If you’ve seen the late Yasmin Ahmad’s movie “Sepet”, bear with me. Since foreign movies take forever and a day to reach Australian shores, last night, courtesy of the intellectual property rights disrespecting of Youtube, I was finally able to catch the interracial love story in all its glory on His Royal Highness’ crook laptop.
Ever since Amanda accidentally sprayed His Royal Highness’ laptop with urine, we’ve only been able to use it for limited surfing of the internet. If ever you do receive an extremely curt message from me with no h, t, j or l, then you know which computer I am using. Anyhow, it’s still good for Youtube and we managed to enjoy “Sepet.”
If you’re a white dude or dudette reading this and wondering whether “Sepet” is the movie for you, read on. You can read a synopsis of the movie on Wikipedia but since you’re already reading this, I might as well tell you about it. It was awesome!
It’s the love story of a Malay girl and a Chinese boy set in modern-day Malaysia that captures the ethnic, social and political conflicts of the multi-racial, multi-cultural country. If you think European movies on SBS speak a different language, wait until you see this.
Reflecting how diverse Malaysian society is, dialogue is a combination of English, Malay, Cantonese, Hokkien and Peranakan patois. There are English subtitles throughout for the linguistically-challenged viewer. As a Peranakan, I adore the movie because it explains to the viewer indirectly what we are and touches on our special place in the nation’s history. As a Malaysian, I am proud to say it is from our local film-making industry because it is a production with creative integrity.
The late Yasmin Ahmad, herself married to a Chinese, did not trivialise the issues that arise from Malays perception of Chinese or Chinese perception of Malays but instead sought to give the racial tension between Malaysia’s two major races voice by acknowledging its existence through the nuances of the script. Friends of the main characters were opposed to the relationship, even though family was mostly supportive, because each held long-standing racial misconceptions of the other.
For example, Malays are viewed by Chinese to be lazy. Chinese are viewed by Malays to be shrewd and mercenary. The movie shows how both groups co-exist within a multi-cultural framework but have ample mistrust of the other. It is a love story, but it also a story about the love-hate relationship between Malays and Chinese; the private admiration and the open condescension, the historically close relationship and present-day alienation.
As for the title, “Sepet” means slitty-eyed. It refers to what Malays call Chinese eyes.