I think I owe MUALLAF some comments.
Yasmin Ahmad’s films always have a higher purpose and what I find wonderful about her films is besides trying to “speak” to the audience about this higher purposes, she manages to put into them humour and lots and lots of culture.
Maybe I can elaborate. By higher purpose, her themes are always about Malaysia, or 1Malaysia as is popular now. It is about how different races can live together, can love each other, can help each other out. In short, come to think about it, maybe I am wrong. Yasmin’s film is not only about Malaysia. It is about humanity as a whole, take away all the race, creed and class.
Yasmin’s films is also about God in it’s ultimate sense, one God. Not only a Christian God, or Chinese God or Muslim God. And it is so apparent in Yasmin’s film that she cannot stand people who just appear to be religious but in fact is a total farce, someone that just has a religious facade but do not live up to it’s true principles.
Yasmin’s films is also about people, especially about family. Family is very important, as Confucius would have totally agree. According to Confucius, family is the ultimate nucleus in the prosperity of a nation. I don’t know if Yasmin is aware of this or not although I know that she loves the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu very much but never mention anything about the Analects by Confucius.
And of course, Yasmin’s films is, for a lack of a better expression, very cultured. From the tasteful selection of music, from Thai and Cantonese pop song right up to operatic arias, and the selection of poems that peppered her movies, one feels the substance of the filmmaker herself and her love for life, people and culture. It is a wonderful experience watching a Yasmin Ahmad movie.
Of course, not everything is sweet and nice and her films are not without flaws but just the heart and vision that she put into her films, one can easily overlook those flaws and take the whole thing as part of a “package”, just like her message in the funeral commercial and Cikgu Adibah’s comment that “pitching Nina Simone pun tak adalah always perfect” (Nina Simone’s pitching is also not always perfect).
So what about MUALLAF. Well, the first feeling that one gets after watching the movie is that it is preaching a lot. And that the movie is not about conversion into Islam. And it is not a Malay language movie. Haha.
The preaching a lot part is quite true, with quotations from the Quran, St. Augustine, the Tao Te Ching being peppered throughout the movie and one almost feel like getting a crash course in comparative religion. It is, however, quite interesting the quotes that Yasmin chose, where a lot of them tries to clear up a lot of misconceptions about Islam. As with some of her other movies (e.g. GUBRA), she tries to tell what Islam is truly about and what Islam is not about. Perhaps this subject is really too deep to explain in the course of a movie, however, it is like a seed planted in one’s mind and prompts one to search further and deeper for the truth.
Of course, the hypocrites are also shown, for example, when the Datuk refuses to shake the Chinese hands after he touched a dog, but then requested for a refill for the glass of beer in front of him. Yasmin’s films is always like this. What is in the surface may not be true, what is true may not be easily seen (reminds one of the Tao Te Ching?). For example, the bar girl who secretly gave some money to the sisters after she herself caused the the girl to be fired. One sees the two sides of her, the bad side but also the good side. It co-exist. No one is really all bad. And no one is really all Angel.
And yes, the story was changed and it is not really about the conversion to Islam as the movie title seems to indicate. It is more like a conversion from bad to good, which I find a really good choice. And of course, perhaps 90% of the dialogue is in English and this is classified as a Malay movie. Again, this is typical of Yasmin. No pigeon-holing.
So all in all, it is generally a good movie but in my personal ranking of Yasmin’s movie, the following is my sentiment right now and may change:
I really like TALENTIME. I don’t know why.
My Blackberry Nights?