#Showbiz: 'Pendatang' provokes

AS a movie, 'Pendatang' offers a cinematic version of when Malaysia's nation-building vision has collapsed.

The indie movie, free on YouTube from Dec 21 last year, opens with a Chinese family of four who must now live in a village, after the vote to segregate the races was passed. A move that certainly turns slogans like One Malaysia on its head.

So what happens when a Malay girl is found hiding in the attic of that rundown wooden house? Mother (Mayjune Tan) and children show kindness while dad Wong (Fredy Chan) takes a while to get used to the idea of harbouring a child of another race.

The dialogue is mainly in Cantonese, with nicely done English subtitles. The plot needed a little more filling out in some places to make it a more cohesive story. What did the Indians work as when not fishing, for instance?

But, what is clear is that this cinematic vision is the outcome of what has been broiling on the backburners of some segments of Malaysian society.

Kudos to screenwriter Boon Siang Lim, cinematographer Tan Teck Zee and director Ng Ken Kin for giving pizzazz to this gloomy futuristic vision of Malaysia.

Of the cast, Nicholas Liew Davis got my attention. He brought grit to his gangster role while Tan as Mrs Wong brought empathy to her mum role. The Wongs' daughter, Shareen Yeo, gave a solid showing. Good job to the rest of cast.

Gangsterism, racial gangs, roadblocks. These features are seen in many movies about war, or alternate futures, dystopian futures and science fiction, too.

But 'Pendatang' pays more heed to the feelings of the man in the street and not the one in the high castle. That's what happens to state rules and regulations when a film is crowdfunded, and goes free on YouTube, I guess.

'Pendatang' — immigrant. A term used by the majority race on Chinese and Indian Malaysians, despite generations old. It's a political ploy that has become common parlance. But the movie turns that too on its head. The little Malay girl is the immigrant who needs help.

Some will not like this reversal of roles, even in a movie. Remember, in the movie, all the people are relocated, not just one race.

The question in 'Pendatang' is, can our collective humanity overcome the machinations of state off-screen? Sure Malaysians do, but we should ask — for how long more before this cinematic premise becomes a reality, even with Sabah and Sarawak, hmmm?

There should be more movies like 'Pendatang', produced by Kuman Pictures. Watch in the comfort of your home!

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