Friday, 13 December 2013


The latest MALAYSIAN SHORTS is back!

About a dozen new short films directed by Malaysians — for the world!

Curated by Diffan Norman & Amir Muhammad.

Screening Sunday 15 December, 5-7pm as part of ART FOR GRABS: RIGHTING MALAYSIA at the Annexe Gallery, Central Market KL.
FB event page:

The same programme will be shown at our usual venue (HELP University auditorium, Pusat Bandar Damansara KL) on Monday 16 December starting at 8:15pm.

Admission is free & all are welcome.


1) DAIN by Isyraqi Yahya (11 min)

2) Rumah/ Tok by Azharr Rudin (10 min)

3) Strength by James Toh & Michael Chen (14 min)

4) The Sempiternal by Ainan Cawley (2 min)

5) Soli by Adrienne Marcus Raja (10 min)

6) Gong Xi Fa Cai 2012 Part 1 & 2 by Andrew Stiff (7 min)

7) Dream Cradle by Nadira Ilana (13 min)

8) Mist by Sidney Chan (4min)

9) Basikal Biru by Nawfal Zamri (11 min)

10) Monsters by Fairul Nizam (3 min)

11) Crossing The Arctic by Zahariz Khuzaimah (12 min)



Meet many of the directors!

Vote for your 3 favourite shorts of the evening!

Monday, 26 August 2013

CALL FOR ENTRIES: Penang short films for George Town Literary Fest

I am choosing short films to show in the 2nd annual George Town Literary Festival which will take place 29 November - 1 December in a few venues in the beautiful capital city of Penang.

I am particularly interested to show new work set in Penang.

If you have a short film made in 2013 — fiction, documentary, experimental, animation — set in Penang and/or with a Penang theme, do send me an email at . Of course, you are welcome to start making a new short right now!

Minimum length: 1 minute. Maximum length: 20 minutes. Works not in English will require English subtitles.

Deadline 1 November 2013. Upload your short on Youtube & Vimeo and then send me a Facebook message with the password/link. Selected shorts will be announced by 8 November. (Depending on the number of entries received, it may not be possible to screen everything.)

There will be two public screenings of short films during the festival, open to the public. Ideally the filmmakers should also be present to take part in a short discussion after the screenings. 

I look forward to your entries!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

My 1994 interview with Elmore Leonard

The American writer who died recently left an indelible impact and is being mourned worldwide now. Nothing for me to add, except maybe this: The first scene in Freaky Deaky, the one that ends with 'ceiling' — that IS how it's done.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Here are 3 shorts by a new director named Yuga J Vardhan

He observes well, his empathy shines through and I am so glad he made them.

He is planning his first feature film (the final short here is a documentary sketch he made while researching it) and this is cause for even more optimism.

Friday, 14 June 2013

My interview with Usman Awang from 1998

The above was published on 2 December 1998 in the New Straits Times
It was the only time I ever met him.

Almost 15 years later (who wouldda thunk it!) I now publish a collection of his short fiction and poetry:

I wanted the title to have 'nakal' because the word 'kenakalan' is the one I remember most from the introduction to a compilation of his which was published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, and which I read as a teenager. I thought it was an odd word to use for someone with the venerable title of Sasterawan Negara. But when I read the contents of that book (especially that poem with the pun on 'punai') I appreciated how apt it could be. (But it was much later that I came across his short story "Betisnya Bunting Padi" and was pleasantly startled by its – but I suppose this is a spoiler – homoeroticism). I initially thought of Kerja-Kerja Nakal as a title but the editor of this selection Hafiz Hamzah wisely changed it to Yang Nakal-Nakal.

Thanks so much to Haslina Usman for consenting to this project!

More details on Yang Nakal-Nakal here. It launches this Sunday

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Box-office figures for the first 25 local movies of the year

1. HUSIN, MON & JIN PAKAI TONCIT – RM5.89 million
2 = THE WEDDING DIARY 2 – RM4.61 million
2 = ONCE UPON A TIME – RM4.61 million
4. ROCK OO – RM3.95 million
5. JUVANA – RM2.86 million
6. MINYAK DAGU – RM2.37 million
7. LAWAK KE DER? – RM1.66 million
8. LANGGAR – RM1.6 million
9. WAWA SEMPUT – RM1.48 million
10. GANGSTER CELUP – RM1.33 million
11. KERAT 14 – RM1.1 million
12. SEMBUNYI – RM880,000
14. 2 KALIMAH – RM670,000
16 = GILA-GILA REMAJA 2 – RM520,000
18. MENCARI CINTA – RM350,000
19. 99 KALI RINDU – RM290,000
22. CERITA KITA – RM180,000
23. PAPER MOON – RM170,000
24. OPS KOSSA DAPPA 3 – RM70,000
25. KALIYUGHA – RM23,000

Sunday, 17 March 2013


The months I spent in 2004 in Indonesia were among the most invigorating of my life. And this is the proof.

