Saturday, June 6, 2009

Malaysian Gods (Amir Muhammad, 2009)

Poster for Amir Muhammad's 2009 documentary Malaysian Gods.

In 1998 the deputy prime minister of Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim, was arrested and later sentenced for corruption and sodomy. This caused widespread anti-government protests and Anwar was seen as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

Amir Muhammad's documentary, Malaysian Gods, recaps the events of 1998 by using text screens and by visiting the sites where the protests took place, interviewing random people there about how their lives have changed since the protests and what they think have changed in society. All of the interviews are in Tamil language, the Tamils constitute the major part of Malaysia's Indian minority that makes up for 8% of the population.

While things does seem to have changed, a lot of things remain the same. In 2007 protests against governmental policies favouring ethnic malays took place and the organisation behind them HINDRAF (Hindu Rights Action Force) was declared illegal in 2008. Also in 2008, Anwar Ibrahim, who after being released from prison in 2004 has become leader of the political opposition in Malaysia, was once again brought in for questioning about charges of sodomy.

These events are shown in both a ciritcal and a humorous light and while it does feel like Malaysian Gods is only scratching the surface it keeps Malaysia from becoming just another exotic location in other films.