IMPORTANT CHAPTER OF HISTORY: Shuhaimi pained by criticism of controversial movie
KUALA LUMPUR: DESPITE talk that her film Tanda Putera had its premiere delayed indefinitely because of its portrayal of the May 13, 1969 riot, director Datin Paduka Shuhaimi Baba says this is not so.
Shuhaimi said the National Film Development Corporation (Finas), which co-produced Tanda Putera with her company Pesona Pictures, hinted that the film about second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein and second Deputy Prime Minister Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman would reach cinemas in November. Tanda Putera was originally slated for a Sept 13 release.
She said Finas director-general Naguib Abdul Razak informed her that the film would do better if it was screened at year-end instead of immediately after Hari Raya.
"Finas said it needed time to promote the film as it is about an important chapter of history," she said yesterday.
The director has been aware of brickbats thrown from various parties in cyberspace, one of which is a Facebook page titled "We boycott Tanda Putera".
"It has been painful for us to receive such negative comments, especially from young Malaysians who made judgments after watching the trailer," said Shuhaimi.
Among the comments hurled at her and the film are "racist", "false depiction of 1969", "bringing up hatred" and "biased against the opposition".
Shuhaimi lamented that two of the film's actors, Alan Yun of Gubra fame and Douglas Lim, have been attacked on social media sites for starring in it, with some even calling for a boycott of their other works and endorsed products.
"It was not our intention to depict the violence of 1969 as caused by any one community or party. The film shows that violence occurred on both sides of the divide, and Malaysians breached barriers to save each other."
She said the scenes of violence were brief and were included to emphasise that the event was real and tragic.
"My team and I did a lot of research, such as studying documented materials and photographs, to make sure the scenes were backed by historical facts."
While there has been talk that the film's scheduled release delay was inevitable because of the coming general election, rumoured to take place around that time, Shuhaimi stands by Finas' justification.
"Tanda Putera is supposed to educate young Malaysians about 1969 and how Tun Razak and Dr Ismail worked hard to restore stability and unity to the country. It is through their sacrifices that we are now enjoying economic growth, progress and unity."
She said Finas did advise her to cut some dialogue and add scenes she had earlier omitted, but this would be done at her discretion prior to the film's release.
Tanda Putera's release will also be accompanied by a short documentary concerning the political figures of that time. It is set to air on TV and will be produced by Finas.
Actors Rusdi Ramli and Zizan Nin portray Tun Razak and Dr Ismail respectively in the movie, which revolves around the statesmen who continued to focus on Malaysia's industrialisation and modernisation despite their deteriorating health.
The RM4 million, 117-minute film uses CGI to recreate scenes of Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia in the late 1960s and mid-1970s.
It was filmed around the Klang Valley and Felda Lui in Bahau over 10 months last year with a cast and crew of more than 250.