Monday 31 March 2008

Possible SUSUK taglines


1. Di sebalik wajah, tertusuk rahsia keramat.

2. Jangan sampai makan diri.

3. Sekali cucuk, pasti nak lagi!

4. Kejelitaan adalah hak milik semua puaka.

Wednesday 26 March 2008


MPH Local Non-Fiction Bestsellers
for the week ending 23 March

1. Reaching for the Stars
Author : Sheik Mustapha Shukor Al-Masrie

2. Dr Mahathir's Selected Letters to World Leaders
Author: Dr. Mahathir Mohamad; Abdullah Ahmad (Introduction by)

3. Kampung Boy: Yesterday & Today
Author : Lat

4. Judging the Judges
Author : N.H. Chan

5. New Malaysian Essays # 1
Author : Amir Muhammad (Editor)

6. Lost in Transition: Malaysia under Abdullah
Author : Ooi Kee Beng

7. Malaysian Tax Made Simple: A Pratical Guide for Taxpayers (3rd Edition)
Author : David Hor

8. How to Fill in Your Income Tax Form B & Form BE (Fourth Edition 2008)
Author : Choong Kwai Fatt

9. Tax Planning for the SOLE PROPRIETOR (Self Assessment Guide Series)
Author : Choong Kwai Fatt

10. How to Sell Unit Trusts and Why People Buy
Author : Gan, Chris

(The book at #1 is written by the Angkasawan's late brother. I need to get my hands on #9! And only two books from last week are on this week's list: ours and Dr. M's.)

Monday 24 March 2008

In Penang this weekend

This coming weekend will be spent in the new Opposition stronghold of Penang!

Me and Chuah Guat Eng will be taking part in the Little Penang Street Market on Sunday, to flog our books and do a reading. This is a lively monthly arts fair, and the March special seems to be a cosplay event. So do come by if you are in the area.

There will also be a talk at Universiti Sains Malaysia on Friday, 3pm, at the School of Humanities.

I am also gonna 'usha' some potential writers for subsequent volumes of New Malaysian Essays. There are many good writers who live in Penang, doncha know.

Friday 21 March 2008

Trailer for HISTERIA

Let it not be said that I only promote my own stuff here. No way! I also promote stuff made by good friends of mine.

James Lee's first big-budget horror film HISTERIA is now ready! It will make its world premiere next month at the Singapore International Film Festival. This is the trailer, ganaz siot!

Now that James Brown is dead, James Lee is officially the hardest-workin' man in showbiz. A tabik spring is in order.

Highlight for tomorrow

Jenguk-jenguklah! I shall be there. More details of previous editions here.

Wednesday 19 March 2008


Top 10 MPH Local Non-Fiction Bestsellers
for the week ending 16 March

1. Dr Mahathir's Selected Letters to World Leaders
Author : Dr. Mahathir Mohamad; Abdullah Ahmad (Introduction by)

2. New Malaysian Essays # 1
Author : Amir Muhammad (Editor)

3. Jangan Bersedih (Don't Be Sad): Setelah Kesulitan Pasti Ada Kemudahan
Author : Dr. 'Aidh bin Abdullah Al-Qarni

4. Jangan Bersedih: Jadilah Wanita yang Paling Bahagia (Khas untuk Wanita)
Author : Dr, 'Aidh bin 'Abdullah Al-Qarni

5. Abdullah: The Remaking of Malaysia
Author : Lim Kok Wing

6. Selera Perdana
Author : Habibah Yahya, Fadillah Yakin

7. Growing Up in Trengganu
Author : Awang Goneng

8. Umno dan Malayan Union
Author : Ja'afar Onn

9. How to Pay Off Your House Loan in 5 Years or Less
Author : Azizi Ali

10. The Untold Million-dollar Secret of Unit Trust Investment
Author : Jeffrey Gan

(Oh well, it's better to be beaten by wily old Dr. Mahathir than by another bodek Limkokwing publication).

SUSUK lepas!

Just got a call half an hour ago: Susuk has been passed by the Malaysian Film Censorship Board with two cuts.

The cuts are: a silhouette of a woman showering in the nude (she was actually wearing a swimsuit that didn't even match the colour of her skin lah); and a close-up of a man's head getting ripped off (OK, that one was kinda gross, and was totally Naeim's idea).

I am glad all the bomoh and bikini scenes were kept in. (Although neither of the bomohs is actually seen in a bikini).

The producers will most likely not appeal against the cuts (which amount to less than 10 seconds) and will instead try and secure a release date.

A modest proposal for the new Selangor state government

First off, congratulations! I shall certainly keep track of developments via Elizabeth Wong's blog, and other sources.

Now, on to something else. This is something that even Citizen Nades has not written about: Shah Alam has no cinema.

In fact, no cinemas has ever been allowed to open there.

