Yasmin Ahmad was a prolific film director who was well established in the international film world. As Debbie Karol McNulty explains, her highly acclaimed work engaged with discourses over race and the search for Malaysian identity in a way that few Malaysian filmmakers have dared to do before or since.
Ahmed was one of the few filmmakers who portrayed and tackled the taboo subject of multiculturalism in this strongly conservative country. Born in Kampung Bukit Treh in Muar, Johor in 1958, Ahmed became part of the new wave of filmmakers in Malaysia that carved out an alternative understanding of Malaysian society. Always highly controversial, Ahmad challenged the traditional studio-system in Malaysian cinema, moving away from artificial pop-up backgrounds, song and dance productions, and long scripts to an emphasis on realism and contextualized surroundings. However, in a sudden and dramatic twist of fate, Ahmad passed away in 2009 at the age of 51 after suffering a stroke. Ahmad left a hugely influential mark on Asian cinema. Here are six powerful films with which she made her reputation.
Rabun (My Failing Eyesight, 2002)
Ahmad’s first film Rabun is a heart-warming and quirky tale of an old couple’s profound love for each other and introduces us to Orked’s character as their daughter. Rabun is not only amusing, but also enlightening. It contemplates the tension between traditional and modern values as an effect of a changing Malaysian society, and promotes an acceptance of diversity.
Sepet (Chinese Eyes, 2004)
Set in Ipoh, Malaysia, Sepet explores the inter-racial love between a Malay girl, Orked, and Chinese boy, Jason, and reveals social attitudes towards mixed race relationships. The film tells of the friendship that blossoms between two teenagers coming from different socio-economic backgrounds. Orked, free-spirited and opinionated, comes from an affluent Malay family and Jason, though from a turbulent, dysfunctional working class background, loves poetry. As we follow Orked and Jason’s story, the social pressure they are put under slowly grows and Jason and Orked eventually separate. Sepet is a moving yet painful story about love that ends in uncompromising tragedy; it was censored in Malaysia and shown only to the public after Ahmad edited out some scenes. However, it was already making waves internationally. Sepet won the Best Asian Film at the 18th Tokyo International Film Festival in 2005 and Best Film in the 27th Créteil International Women’s Film Festival in France in the same year.
Gubra (Anxiety, 2006)
Gubra is a sequel to Sepet in which Orked is now married to a much older man who is unfaithful. When Orked is reunited with Alan, Jason’s brother, in an unfortunate hospital incident, the two develop a strong friendship. Orked starts reliving Jason’s memory through his poetry and photos. In parallel to Orked’s story, we follow a muezzin who befriends two prostitutes. In this film, Ahmad emphasizes forgiveness and acceptance as underlying themes for social life in Malaysia.
The last film of the Orked trilogy, Mukhsin, is a prequel to Sepet and Gubra. Here, Orked is a boyish 10-year old who loves playing with Mukshin, a 12-year old boy who comes to visit her village. Mukhsin was one of Ahmad’s most popular films in Malaysia perhaps because of its tale of the innocence of first love and its nostalgic depiction of youth.
Muallaf (The Convent, 2008)
Muallaf is a poignant story of two Muslim sisters, Rohani and Rohana, that run away from home and find refuge in a small village where they befriend a Catholic school teacher. Although ripe with connotations of sectarian strife, this film ultimately emphasizes tolerance and religious freedom as a way of life.
Ahmad’s final film; Talentime depicts a modern day talent contest. It focuses on a school competition in which an Anglo-Malay girl from a middle-class family, a hearing impaired Indian boy and a musically talented Malay boy compete. Ahmad interweaves ordinary triumphs and offers the viewers a sense of perspective on the way in which Malay society is changing.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.