TV SMITH's Dua Sen: Sepet ( A Review)
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SEPET (A Review)
by TV Smith
23/02/05


When was the last time you saw a local movie in which a Malay girl and Char Siew appeared in the same scene? Writer-director Yasmin Ahmad's enigmatic Sepet pushed the frail envelope and fazed the mighty Censorship Board to (almost) no end. Ironically, the film - like its title - is a clever allegory of the narrow-mindedness afflicting present day Malaysian society.

Inter-racial relationships were previously explored within palatable context so as not to distress fragile audiences. In this genuine Malaysian film, Yasmin throws every stereotypes into the kitchen sink - a Malay scholarship recipient, a repressed Baba woman, a bigamous Chinese man, a Melayu Celup, a Chinese VCD peddler, a Tongkat Ali dependent - and even a road safety message. The only person missing is the Bhai guy. Out of it, comes an honest and brilliant film woven around a tragic love story.

Ng Choo Seong and Sharifah Amani play the star-crossed lovers whose parents are NOT the usual party poopers. Jason (or Ah Loong) is a VCD seller trapped in the inescapable underworld of protection and patronage. Orked harbours an unfulfilled fetish for slit-eyed hunks like Takeshi Kaneshiro. The objections to this unlikely relationship emanate from prejudiced peers, instead. Jason's best friend dissuades him with dreadful thoughts of circumcision and halal food. Orked's male friend calls her a slut cum bohsia and vilifies her for liking guys with mata sepet.

Unlike the spirited performance by Sharifah, fellow first-timer Ng was going through the motions until one particularly memorable scene. At the hospital where his best friend Ah Keong (Linus Chung) was recovering from a shark attack, the duo alternated seamlessly between Hokkien, Cantonese and English. Many of the (language) subtleties were unavoidably lost in the translated subtitles. This darkly funny scene centered on Malay girls in sarongs, Hang Tuah and the origins of the Babas; all skillfully done with a dash of the politically incorrect term - Huan Kia.

The introspective trio of Harith Iskandar, Ida Nerina (as the parents) and Adibah Noor (as the "servant") supplied many of the film's funnier and poignant moments. How this ménage à trois came about was not fully explained though. Nevertheless, Harith's amorous character spooked the Board too, I was told.

Yasmin described the enforced cuts as unreasonable beyond belief. In one scene, Jason said "Not all Chinese men cheat and not all Malay men are lazy". Orked's smug retort "That is where you are wrong; all Malay men are lazy" ended in the guillotine. The director explained that the whole scene was done tongue-in-cheek and it goes to show that Malays can joke about themselves.

Go watch this landmark Malaysian film before someone declares it immoral to laugh at ourselves.

© 2005 TV SMITH
Link to this article: http://www.tvsmith.net.my/duasen/230205_sepet.html

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Previous Reviews: PUTERI GUNUNG LEDANG | See also: SEPET 2

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