This is a shame. There are tens of thousands of students at the city's Universiti (Institut) Teknologi MARA who would be thrilled to watch the upcoming Evolusi KL Drift the way it's intended to be seen. As it is, they have to come schlepping to KL and PJ each weekend, causing unnecessary queues for the rest of us.

I am not sure what the official rationale is. If it's on the orders of the palace, it would be a weird thing, as the current sultan has been personally involved in the financing of recent toe-tapping delights like Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam 2 and 1957 Hati Malaya.

If it's on the orders of the Islamic authorities, do we really want to encourage this killjoy Wahhabi type of Islam to take root here? (We are not Saudi Arabia!)

So although basic necessities such as water and housing are more important items on the agenda, do give cinema(s) a thought too.


Tuesday 18 March 2008

Bring back the 'Lazy Native!'

When Malaysian intellectual (no, not necessarily an oxymoron) Syed Hussein Alatas died a few months ago, there were many obituaries and musings, such as Farish's here.

Curiously, none of them seemed to mention that his most famous book, The Myth of the Lazy Native, has been out of print here for years. Your best chance of getting it (unless you have cheaper alternatives that you'd be kind enough to share with me) is to pay fifty US bucks for a paperback.

Would an intrepid local publisher please bring it back into print?

While we're at it, there are several other local or local-set books that deserve a new lease of life, no? Any suggestions?

Thursday 13 March 2008


MPH Local Non-Fiction Bestseller List for the week ending 9 March

1.Growing Up in Trengganu
Author : Awang Goneng

2. Dr Mahathir's Selected Letters to World Leaders
Author : Dr. Mahathir Mohamad; Abdullah Ahmad (Introduction by)

3. Lost in Transition: Malaysia under Abdullah
Author : Ooi Kee Beng

4. New Malaysian Essays # 1
Author : Amir Muhammad (Editor)

5. Life is an Open Secret: Think About It - 18 Inspirational Stories from Ordinary Life Experiences
Author : Zabrina A. Bakar

6. Malaya: 500 Early Postcards
Author : Cheah Jin Seng

7. My Story
Author : Lim Goh Tong

8. Rahsia Melabur dalam Unit Amanah (Bisnes & Pengurusan)
Author : Sunthara Segar

9. Formula Bisnes Negara China
Author : Ann Wan Seng

10. Rahsia Raja Lelong™
Author : Eruwan Gerry Norsen

Monday 10 March 2008


I am shocked, SHOCKED to know that my banned documentary Apa Khabar Orang Kampung has now been pirated in Kuala Lumpur.

And that the cover has the audacity to use a quote from the Censorship Board's rationale for the ban, as if it were some kind of endorsement from some dweeby critic!

I have no objections at all if were to you buy it. But as a law-abiding citizen of this (admittedly glorious new) nation, I will of course not advertise the sales venues here. Find 'em yourself ;-)

Friday 7 March 2008

The king of lurve

(The third of my year-long column in TELL magazine about old Malay movies. Unfortunately this month's issue has a rather frightening cover).

Dewi Murni (1950) has more double entendres than Austin Powers can shake a shaft at!

The first song, by village gal Kasma Booty, is a spirited paean to virginity. Her pals may want to drool over attractive kumbang who have panjang extremities, but she ain’t gonna give it up just like that: “Saya boleh lawan segala godaan!”

Osman Gumanti is a king who is out hunting. Hunting comes with its own sexual wordplay, since we get to hear of hungry buaya, and lovely deer that need to be trapped. I wonder if younger film-goers back then thought they had wandered into a nature documentary.

They bump into each other in the wilds. “Jangan panah!” she shrieks to him when she sees him (and his arrow, natch) running after her favourite deer. How’s this for his pickup line? “Saya … tidak akan menggugurkan bulunya,” he purrs to her.

How can she resist? And Osman takes her naiveté as a challenge. He tells her he thirsts for her asmara. Right on cue, she asks, “Asmara? Apakah itu?” And he makes sure she finds out pretty quick.

This takes place in a moonlit garden, but not before another song. The song is familiar: it was used in Mukhsin! But here, the lascivious intent is made plain: “Bunga melati di dalam taman, daunnya hijau banyak yang gugur…” Gugur is the cue for a discreet clincher in fade-out.

They get married. But wait, the film is only a third of the way through! What gives? Is the rest of the story a mere chronicle of happiness? No lah! It’s about how the path of true love doesn’t run smooth, dummy.

For starters, no one in the palace knows anything about this marriage. It is decided that Kasma should stay in the village until her father returns from his travels.

Osman returns to the royal household while awaiting his bride, but he gets caught in a web of intrigue spun by the Prime Minister. The PM wants to marry his own daughter to Osman, but Osman isn’t charmed by her – probably because she’s a really bad actress. The PM visits a bomoh – no, not to improve his daughter’s acting skills, but to make sure Osman literally forgets Kasma. It works! Soon, Osman is the king of amnesia.

