Ahead of screening, vernacular pre-Merdeka film draws Malay paper’s ire


A still from the film “The New Village” — Picture courtesy of facebook.com/thenewvillagemovie

(The Malay Mail) – Awang lashed out at the makers of “The New Village”, whom it branded as “racist” and suggested they may have used strong-arm tactics to push the film through.

“The New Village”, a locally-made film depicting the historical resettlement of the Chinese community during the communist years in Malaya, came under fire today from right-wing Malay paper Mingguan Malaysia ahead of its August 22 release.

The weekend edition of Umno-owned daily, Utusan Malaysia, heavily criticised the Chinese-language film in an opinion piece written by Awang Selamat — the moniker representing the paper’s collective editorial voice — which accused its makers of using it as a medium to glorify communism.

It claimed the film presented a “skewed perspective” of history, and contrasted it to another locally-made movie on nationalism, “Tanda Putera”, which has also similarly sparked controversy after snippets were leaked online.

“While ‘Tanda Putera’ was pressured relentlessly, it seems someone else had produced quietly the film ‘The New Village’ which carries a skewed perspective.

“Rumour has it the film glorifies the Malayan People Anti Japanese Army (MPAJA) [sic] that has ties with the Parti Komunis Malaya (PKM) as an independence fighter,” the columnist wrote.

It added: “Awang believes this is part of an effort to recognise PKM’s struggle including its main leader, Chin Peng.”

While Malaysia today recognises and accepts the communist governments of republics like China and Vietnam, its past dealings with communism at home is shrouded in controversy.

In its chequered history, the country then known as Malaya had waged a long guerrilla war with communists that led to a period of emergency being declared in 1948, after a rift in cooperation between PKM members and the colonial British government at the end of the Second World War.

The cast of “The New Village” — Picture courtesy of facebook.com/thenewvillagemovie

Perak-born Chin Peng, whose real name is Ong Boon Hua was the PKM secretary-general and had been the liaison between his party and the MPAJA brigade.

The then Malayan government had mounted a large-scale exercise to move hundreds of thousands of Chinese, including squatters and especially those living on the jungle fringes where PKM members often hid, into some 480 new villages as part of security measures to curb the communist influence from spreading.

In a separate news report today, Mingguan Malaysia had highlighted the concerns of a hardline Malay website in which the blogger questioned the vernacular film’s approval by the authorities.

In its Sunday editorial, Utusan Malaysia’s Awang also questioned the country’s main film authority, National Film Development Corporation Malayisa (Finas), for allowing “The New Village” to be screened publicly during the month celebrating Malaya’s independence from colonial British rule and ahead of “Tanda Putera”, which is due to open in cinemas nationwide a week later on August 29.

“Awang finds it curious how such a film could have so easily been approved by Finas what more during the Month of Independence celebration.

“Even more illogical, the film will be screened before ‘Tanda Putera’ which had been long completed but was left to stew,” it said.

Awang lashed out at the makers of “The New Village”, whom it branded as “racist” and suggested they may have used strong-arm tactics to push the film through.

“Apparently in Malaysia, those who are actually racist besides aggressive will get more attention and have his wishes fulfilled,” it said.

A still from the film “The New Village” — Picture courtesy of facebook.com/thenewvillagemovie

Directed by Datin Paduka Shuhaimi Baba, “Tanda Putera”, depicts events during the May 13, 1969 riots, focusing on Malaysia’s second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein and his deputy Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman.

Produced in 2011 by Persona Pictures Sdn Bhd, the RM4 million film carries a PG13 rating and was supposed to be screened from November 15 last year but had been delayed by Cabinet as it was concerned it would cause conflict among communities.

“The New Village” is produced by Yellow Pictures and directed by Wong Kew-Lit, a prolific filmmaker whose works have been broadcast on both terrestrial and satellite television networks.

The 42-year-old Malaysian has also scooped up a number of awards including for best documentary director at the 6th Malaysian Oskar Award for a series called “My Roots”, and best TV documentary for “Malaysia My Home — Story of Sabah & Sarawak” at the Anugerah Seri Angkasa 2010.

The trailer for “The New Village”, which has spawned 38,336 views since it was uploaded on YouTube last month, drew 1,247 thumbs down compared to the 137 likes, as at the time of publication.