Wednesday, November 30, 2011

10 Tahun Sebelum Merdeka [2007]

Director: Fahmi Reza
Cast: Lim Kean Chye, Yahya Nassim, Hashim Said, Zainuddin Andika, Majid Salleh
Genre: Documentary/History
Rating: General
Excerpt: "What makes it so compelling is the way it makes you think, as opposed to spoon-feeding history to you..."

This densely-packed thirty minute documentary produced, directed and edited by Human Rights and Student Power activist Fahmi Reza will take you back to the days leading up to October 20th, 1947, the day when the people of Malaya grouped together regardless of creed, colour and caste in a nationwide stand to fight for independence. Five former politicians who now live in obscurity recount their experiences, their resolution, how they lost to the powers-that-be and ultimately get blackened out of history books.

What to Expect
1. The other side of history
2. Engaging presentation
3. Kick-ass punk soundtrack
4. To wonder "What if?"
5. To dispel common myths about independence

What NOT to Expect
1. Heavy-handed preaching
2. Propaganda film
A masterpiece
I don't know why it took me this long to feature this amazing, amazing documentary here. I might have mentioned it in passing some time ago, I couldn't remember and I couldn't be sure. Even if I had, there's no harm in properly featuring it here. At the end of this entry, I'll even embed the four-part YouTube video here, just in case you haven't seen it yet.

To be honest, I'm not at all interested in politics as I live in this little bubble where honour and integrity reign supreme, whereas politics has since became almost synonymous with deceit and back-stabbing. I guess I've been reading too much of Fantasy novels. Heck, I even fancy myself as Lord Eddard Stark. So if you're anything like me, you might feel like there are a lot of commotion about people championing for the rights of this and that, while none of them resonate within you. You might even feel like they're addressing the Rakyat as a mere formality.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is, 10 Tahun Sebelum Merdeka is a breath of fresh air as far as history lessons go. Of course, one can't help but draw comparisons between this documentary and the movie 1957: Hati Malaya, both released the same year to commemorate Malaysia's 50th year of independence. But the truth is, any similarities you could draw might be unfair.

For starters, 1957: Hati Malaya was a dramatisation of events (and arguably historically inaccurate, but then again I'm no historian) that was a ham-handed way to make you chant "Hidup Melayu!" upon leaving the cinema.

On the other hand, 10 Tahun Sebelum Merdeka is a documentary presenting history unfiltered by the UMNO PR machine and it doesn't force you to make up your mind. Instead, Fahmi Reza and his team went Indiana Jones on that dusty and forgotten part of the Malaysian history archives, tracked down unsung heroes who are mostly denied a place in our school history books and pieced together this eye-opening documentary.

What you make of it is entirely up to you.

If you don't feel like sitting through a history class as you remember it back in school, I'm happy to inform you that such concerns are unfounded because this is a documentary made by youths for youths. Perhaps it is also worthy to note that it was Fahmi Reza's first attempt at film-making, but you wouldn't know that from watching it alone. There were a lot going on on-screen but at no point it felt cluttered, and strangely satisfying enough to call for repeated viewings.

There's something about the content, editing and the soundtrack that worked so well together, it should come to no surprise if this film will stand the test of time. I must confess, I feel sad to see how much we've aged backwards, when we were so united fifty years ago. So I have high hopes that this documentary will remind you what it really means to be a Malaysian.

Not Melayu, not Cina, not India or Lain-lain. Just Malaysian.
For more information (and to download the film) visit

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

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