The unexpected win of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition over the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) in the 2018 general election in Malaysia last year, has inspired Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s granddaughter, Ineza Roussille and filmmaker Dian Lee to tell the story in a documentary film “M for Malaysia.”
“M for Malaysia” highlights Dr Mahathir’s journey in defeating former prime minister Najib Razak saying it is the “greatest political comeback.”
It touches on the 1MDB scandal, which it terms as Najib’s “kleptocracy,” and the discontent of the Malaysian people with the former BN government and their clamor for change.
While the film’s release in Malaysia is not until August or September, it has already won acclaim internationally and is an official selection of two film festivals, earlier this month at CAAMFest in San Francisco, and also at New Zealand’s DocEdge Film Festival, which runs from May 30 through June 9 in Auckland, and June 13 through 23 in Wellington.
At CAAMFest37 or the Centre for Asian American Media Festival 2019, “M for Malaysia” was the sole entry from the country and made its world debut on May 17.
Ravi Chandra, a writer and psychiatrist in San Francisco, was present at the premiere and reviewed the film on the CAAM website. He wrote:
“Mahathir has been described as ‘a ruthless leader – feared, admired, hated, loved.’ Yet we see him as a human being: dressing, hugging his wife (who is said to have softened him over the years), genially joking with Ineza. He is an affable and gentle patriarch here.
His campaign speeches are filled with uplift, concern for the common man, and a promise to fight corruption. All this in stark contrast with the standing PM Najib Razak, who takes clear inspiration from Donald Trump in his rhetoric to ‘Make Malaysia Great Again!’ Najib is currently under investigation for embezzling almost a billion dollars and other crimes, and his cronies are seen bribing constituents for their votes.
M FOR MALAYSIA gave me a big taste of the struggles and joys of the Malaysian people. I couldn’t remember being as angry in a documentary before, as I watched enormous crowds of protestors being tear gassed and beaten in Kuala Lumpur…
Indeed, Malaysia may offer us a template and warning for our own politics. Like the Malaysian people, we should not be throwing rose petals on the path to dictatorship, the logical outcome of unchecked executive power.
Netizens have also been enthusiastic about the film.
DocEdge New Zealand is an Academy-Awards qualifying festival for feature and short documentaries which celebrates the best local and international documentary films. So, exposure at the festival can only mean good news for the film, which is also Malaysia’s only entry for the festival./ TISG
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