AUG 15 — The jury is already out on “Tanda Putera” even before the Datin Paduka Shuhaimi Baba film has hit the silver screen.
From the little scraps of information gleaned from one preview, the script, Shuhaimi herself and chatter within the crew, the movie presents one view of the May 13, 1969 race riot.
A view that is not shared by many, especially those who feel it is an inaccurate portrayal of events on that blood-spilled day in Kuala Lumpur.
And just like the riot, the movie has become divisive, not unifying.
The filmmaker denied today her movie was promoting a pro-Malay agenda or that it featured a character based on DAP lawmaker Lim Kit Siang that was portrayed in a negative light in scenes depicting the May 13, 1969 race riots, as suggested by some Umno blogs to the chagrin of Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders.
“This is not a movie to raise dissent. It is one to bring people together. It is just a movie about two great men. If they are from Umno, that’s just history. If they are also Malay, it is also our history.
“We are filmmakers, not an organ to produce propaganda,” Shuhaimi said.
One wonders if anyone else can produce another view of the May 13 race riot and get the same kind of funding that “Tanda Putera” received — RM4.8 million from the National Film Development Corporation (Finas) and the Multimedia Development Corporation (Mdec).
The issue is simple. The movie is about Malaysian history and two national figures are featured — the late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein and the late Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman. Now if they are depicted accurately, why is the director taking artistic licence with other figures and movements linked to the bloody riot?
The complaints about the movie reflect the simple truth, that only official versions of history approved by the victors or the government of the day will be produced and shown, in this case this coming November.
But any other version or narrative is dismissed, ignored and shunned without even the remotest possibility of funding or a showing in local cinemas.
Malaysia and Malaysians deserve better than being fed the official drivel that the likes of Shuhaimi is putting out in “Tanda Putera”.
Let’s have a true flowering of the arts and encourage more to depict our history as accurately as possible. After all, May 13 belongs to all Malaysians, not just one view or the National Operations Council’s version of events.
Shuhaimi’s film also isn’t it, especially if it is just the Umno viewpoint because after all, there have been claims that some politicians from the party had a hand in it.
We haven’t learnt anything from May 13, 1969, have we? One wonders why such a movie was made in the first place.