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Director: Amir Muhammad
Rating: PG
Year Made: 2005








Languages: Mandarin/English/
Subtitles: English/Chinese
Aspect Ratio: 4x3 Letterbox
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0
Running Time: 1 hr 30 mins
Region Code: 3
Distributor: Comstar Entertainment




A semi-musical documentary inspired by the early life and legacy of Chin Peng (real name: Ong Boon Hua). He was born in 1924 and is the last leader of the banned Communist Party of Malaysia. He now lives in Thailand because the Malaysian government does not allow him to return despite his repeated attempts to go through the courts.

Interviews with the people in the towns he lived in from birth to national independence are interspersed with especially composed songs in the mould of old-fashioned propaganda films.


The Last Communist made its debut here in Singapore as one of the 19th Singapore International Film Festival selections, and producer-director Amir Muhammad was in Singapore too to promote his latest documentary. With a title like "Last Communist", it inadvertently is set to raise some eyebrows by the powers-that-be, and I admit I was pleasantly surprised that it was passed uncut, and the discs making it to the shops here.

Things aren't as rosy across the Causeway though. The documentary, originally passed uncut, was withdrawn and banned. There probably should be a reason for this, and perks your curiosity just what is in it, that prevented the film to be screened. No doubt the subject matter was about Chin Peng, the last leader of the CPM - Communist Party of Malaya, but there is nary a video or photograph of the man, save for a caricature for less than a minute.

For the uninitiated, you can probably get more information about the person and the party through links like these - Man or Party. than you will from the movie. The movie's not set to demonise or praise both, toting the middle line to present the events in neutrality, and that perhaps have irked authorities. If you were to watch this film, you'll only get very peripheral information about the man though titles briefly explaining the places and events, and the only appearance of the
controversial man is through a caricature, together with figures like the late former Malaysian Prime Minister Tengku Abdul Rahman and Singapore Chief Minister David Marshall.

You'll begin to wonder then, what exactly is this documentary about? The opening shot will already hint at the things to come. The shot alongside the body of a moving car running parallel to the road, clues you in that this is a road movie. And like most road movies, you go from location to location to capture the sights and sounds peculiar to the locale. Here, we're brought to the locations that Chin Peng grew up and lived in, from Ipoh to Penang, and up to the Thai border. However, while some locations still existing are shown, some no longer are around. And the narrative flow sends you from place to place, and from person to person.

The highlight is on the common folks, as the movie snapshots life in general, about the people now occupying places where history was once created, and the way of life of ex-rebels currently living near the Southern Thai border. The Chendol seller, the bicycle shop owner, and the ubiquitous Pomelo, fruit of Ipoh, take centerstage, as would have folks from the past caught up in a dangerous political environment..

And adding superb flavour to the movie, is the music. Peppered throughout are songs and music composed by Hardesh Singh that infused the movie with a cheesy karaoke style (I meant that as a compliment), as it added plenty of laughter and smiles between scenes. The song-and-dance routine poked fun at Communism, and sings of topical events that transpired or of the location, so you'll have songs about Tin and Rubber, of Guns, Malaria and even about the Identity Card..

By the time you're finished with the movie, you'll begin to wonder just exactly what all the unwarranted fuss is about. No doubt the title alone sounds controversial, but there is absolutely nothing, in my opinion, that is remotely controversial about the movie.

You can click on this link to read Amir Muhammad's The Last Communist blog: http://lastcommunist.blogspot.com


None, but Amir's blog more or less gives you a current account of the movie, especially since after the ban was announced.



Review by Stefan Shih



Other titles from Comstar:

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. Jasmine Women

. Running Wild

. You are my Sunshine

. My Girl & I

. Half Light

. Mur (The Wall)

. Mrs Henderson Presents

. Hidden

. The Descent

. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

. A Season for Love

. Horror Theater Series 2

. Horror Theater Series I

. Capturing the Friedmans

. The Wig

. A Wicked Tale

. As It Is In Heaven

. When I Turned 9



This review is made possible with the kind support from Comstar


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