Saturday, 2 March 2013


Monday, 4 March 2013


Auditorium, HELP University, Pusat Bandar Damansara, KL

The first MALAYSIAN SHORTS of the year!

Donch miss ah!

10 shorts will be shown. Admission is FREE and you get to vote for your 3 favourite shorts of the night.


Dir: Shanjhey Kumar Perumal
A historical tragic event which took place in Parit Buntar, Perak 40 years ago made an ordinary man a decorated national hero overnight. Based on a Director/Writer Shanjey Kumar Perumal true account of his grandfather, this documentary is narrated via an interesting theatre performance and stunning visuals.

HANGER (13 min)
Directed by Charlotte Lim
Like in a fairy tale. A dreamy girl or young woman in a cottage. Cockroaches seem to be the only thing hampering her. She fights back with a coat hanger. Quite stylish, a coat hanger. Carefully made. Beautifully lit. Deftly played. Perfect poetic cinema.(Synopsis from International Film Festival Rotterdam.)

CHEES CAKE! (10 min)
Directed by Aliff Ihsan Rahman
Mengisahkan MEEN (8) yang kempunan untuk makan cheesecake apabila tidak dapat merasanya sejak pertama kali bertemu dengan makanan itu. Sejak hari tersebut, MEEN berusaha dan bertekad ingin merasa makanan itu.

BIHUN (5 min)
Directed by Amir Hafizi
Prolific screenwriter Amir Hafizi makes his directorial debut in this domestic drama about a politician and her husband. Made for last year’s KL 48 Hour Film Challenge.

MERAH (5 min)
Directed by Nadia Khan & Fasyali Fadzly
Romantic drama set in a café, and where not everything is black and white. By the prolific outfit Idebewe Productions.

KASHAF (10 min)
Directed by Faidzal Annuar
Melor was in dilemma caught between reality and fantasy world after the death of her mother

EMPTY (11 min)
Directed by Audrie Yeo
Made in Malaysia for London. This was a collaborative project between Malaysian filmmaking students and an acting student in London. A feminist cine-poem which involves some difficult mathematical problems. Oh, and Vaseline.

Directed by Sidney Chan.
"Fragments" is an experimental short film that was conceived on impulse when some Australian friends came to Malaysia on holiday. Shot mainly on Jonker Street, Melaka, with the poignant last line: “Where do we go from here?”

3057: MY EARTH (4 min)
Directed by Gary Chong
Set in the future of 3075, a mother presents her daughter on her 18th birthday, the gift of a virtual reality trip to revisit the past earth from generations ago....where the earth was still abundant with "green". Like AVATAR, starring Mislina Mustaffa instead of Sigourney Weaver.

Directed by Edmund Yeo
A Malaysian film student travels to Japan to study and is amazed by many things. About a girl in the snow, for instance. Shown at various international film festivals including Dubai and Rotterdam.


Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Into to the first Fixi Novo anthology, KL NOIR: RED

In Malaysia you can say ‘noir’ to refer to men whose actual names are Anwar; hence we have an Opposition leader who can be called Noir Berahim. But in French it means ‘black’. Specifically, it refers to films and pulp fiction that flourished from the 1930s to 1950s in the US of A.

There were haunted men on the run, sexy women with secrets, cities that were steeped in corruption and existential despair. The most succinct two-word synonym would be ‘crime melodrama’. The films were in moody monochrome and had titles like Kiss Me Deadly, The Asphalt Jungle, Touch of Evil, Night and the City, The Dark City, While the City Sleeps…you get the drift.

The French scribes who coined the term ‘film noir’ saw a common streak of romantic pessimism brought about by economic depression as well as the psychological effect of proximity to violence (caused by rapid urbanization with its spiraling crime rate, as well as the deadlier scourge of the two World Wars). There was also the Criss-Cross (another title) of gender roles as women were suddenly more prominent in the workforce; the men were away fighting. The latter phenomenon mutated through a sensationalist fever-dream into the femme fatale – women who resorted to the most sinister and carnal means to stay ahead of the game, but never at the expense of their hairstyles or nails.

A central icon of the noir novel: the world-weary, square-jawed male private eye. Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe had seen almost everything and trusted almost no one. But the idea of the private dick is not terribly indigenous to Malaysia – so can we say there is such a thing as ‘KL Noir’? Could the very architecture of KL evoke the sense of spiraling dread that, say, Sweet Smell of Success created for New York or Sunset Blvd. for Los Angeles?   

Well, let us cuba try test.


