious enough that he did not follow wrestling (and probably still doesn't, judging by the current standard of his commentary).

Nevertheless, the amount of criticism that has been fired his way bordered on the horrendous, so much so that despite my own reservations of the man, I feel compelled to offer a more reasoned consideration of the factors at hand.

Firstly, that he comes in from the cold to work in the WWE. Despite having had a long career in the broadcasting business, the wrestling world is a completely different animal in terms of style and delivery. While that may have seem obvious, I am merely suggesting that a transition between the other fields of broadcasting would have been a smoother one.

I doubt whether he knows that he actually wants to be a commentator to begin with. Brought in to work the interviews with the superstars, he actually began earlier in the year by introducing segments and vignettes, where his shallow depth of knowledge with regards to even the names of superstars was painfully obvious.

Nevertheless, the jump from that to sitting behind the commentator's desk is a huge leap. It is the sort of leap that would probably have been better served by others (I think Josh Matthews would have been a good candidate). More importantly, it is the leap of faith and the decision of beings higher than him.

I don't know how much Mike Adamle actually wants to be a wrestling commentator. I do know that people like Vince McMahon are the ones who decide whether he actually becomes one. Just like how Joey Styles probably didn't decide by himself to be moved to the Internet division; such decisions are out of the hands of those who merely speak the words on air.

In that light, I don't think that blatant criticisms of his commentary skills are totally fair; other factors like these should make for a more considerate take on things.

Having said all of that...Mike Adamle really does suck. I hope for his sake, Tazz's sake, and also ours, he will improve.

And soon.