OK, I am basing this only on the four movies that have been released so far in 2011. My favourite is this:
Great Day is a feel-good tale about the pleasure of family. Even if some of the younger people don't have as much time as they would like to spend with their elders, the movie does not condemn. It is a warm cinematic embrace of compassion. A particularly poignant moment had a little girl (unused to the Roman alphabet) mistaking the 'Alor Setar' sign for the 'Arau' one. It brings home the point that Malaysia is a land of overlapping cultural discourses; if we don't see the 'signs' we can relate to, it's up to us to create these 'signs'.
Funnier but also waaay schmaltzier, Homecoming is a Singapore-Malaysia collaboration that makes great use of the comic presence of Jack Neo (in drag) and Afdlin Shauki. There's much frantic hand-waving, toilet humour, and plot contrivance, but it posits that Singaporeans and Malaysians are part of a big family. Although (to comply with Singapore language restrictions) the Chinese dialogue is all in Mandarin, I am told that 'diversity' is still sneakily celebrated by having many different slang/dialect forms of Mandarin.
Khurafat shows that Syamsul Yusof can direct! There's a neat twist in the end, and the night scenes look great. But it's also unrelentingly gloomy, right down to its cynical, almost masochistic denouement. On one level, it's about the failure of Malay patriarchy: Shamsul in an early scene is shown 'leading' women in prayer, but in a later scene 'following' the women at a funeral procession. The traditional moral authority is reversed, but what comes in its place? It starts from lust and black magic, and the movie revels in recrimination: it's too late for regret.
Haq is similar to Khurafat in that it's also obsessed with guilt and sin. It moves at a more lugubrious pace, but what's dismaying about this movie which claims "the application and promotion of Islamic concepts" is the absence of redemptive hope: The 'bad' are simply born 'bad' and remain 'bad' and deserve to be killed. The scenes of luxury are well-depicted, but oddly funereal: Why aspire to success if your life becomes an empty shell? And in marked contrast to the two Chinese movies, family members (even when supposedly close) don't seem comfortable together.
The recent news that local films not primarily in the Malay language can now be classified as 'Malaysian movies' and receive the same valuable tax breaks is a good one. If these four films are any indication, watching only Malay movies can be seriously damaging to one's sense of cheer. Let's have a bit of life-affirming variety, before cinemas start giving out free razor blades with the popcorn.