The idea for this book came about when the charming man-of-letters Jérôme Bouchaud suggested a KL version of the anthology Bangkok Noir. Of course KL isn’t as old, big or notorious as Bangkok but (and I say this with pride) we can do crime and sleaze, too!

The height of noir expression in black-and-white KL cinema is P. Ramlee’s Dr. Rushdi (1970). One of his last films, it’s a gorgeously cynical thing of shadows, guilt and entrapment. There’s adultery, murder, suicide, crashing waves, lightning bolts and – as if all of this weren’t striking enough – the first movie appearance of the Pekeliling Flats (which has since been abandoned; how quickly things disappear here!) In the color era, the most sustained noir effort would be Adman Salleh’s vice-drenched Bintang Malam (1991).

‘KL noir’ elements abounded in the Malay pulp novels of the late 1960s, most of which are now out of print. They included Dahaga (1966) by Yahya Samah and Kuala Lumpur Kita Punya (1967) by Abdullah Hussain; you should SEE the anxiety of Malay literary critics decades later in explaining how the latter ‘immoral’  book could have been written by a man who then became a National Laureate. 

Although brothels, opium and gangsters were as much features of early KL as tin, it seems that its architecture started to accommodate noir stories (which require a certain weariness) only in the late 1960s.  This is because in the preceding decades, Singapore was a more prominent story source.

I will not give away much about the 15 items you are about to read. Just to say that, unlike in the ang moh noir tradition, we in the exotic Orient have ghosts, since supernatural beings are not immune from the grudges and mayhem that noir can thrive on. Lovers of local showbiz gossip will chortle knowingly at one tale; habitués of shopping malls (which is another way of saying KLites) will recognize the loneliness of being in our crowds; the immigrant labor that the middle-class, in our wannabe First World entitlement, willfully ignore gets a rightful narrative voice; hijabsters may have reason to pause; the loan-shark business will never seem so dangerous; we even have a cop narrator although he is closer to the creepy protagonist of The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson (my favorite pulp writer) than the relatively ethical beacons of hardboiled crime yarns.

You will recognize places – KLCC, KL Sentral, Asian Heritage Row, Mid Valley Megamall – though who knows how many of them, in a couple of decades, will be gone with the winds of change like the Pekeliling Flats? As a town (and later city) hacked out of a malarial jungle, KL rewards survival. We are not (or not yet!) an overcrowded megapolis like Bangok, Manila or Jakarta. Our class disparities aren’t as stark; perhaps the desperation that noir needs isn’t as harsh. But we have our unique ambiguities; a particularly telling one is the recent controversy over whether KL was ‘founded’ by a Chinese headman or a Malay aristocrat.

All noir stories are, at heart, barbed valentines to our cages. I shall leave you with a quote from a favorite film noir, Detour (1945). The doomed couple is trapped, just like P. Ramlee and Sarimah would later be in Dr. Rushdi. There seems to be no way out. She hisses: “You don’t like me very much, do you?” And he snaps back: “Like you? I love you!” And you have never heard that four-letter word spat with such disgust.

Amir Muhammad
14 February 2013

* KL NOIR: RED can now be ordered online. The launch is at Kinokuniya KLCC tonight 8pm; it will also be in other shops soon. 

Friday, 22 February 2013

Nominees for Poster Terbaik, the most important category of Festival Filem Malaysia

Here they are:

This seems tough. I think Seefood has the best shot at winning because it looks of 'international standard' (and the match between the title and image actually does tell a story) but...why does it have to resemble Finding Nemo a wee bit too much?

My favourite would have to be the kinetic and vivid (although, yes, a bit 'Thai action movie') 8 Jam. Simply because it's the poster that makes me most want to watch the film. So there!

Having said that, I would have chosen Bunohan hands down ... if only the film had used its thrillingly portentous teaser poster:

It captures the oneiric spirit of the actual film much better (not that I have anything against Zahiril Adzim's left nipple in the final poster, of course). I even prefer the one they did for its Oscar campaign:

Apa kata anda??