Back in the village, sexual frustration drives Kasma batty! Much pouting and hair-tearing ensues. Even her good pals turn catty by talking about how her bunga is starting to layu. Whatever happened to sisterhood?

This is not the first Malay film to present a PM as a villain. Malaya in 1950 was still some years away from having an actual PM, of course. By contrast, filmic sultans and kings were put in a good light.

This is strange. What is royalty, anyway? An institution founded on the quaint belief, held by our ancestors, that certain families were descendants of God.

The post of PM would represent the highest position of authority that a commoner can achieve. Since most people who watch Malay films would seem to have regulation red, rather than blue, blood, I wonder if these anti-PM plots were a sign of masochism. As if to say: An ordinary person (like you and me) who gets to the top through ability rather than lineage is bound to be nasty!

But in 1950, the actual sultans were not heroes in Malaya. The British had taken advantage of succession feuds within royal families to install pliable heads of state. Just four years earlier, the sultans had signed agreement to the Malayan Union plan, which would have brought Malay states under direct British rule. Opposition to the plan came from all walks of life (including aristocrats, who would lose valuable rent money). So why is there no critique of royalty in Dewi Murni?

Maybe things, including perceptions, moved slowly in Malaya. Indonesia had been an independent nation for five years, and the Philippines for four, but Malaya was still not free. Hence, the sentimental yearning for some kindly King to come and save us. Not just sentimental, but erotic, as Dewi Murni shows. We needed – and perhaps still need – a royal wake-up call.

Thursday 6 March 2008

Join the KLAB!

The day after the launch of New Malaysian Essays 1 (a 2-hour event where over 200 local books managed to be sold), I spoke to Zulhabri Supian (who works at Gerakbudaya) about the possibility of organising a longer event that focuses on local books. This idea was strengthened when, a week later, I found out that several Malay fiction books were rejected by a large distributor; although no reasons were given, the fact that none of them had 'Cinta' or "Kasih' in the title may have been a contributing factor. So this is what we came up with; do join us!

The 1st KL Alternative Bookfest (KLAB) will be held on the weekend of 3-4 May, 2008 at The Annexe, Central Market.

Held less than a month after the mammoth Pesta Buku KL (where you can buy as many text-books, romance novels and religious instruction manuals as you want), it will be held simultaneously with the very popular Art For Grabs event – but in a different room.

KLAB is ... basically a gathering of small, independent publishers who would like a popular venue to sell, launch and discuss books. We seek to fill 10-15 tables. Each table can be taken up by one publisher, or it can be shared between various people who each have books to sell.

There are many happenin' Malaysian books now being published; the trouble is, not many of them are readily available in the main bookshops. This is an opportunity to bring these books to the public, and to make the whole process fun lah.

4 tables have already been filled up; they are by Gerakbudaya, SIRD, Silverfish, and Matahari Books. We seek 6-11 others. We are in negotiations to bring one publisher each from Singapore & Indonesia too.

The events we plan are:
- Book launch by Hishamuddin Rais
- Discussion of new books, with the authors present
- A 'book give-away' where people can simply get rid of books they no longer want, for free. This will physically take up one corner of the room, where people can just leave the books. The idea is to make interesting books available even to those who can't afford to buy 'em. The remainder of the books will be donated, most likely to The Ricecooker Shop
- Bilingual poetry slam, where the audience gets to vote for favourite performers (to be coordinated by Ted Mahsun)
- And more!

The fee per table (for both days) is RM100
The event is from 12-6pm both days.
Deadline to receive entries (including payment) is April 26
Payment goes directly to The Annexe

Interested? Contact zulhabri at gmail dot com.

Wednesday 5 March 2008

SUSUK is done

This horror film that I co-directed with Naeim Ghalili is finally done.

Post-production took almost 2 years due to numerous delays with the CGI and sound.

I was getting quite annoyed.

But when I saw the fully graded film, with the mixed sound, in Bangkok last week, I got all excited all over again. I am not sure if the audience will react the same way – and since it cost RM1.2 million, there had better be an audience – but I can't foresee these things, as I am hardly, erm, Dukun Dewangga.

It clocks in at 110 minutes. It will be sent to the Censorship Board next week. We will only know the release plan after that.

Wish us luck :-)

Tuesday 4 March 2008

Sunday 2 March 2008

Screenings in Paris

Some shorts and features by moi will screen in Paris later this month, in a festival called Cinéma du Réel. (I like the fact that they write their own synopses!)

Also featured from this region are works by Lav Diaz and Raya Martin (from the Philippines) as well as Garin Nugroho (Indonesia).

Lav directed the 5-hour Batang West Side, one of my favourite Filipino films; and Garin directed Surat Untuk Bidadari, one of my favourite Indonesian films :-)

I was slated to be in Paris from 6-11 March but I changed the dates so that I could VOTE.