When asked what films I’d like to watch in my spare time (if I have any) I’d say anything that’s not Hollywood. Not that I don’t watch any films of the usual (read USA/UK in my parlance) variety, and even those I still have a sizeable blu-ray pile to go through, but you can see from this blog I enjoy a selection of Japanese, and of late Malaysian, cinema. You have read a few posts on Japanese cinema, and with it being Merdeka, I have a few Malaysian films that I enjoyed in the past few years. This post will be a tad retro, though, as I have posted about these films last year.

I mentioned this 5 years ago, promising a review. It’s never too late when it comes to this blog. Nik Amir Mustapha’s Terbaik Dari Langit was something I really looked forward to, being Mustapha’s sophomore effort post-KIL. The long and short of the story is that it’s a bout a bunch of old school friends doing a road trip to help Berg (Bront Palarae) shoot his indie sci-fi film based on a series of UFO sightings around the country. The beauty of this tale comes from the palette of colours that are the varied characteristics of the friends (lovely casting) and the familiarly named Sofia Jane (Nadiya Nisaa). Berg’s friends comprised Ijam (Iedil Putra) – the brash young actor with a demanding fiancée holding him by the metaphoric leash, Toyu – the timid stuttering school teacher (brilliantly played by Amerul Affendi, my fav of the lot) that seemed to be the butt of everyone’s jokes, and Ali (Megat Sharizal) – the utterly and horizontally laid back one who was on camera and driving duties. Everybody’s demons/issues begin to unravel as the trip went on, and the story ended with the UFO turning up on their final day of shooting – or did it really? Fav scene was when Toyu was painted blue, and doing alien poses with a cow. Peace was nevertheless finally made between the old friends, and Berg’s film was finally shown to the masses. A simple but captivating story by Mustapha, Redza Minhat (the lead on KIL, and writer of this film’s screenplay) and Tuan Faisal. Beautiful cinematography by Jordan Chiam, and loved the music by Pitahati.

Dare I write anything about Dain Iskandar Said’s Interchange. This was another “must-see” but being abroad posed some challenges in catching any of these fine films. I actually own Dain Said’s Bunohan on DVD but I still haven’t had the chance to sit down and watch it. Interchange is set in a fictitious city (shot in KL), has a fantasy/supernatural twist to it, and feels rather film noir-ish. The story is pretty straight forward – about Man, a detective (Shaheizy Sam) investigating a string of unnatural-looking deaths around the city, and with him was Adam (Iedil Putra), a forensic photographer with some form of PTSD. Adam then meets a shaman (Prisia Nasution) of a tribe who believes that their spirits are trapped in the glass photographic medium when a photograph of them is taken. Man, on the other hand, encounters Belian (Nicolas Saputra), a member of said tribe who is slowly undergoing a metamorphosis of sorts into a bird-like creature. Seeing a modern day story in a Malaysian film with a familiar setting yet portrayed as somewhere fictitious is somewhat new for me. One particular scene that stuck with me was a parade of tribes people in the rain, wearing bird-like tribal costumes, reminiscent of plague masks worn by European physicians in the dark ages. Dain’s yarn was enjoyable to watch and would really love to see what he cooks up next. But I have to watch Bunohan first.

And of course, Nam Ron’s eponymous One Two Jaga was a delight when it was on Netflix (marketed as Crossroads here in the UK). It came subtitled here for obvious reasons and it was uncensored. Yes, to hear that one swear word you’d never hear in a Malaysian flick meant we have now made it. Jesting aside, this was a gritty film of three tales revolving around policemen and migrant workers which later intertwined. An idealistic young cop (Zahiril Adzim) on the beat with his more experienced, and corrupted, partner (Rosdeen Suboh); two young migrant workers (Iedil Putra and Timothy Castillo) on the run from a fixer named James (Chew Kin Wah) after messing up on a job; and Sugiman (Ario Bayu), a migrant worker from Indonesia wanting to do the right thing so as to improve his and his family’s life in Malaysia. Amerul Affendy is in this one too but I don’t mind his ubiquity if he is good in all the films he works in. The story winds up with things unfortunately do not go the way one wants it to be and all that is left is how one deals with it. I was hoping the story to not go the way of explicitly showing the bad guys getting their comeuppance. Leaving the ending a bit of ambiguity may have made the story slightly better being open ended. Only my humble non-film maker opinion. Oh, the film’s a tad teal-and-orange-y. If you rather, check this video out:

Formulaic films, whilst still the norm, are gradually making way for better cinema in Malaysia. However, current films are difficult to find on physical media and unless they appear on Netflix like One Two Jaga and Pulang, being abroad means utilising a VPN, or the “usual method”. By the way, I am so looking forward to catch Liew Seng Tat’s 2014 release, Lelaki Harapan Dunia, if anyone can drop me a note on how to get a copy in the comments down below, I’ll be grateful.