UPDATE: (Feb 25)

The big cheese of FilemKita has brought to my attention that this is Seefood's real poster (I had posted a teaser – damn you, Google Image Search!); which makes me all the more certain Seefood will win:

Monday, 14 January 2013

Box-office figures for 74 Malaysian movies released in 2012

1. Ah Beng the Movie: 3 Wishes - RM7.6 million
2. Adnan Sempit 2 - RM6.82 million
3. Jalan Kembali: Bohsia 2 - RM4.98 million
4. Mael Lambong - RM4.88 million
5. Istanbul Aku Datang - RM3.58 million
6. Hantu Gangster - RM3.45 million
7. Hantu Kapcai - RM3.19 million 
8. Aku Terima Nikahnya - RM2.75 million
9. Bujang Terlajak - RM2.60 million
10. Jangan Pandang-Pandang - RM2.51 million
11. Seefood - RM2.36 million
12. 8 Jam - RM2.3 million
13. Nongkrong - RM2.12 million
14. Kepong Gangster - RM2.09 million 
15. Sumpahan Kum Kum - RM2.06 million
16. Sepah The Movie - RM1.9 million
17. Sam - RM1.88 million
18. Hantu Dalam Botol Kicap - RM1.86 million
19.Lagenda Budak Setan II - RM1.81 million 
20.Ponti vs Omi - RM1.71 million
21. Keramat - RM1.39 million
22.The Golden Couple - RM1.35 million 
23. Fist of Dragon - RM1.26 million (co-production)
24= Aku Ada, Kau Ada? - RM1.21 million
24= Man Sewel Datang KL - RM1.21 million
26. PE3 - RM1.18 million
27. Cinta Kura Kura - RM1.17 million
28. Berani Punya Budak - RM1.13 million
29. Ghost Buddies - RM1.08 million
30.Apa Celop Toqq - RM1.07 million
31. 7 Petala Cinta - RM1.03 million
32. Uncle Usin - RM1 million
33. Azura - RM990,000
34. Budak Pailang - RM960,000
35. Seram Sejuk - RM920,000
36. Untuk Tiga Hari - RM860,000 
37= Bunohan - RM780,000
37=Taikun - RM780,000
39=Aji Boy - RM710,000
39=Jidin Sengal - RM710,000
41. 3 Temujanji – RM700, 000
42. Sesuatu Yang Tertinggal - RM690,000
43. Hantu Air - RM680,000
44. You Believe in Ghost? - RM630,000
45. Jiwa Taiko - RM620,000
46. Strawberi Cinta - RM590,000
47. Halim Munan - RM490,000
48. Chow Kit - RM450,000
49. Kahwin 5 - RM390,000 
50. Baik Giler - RM380,000
51=29 Februari - RM370,000
51=Ngorat - RM370,000
53= Hoore! Hoore! - RM350,000
53= Mantera - RM350,000
55.War of the Worlds: Goliath - RM280,000
56. Salam Cinta - RM260,000
57. Karma Reborn - RM250,000
58. Aji Noh Motor - RM220,000 
59. Gerimis Mengundang - RM220,000
60. The Collector - RM210,000 
61. X - RM200,000
62. Hanya Aku Cinta Kau Seorang - RM180,000
63. Aku, Kau dan Dia - RM160,000
64. Sofazr The Movie Jiwa Kacau - RM150,000
65. Adik Manja Returns - RM140,000 
66. Momok - Jangan Cari Pasal - RM130,000
67. Chantek - RM100,000
68. Prince of the City - RM90,000 
69. Air Mata Ibu - RM70,000
70. Adutha Kattam - RM60,000
71. Zaiton, Ceritaku - RM59,000
72. Cinta Beruang - RM50,000
73. Leftwings - RM20,000
74. Vajram - RM10,000

Some notes:

1. This is the first time that the highest-grossing Malaysian movie of the year is not in the Malay language or any of its 3 most common derivatives: Bahasa Melayu Hantu, Bahasa Melayu Rempit & Bahasa Melayu Jiwang.

2. When Bunohan (the most interesting local movie I saw last year) was released, even some of its admirers found it tough to understand. A University Malaya professor even complained that it was "more difficult than Titanic." And yet it did better than half of the movies last year, most of which were presumably easier than Titanic.  

3. Movie producers are now complaining there are too many movies and not enough movie-goers. I say: there are too many movie-goers that producers had ignored for too long, and – guess what? – most of those potential customers ain't coming back.

4. About half the movies in this list (including some worthwhile ones like The Collector and Chow Kit) lost money or barely broke even. This is a case-study in Social Darwinism. 

5. The three movies that banked on 1980s nostalgia - Leftwings, Zaiton Ceritaku and Adik Manja Returns – tanked. Contrast this with the American movie Ted. Does this mean Malaysians are more forgetful?

6. The movies that banked on us recognizing 'real-life people' like 29 Februari and Zaiton Ceritaku didn't do great. Perhaps Malaysians don't like reality? (Which explains why there has yet to be a Malaysian documentary to be released theatrically. Two of mine got banned. Ahem.)

7. Two expensive animation projects – Seefood and War of the Worlds: Goliath –  were lucky to get generous grants from ... those government agencies that get excited when people mention 'multimedia'. Though their professed targets of "breaking into the international market" has yet to be truly achieved, ambition is always a good thing. Love and strawberries are good also, although I didn't watch Strawberi Cinta