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.
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
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originally passed uncut, was withdrawn and banned.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.
the uninitiated, you can probably get more information about
the person and the party through links like these - Man
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.
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.
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..
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..
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.
can click on this link to read Amir Muhammad's The Last Communist
but Amir's blog more or less gives you a current account of
the movie, especially since after the ban was announced.
DVD RATING :
by Stefan Shih