National Spotlight: Malaysia
Trivia: Did you know that the English word “amok” actually comes from the Malay language? Perfectly illustrating the meaning of the word is what occurred one particular day in October 1987, when a soldier went on a murderous frenzy with an M-16 in multiethnic Kuala Lumpur.
Eighteen years after the fact, the incident remains etched in the memories of Malaysians. It was an event that threatened to drag the country into a disastrous race riot. Soon after, Malaysia was under a clampdown by the Internal Security Act, and its political repercussion would endure to this day.
Amir Muhammad’s irreverent, acerbic semi-documentary recounts those tension- filled days via interviews and footage of the crime scenes. He also gives us an unvarnished and uncensored commentary on one of today’s most modernised Muslim nations. Hailed by San Francisco Chronicle critic Chuck Stephens as “the freshest voice in Islamic filmdom,” Muhammad is frequently credited as the godfather of independent Malaysian filmmaking. His first feature, Lips to Lips, was the first ever Malaysian film on DV. With his second work, The Big Durian, he hit the big time: Sundance, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong and Special Mention citations at both Vancouver and Yamagata film festivals. Moreover, it inspired a whole new generation of young Malaysian filmmakers to pick up their cameras.
The Village Voice’s Dennis Lim called Durian “an impertinent love letter to its people.” And why not? After all, despite the political content, Muhammad always has his tongue firmly in his cheek.
Lost Friday Checkpoint
Director: Amir Muhammad | Malaysia 2002 | 10/8/7 | Video | Toronto Premiere
Three shorts from Amir Muhammad’s seminal and hilarious 6horts are presented here. Lost is a wry yet political look at the loss of one’s identity … card. Religious musings on Islam turn into a profane yet spiritual rumination in Friday. Finally, Checkpoint shows what the post-9/11 world means to the traveller going on the cheap.
Amir Muhammad was born in 1972 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. An independent writer and filmmaker, he has a law degree but does not use it. In 2000 he wrote and directed Malaysia’s first DV feature, Lips to Lips. His next project, a collection of short videos called 6horts, garnered acclaim worldwide, as did the seminal The Big Durian (2003). He recently completed the experimental Tokyo Magic Hour (2005) and the documentary The Year of Living Vicariously (2005).