Review on FilmsAsia website

Director : Amir Muhammad
Writing Credits: Amir Muhammad
Country: Malaysia
Language: English, Malay, Cantonese
Genre: Drama
Year Released: 2003
Runtime: 75 mins

Reviewed by Justin Santiago

6 stars (out of 10)

Amir Muhammad gives no excuses for his latest film, The Big Durian. If he appears to give a myopic view about the events surrounding Operation Lalang, the third biggest swoop under Malaysia’s Internal Security Act which detained more than one hundred people without trial on 27th October 1987, then you are the one who needs to get spectacles.

The movie is a social commentary and was scripted in a way that intersperses readings of newspaper articles during that period with on the ground interviews with people remotely connected with incidents of that day. On the surface it shows the different races living in Malaysian coping at their comic best with each having to live under different sets of rules. On a deeper level it tries to provoke a response to a personal view that the constitutional rights of Malaysian citizens to their fundamental liberties of freedom of speech, assembly and association are being held hostage.

The film however does not touch upon the fact that such controls are imposed by governments on citizens all over the world and that Malaysia is not unique in that respect. It does not say anything positive about the fact that Malaysia has come a long way in allowing such a film to be produced in the first place!

Some observations about The Big Durian. Many of the people interviewed were social activists or were connected with social activists which gave the film an uneven balance. Also, a lot of footage was devoted to Private Adam, the trigger happy soldier who ran amok and killed three people during those tense moments although two questions remained, “Who is Private Adam?” and “What has happened to Private Adam?”

A couple of notable achievements :-

The Big Durian was shot in an amazingly 9 days according to producer, James Lee and seeing that shooting was completed just 11 days before the closing date for the Singapore Film Festival.

The Big Duran is refreshingly Malaysian – a mixture of languages, cast and crew which blended quite well into an end product that Malaysians of all races can identify with.

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