Sunday, August 11, 2013

Published in the Malaysian Insider: Rest in Peace, Yasmin Ahmad

Originally published in 2009 in the Malaysian Insider

The first Yasmin Ahmad movie I watched was “Mukhsin,” curled up on my couch with my

friends in the Middle East. Seeing the old Malaysian school buildings and the green padi field

scenery made me homesick for the comfort of yellow gluttonous rice and chicken curry, the

smell of earth right before it rains, and the bustle of cousins and grandparents all around me.

Yasmin Ahmad pierced right through the new life I surrounded myself with abroad, away from

the warmth and humidity of Malaysia.


One of the first things I did when I returned to Kuala Lumpur this summer was watch another

movie by Yasmin Ahmad. “Sepet” had me all choked up and contemplating the ethnic divides

and unity of Malaysians. With a Chinese grandmother and a Malay grandfather, I was partly

sepet myself, and wholly besotted with Yasmin Ahmad’s directing and heart-wrenching thematic

story lines. It became a new obsession with me, finding all her movies and exploring the themes

she addresses in them.


“Gubra” was a more mature and darker movie with a closer look at relationships. Still capturing

the essence of what made “Mukhsin” and “Sepet” great hits, “Gubra” took the complexities of

marriage and human emotions and weaved them into a masterpiece that tightens the heart for the

people around you. By then, I was asking my friends and family to keep a look out for anything

Yasmin Ahmad, be it movies, commercials, or even a radio jingle. Soon, she became the topic of

any discussion I had, and before long people were suggesting me more movies, videos, and even

youtube clips.

Tan HOng Ming in Love

I think it was one of those moments where life imitates art when I heard about her stroke. I

reacted to the news of her stroke the way Sharifah Amani reacted to the news of her father

having a heart-attack in the movie “Gubra.” I was panicked and worried.  I followed the news of

her stroke avidly, hoping that she would make it. I felt like I had just found her, it’s completely

unfair that we should lose her when there are so many movies left to do, so many issues left to


“KUALA LUMPUR, July 25 (Bernama) -- Renowned film and advertising director Yasmin Ahmad died

here at about 11.25 pm Saturday night.”

The words resounded in my head. Just like that, she slipped away. For the next week the papers

will be splashing her smiling image on their front pages, and the politicians whose policies

she poked fun at will express their deepest condolences for losing one of Malaysia’s top film

directors. I feel like her death is resonant of the somber tone of her movies, quite poetic in its

anticlimax. There was no rain or lightening on Saturday night near the Damansara Specialists

Hospital. She passed away quietly. They fold the hospital sheets in “Gubra.” Orkid climbs into

her father’s car to the airport. The leaves rustle in Mukhsin’s dream.

Rest in peace Yasmin Ahmad. You took the heart of what makes Malaysia unique and gave it

back to the world through your talented film directing and your unabashed way of tackling social

issues. You blazed the way for Malaysian filmmaking and left some big shoes to fill for the next

generation of Malaysian filmmakers. I think that I can speak for all the fans when I say that we

will miss you dearly.

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