[This was meant to be an entry to be posted just after New Year’s Day six months ago. Better late than never!]

Ushering in a new year has been somewhat of a dismal affair for the past few years. Gone are the days of gallivanting around Trafalgar Square for a free snog (not that we got any). Or, err… doing (a bad version) of the running man at Butler’s Wharf or Ricky Road. The best one, though, was that for the millennium in The Quayside (still no snog) with the fireworks out of this world, well worth braving the chilling Arctic winds. To demonstrate how dismal things have been (not that I’m complaining) was New Year’s Eve two years ago, when I was seated with two friends at our local (now non-existent) halal McDonald’s facsimile on London Road. It was all quiet, with me looking at my watch which showed two minutes past midnight, and I just said, “Oh, happy new year”, in turn both friends reciprocally nodded, and all of us quietly continued munching on our Big Drippers (their halal version of the Big Mac).

This year was no different. I spent it in Manchester with a bunch of friends and family sitting at Nik & Sherry’s watching err… Ombak Rindu. The film was being bandied about as a fantastic film to watch (the book was a big hit apparently) and this was proven by the box office smash it was. However, despite all these, we weren’t quite impressed. I mentioned this on my Facebook status at that time and, as expected, some felt that we were unfairly comparing it with anything that comes out from Tinseltown, USA. It was somewhat unfair to think that we merely did just that (presumption is the mother of all fcuk-ups, I once heard). I think all we wanted was a good story. Period. Dang, if you had a good story that just revolved around a bunch of people in a large room for two hours, we’d love it. To give credit where it is due, Ombak Rindu had a strong cast, but the plot is another story I’m afraid.

The quest for international acknowledgement for our films (not saying it’s a bad thing) has been ongoing from the days when P. Ramlee’s films were the fanfare of the Tokyo Film Festival in the 1960s (Nujum Pak Belalang and Madu Tiga won Best Comedy in 1960 and 1964, respectively). I am no film maker nor critic, but I personally see no reason why one would think if a film has been made with a fantastic amount of money, a few artistic shots and great set to boot would make it Best Foreign Film at the Oscars. Take Departures (おくりびと) by Takita Yōjirō, which won the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2009. The story revolved a young couple whose cellist husband reluctantly having to start work at a funeral parlour because his orchestra disbanded. The husband diligently carried on despite the stigma attached to his new career and his wife wasn’t too chuffed with his new job either. The relationship between the protagonist with his family including his estranged father (who later died) was beautifully woven and nary a CG special effect, Gundam-sized sets et cetera to make one think there were other reasons that this fine story won the Oscar.

I have the highest respect for our homegrown film makers, like U-Wei Haji Saari and the late Yasmin Ahmad (to name two), who are brave enough to showcase their work at film festivals around the world, and getting the recognition if the films deserve to be. At the end of the day, nothing beats a good yarn, and it just needs to be told right. And I’m sure if Ombak Rindu was told right on the silver screen, we would have genuinely shed tears in front of the telly on that New Year’s Eve.