A chronology of events so far:
Sepet gets hammered for tarnishing the Malay image (wilfully standing within the confines of a pork-infested restaurant is haram, even if you don't desire it or physically touch it), among other things.
Sepet wins Best Film because the jury is judging the FILM and its execution.
Gubra shows a naked butt in a non-sexual way and people go nuts.
Gubra wins Best Film because the jury is judging the film and its execution.
Prior to this, elsewhere in the entertainment world, Minister Rais Yatim condemns the Pussycat Dolls concert for its semi-nudity and un-Malaysian behaviour (has he wondered into the streets, the schools for that matter? Sexual behaviour is alive and well in our society)
Then Remp-It gets passed in all its (steamily sexual) semi-nudity. A little publicity on that but so far I haven't read a word from the Minister's views on the matter. (Note: I haven't seen Remp-It. I believe that the nudity would be relevant, if not essential to the telling of the story and do not have a problem with it - I have a problem with the double standards I shall expound on presently)
Come FFM 19, I do not know if the general public knows this but scenes from current movies were being shown to the industry professionals in the hall during commercial breaks. We watched scenes from Remp-It, not stunt scenes or street scenes, but the actual scene where the girl unwraps her towel and lies alongside the boy, running her finger suggestively along the length of his torso.
No heckles or "ooooohs", not a whimper form the audience.
But, hold on. PCD can't gyrate on stage, even though they are the number one hot sexy chick band whose trademark looks and suggestive behavour are completely sexual and it goes against Malaysian culture? Or even Malay culture? (I like them very much by the way)
But... what about those two Malay actors touching each other on screen in front of the Minister? Is it possible that that scene being shown that night was actually okay, and wasn't deemed to be offensive to the Malaysian or Malay way or culture?
Okay, I thought. I'm okay with that, because I like people to be open to new ways of seeing things. I believe people can make their own minds up about whether or not they will blindly follow that so-called offensive behaviour. (Though I couldn't dredge up one single offended person there at the time)
Then Sharifah Amani bags Best Actress Award. Excited, rightfully proud and probably feeling hurt on behalf of Yasmin Ahmad who has faced all kinds of personal and professional slurs for making what could be the most tender and genuine films about humanity in recent local film history, she says she will speak English because she sounds stupid when she speaks Malay.
If anyone knows Amani you would know that to be true! She sounds (to my Bahasa Baku linguistic ear) like what those sms chat rooms on TV look like. Honestly, it would have been like "yo, beb, gue bangge nerima awad ni pasal gue sukela kak min nya smangat buat filem mletop cam gubra". Would that kind of Malay have been more palatable to the people? I'm sure it might have passed unnoticed actually - but aren't we on a campaign to save the Malay culture from pencemaran? Hello.
I was confounded to find the Minister of all people smacking her left right and centre in the papers. I do reserve doubt for his benefit because misinterpretation abounds and sometimes things are sensationalised for the benefit of sales. But I do know on rumour-level certainty that on the night he was pissed about it.
Then some guy from Dewan Bahasa picks up on the general misinterpretation (or should I say wilful misunderstanding) of her statement. "Nani hina bangsa sendiri". Apparently what she meant was that everyone who speaks Malay sounds stupid. Wow. It's very scary to be misunderstood on such a large scale for such a personal remark.
Consider saying to someone on the street "I sound stupid speaking Malay, can you speak English?" I doubt that person would call you racist against your own kind. Perspective, perspective, people!
At the very most I would say her initial comment was unnecessary because she is such a beautiful person inside and out that I don't want her apologising for what she feels might be an inadequacy.
Funny though, no heckling while she said that. It was only after she said, "if making good films mencemarkan budaya, then let's do it more often!"
Wait, wait - I want to tell you the context of that! She said that comment after expressing how great it was to be a part of the making of a good film. Now does that put things into perspective? You don't see any of that context in her detractors' columns though.
I got that what she meant was that if a "bad" film like Gubra or Sepet could bag the Best Film Award, then let's make more "bad" films!
I would love to know what exactly "Malay" culture is. Or "Malaysian" culture. Can the Minister define it? I doubt anyone can. I think the best we can do is be good, caring people. I am proud to be Kadazan, even though I don't drink lihing or sow the padi in the fields. But these two things are just behaviours, culturally different, yes, but not what I would use to define whether I am cultured or not. At the end of my life I want to have made a difference in my life through my relationships and through what I have done for my community, big or small. Sorry, can't do that dancing sumazau constantly. The same for my Greek side. Have you seen the national costumes? They just don't meld with the tropics, man.
But how I see myself being Kadazan is through the embodiment of that heritage that my father is - kindness, gentility, love for his people and love of the world. How I see myself being Greek is through the embodiment of that culture that is my mother - strong, determined, full of song, full of dance and always caring, no matter how hard it is to care sometimes.
Hang on - aren't all those things what any race would be proud to call a part of their culture? Funny, that.
Sometimes I forget I am not Malay and get incensed by these terrible attitudes measured by things, social expectation and other superficial benchmarks. Then I think, do I have a right to comment? Maybe not as a Malay. But I have a right to comment as a citizen of Malaysia and as a human being.
There's so much more I want to go into regarding attitudes about sex, but I am kind of starting to hear my voice on a loudspeaker in my head.
So, naughty Amani, hold your head up high and remember who you are, because there will be some trying to make you forget it - a passionate, kind, fiercely parent-proud kid with a BEST ACTRESS AWARD! There are only so many countries in the world and you represent yours now!!