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  Publicity Stills of
(Courtesy of GV)

In Malay, Tamil, Chinese and English with English Subtitles
Director: Marc X. Grigaroff
Cast: Mastura Ahmad, Aisyah Masgot, Zaidi Irbrahim, Ravi Kumar, Kelly Lim LT, Chaar Chun Kong, Zarina Safuan
RunTime: 1 hr 22 mins
Released By: GV
Rating: NC-16 (Some Coarse Language)
Official Website: http://www.salawatimovie.com/

Opening Day: 9 October 2008


"Salawati" is the story of a 12-year-old Singaporean-Malay girl who has just witnessed the death of her older brother, Shahim. The tragedy occurs when the boy goes for a swim and quickly gets into trouble. Wati, who cannot swim, begs a man to help her, but he ignores her pleas and Shahim drowns.

Wati’s parents are devastated. Her mother tries to hold the family together, while her father struggles to control his misdirected anger. The role of Islam in the lives of Wati and her family is revealed, for it is impossible to separate their beliefs from their lifestyle and the manner in which they deal with Shahim’s death.

Wati’s story is intertwined with two others: an Indian courier with a penchant for drinking and fighting; and a Chinese man who is consumed by career goals. It becomes increasingly apparent that each of these men played some role in the death of her brother, and as Wati begins to follow them, the mystery deepens.

Finally, a haunting sequence illuminates the events surrounding her brother’s death, and Wati is left with a choice that will change the lives of everyone.

"Salawati" explores the fragile nature of human relationships, particularly in the face of tragedy. It calls into question our notions of morality, mercy, revenge and ultimately, forgiveness.

Movie Review:

When Singapore cinemas was in its heyday back in the fifties and sixties, the studios over at Jalan Ampas churned out one Malay movie after another. The golden age of cinemas passed us by and for many years, there was dearth of locally-produced movies. The past ten years has seen resurgence in the number of Singaporean moves at our local cineplexes but there have not really been any that are predominantly in the Malay language. Although Salawati is in all four of our country’s languages, it has arrived at a good time where local Malay film-makers have bandied together to form the Singapore Malay Film Society to encourage and support the production of Singapore Malay movies.

Written and directed by Marc X Grigaroff, Salawati is the titular character, a twelve-year old Malay girl who witnesses her brother’s drowning. Her brother’s drowning is tied to two individuals who had a direct impact to the incident, an Indian dispatch rider and a Chinese insurance agent. She tried to get help from one of them and while one refused to help, the other did but it was too late to save her brother. For the bulk of the movie, Salawati follows both characters around, often not saying anything in the process but hoping for something to come out of it. It is only at the end that we discover who did what.

While the scenes are captured brilliantly on the silver screen, much cannot be said of the story. While the acting is commendable, it appears the actors are only making do with the material they have. There is a lack of depth in exploring the straining of the relationship between Salawati and her father and also Salawati and the two men linked to her brother’s drowning. The movie moves at a very slow pacing despite its 82 minute runtime while also performing a touch and go on the script as a whole. It plods along clumsily and the editing is somewhat sloppy all around.

That said, the young Aisyah Masgot does a passable job playing Salawati but it is the likes of Suria veterans like Mastura Ahmad and Zaidi Ibrahim who play her parents who come up tops on the acting charts. Mastura is ever brilliant as the mother torn between grieving for her only son and to lessen the strain between Salawati and her father while Zaidi is to be commended for his portrayal of Salawati’s father. He also has a heart-wrenching monologue where he talks about losing his son. The rest of the supporting cast performs generally well all around.

There are just too many things that Grigaroff wants to cram into the movie and this causes the bulk of the characters to be underdeveloped. A dreary affair, what is supposed to be a mystery ends up in a confusing affair instead. Just like how the movie appears to have pedestrian characters, Salawati is a forgettable affair.

Movie Rating:

(Salawati is a dreary and superficial affair, one that is quickly forgotten)

Review by Mohamad Shaifulbahri


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