Friday, September 13, 2019

Dial M for Malaysia

Mahathir Mohamad in M for Malaysia (2019)

M for Malaysia is an extremely competent first effort by Ineza Roussille and Dian Lee.

I was expecting a normal talking heads thing that explains a bunch of stuff Malaysians already know, for the benefit of foreigners. And that would have been fine, because the story of GE14 deserves more documentaries and movies and books.But no, it was different and fresh and only a Malaysian could understand the extremely heavy emotional moments the filmmakers have decided to showcase.

Sure, there are the talking heads, but some of the visuals chosen had little context or subtitles attached to them, expecting the audience to be guided by the emotions and memories of certain things, events and words. M for Malaysia also shows certain novel and singular looks behind the scenes that could only be achieved by the fact that the filmmakers had exclusive access to Dr M like no one else could.

What is also amazing are some extremely personal moments of important figures in the PH camp during GE14. Everyone will comment on how cute Dr M and Dr Siti Hasmah are, but I also found the familiarity and camaraderie between folks like Wan Azizah, Lim Guan Eng, Kit Siang and Dr M to be quite amazing. Dr M was wearing the mic while talking to other figures and the feeling was like eavesdropping on secret conversations.

A friend noted that there was one moment where Dr M took the mic off because what he was about to discuss was off limits - acknowledging the existence of even more hidden discussions.

We Malaysians - okay, it's just me - have long suspected that politicians are like professional wrestlers and these brief, valuable sightings are proof enough that they're neither Gods nor caricatures, but merely a bunch of people trying to put on a show.

M for Malaysia also covers the Bersih rallies and Dr M's Ops Lalang as well as Anwar Ibrahim's issue with Dr M during the Reformasi years. I am still mildly amused that the documentary didn't get censored for saying negative things about Dr M.

Mildly amused, because I've always heard tales from much senior journalists that Dr M never censors the media - his people do, and sometimes media people censor themselves in an effort to impress Dr M. I've always held an image in my head of Dr M looking at sycophants and laughing quietly behind slow smiles.


This documentary got away with it because Roussille is Dr M's granddaughter.

I dunno. I don't care. I'm just glad Roussille and Lee made this documentary. I enjoyed it immensely, even though I was a bit sick from the haze and had lots of dust in my throat and my eyes, necessitating the use of a pack of tissues in the cinema. Yes. It was the haze.

Anyway, I heard this documentary was accepted to some prestigious film festivals. Well done. Hope to see more from the young filmmakers.

By the way, I'm a Dr M fan - not a very good one, because I don't collect memorabilia - but be advised that if you hate the man, watch something else. Most of the documentary is dedicated to the man because he was the main player for GE14.

Catch M for Malaysia in select cinemas NOW! If you're not impressed that a local documentary is being screened at cinemas, also be very impressed that it's only running for four days. Sunday is the last day. So catch it before then.