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5 Malaysian movies inspired by true stories worth watching

Movie makers immortalise people or events through their films.

Although their art cannot imitate life perfectly, some still manage to carry  its essence and convey the message they wanted to.

Here in Malaysia, the movie industry still has lots of room for improvement.

But there are a few local filmmakers daring enough to create movies inspired by true stories.
And here are the ones that are worth your time watching.

1.The Big Durian (2003)

This movie broke records by being the first and only Malaysian film to screen at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.

The Big Durian’s director Amir Muhammad combined documentary and fiction to bring an event which occurred in October 1987 to the big screen.

On that day, a soldier named Adam Jaafar ran amok, shooting off an M16 rifle in the streets of Kuala Lumpur.

The shooting spree left one person dead when a bullet ricocheted and killed Che Soh Che Mahmud, while several others were wounded.

Apart from Sundance, The Big Durian was also screened at the Singapore International Film Festival, the Hong Kong International Film Festival and the Vancouver International Film Festival.

2.Ola Bola (2016)
Ola Bola.

Ola Bola was inspired by the true story of Malaysia’s football team scoring a place at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Russia.

The film was directed by Chiu Keng Guan and produced by Malaysian film powerhouse Astro Shaw.

Despite its commercial success, the film was disqualified from the 28th Malaysia Film Festival Best Film category because it contained less than 70% Malay language dialogue.

Following this controversy, all non-Malay categories were removed and made eligible to compete for Best Film.

3.Adiwiraku (2017)

When a group of schoolchildren in rural Peninsular Malaysia beat 20 elite schools in an English choral speaking competition, the story was destined to go viral on the internet.

For the students of SMK Pinang Tunggal in Baling, Kedah, participating in an English-speaking competition would have been impossible if it weren’t for their volunteer English teacher Cheryl Ann Fernando from Teach for Malaysia.

Against all odds and even to the team’s own surprise, they came out fifth place beating 20 other schools at the district level competition.

Inspired by this touching story, film director Eric Ong knew he had to make a movie of it.

Ong and his team’s work paid off when Adiwiraku bagged the Best Film Award at the 29th Malaysia Film Festival.

4.Dukun (2018)
Dukun’s film poster.

Originally slated for a 2007 release, all the red tape surrounding Dukun was finally cut and it premiered in 2018.

Until today, no official statements have been given on why the movie was postponed but most suspect it was due to the film being inspired by the real-life murder of Malaysian politician Mazlan Idris.

An ambitious politician, Mazlan’s murder in the 1990s gathered so much public attention not only because he was a public figure but because of the brutal (and supernatural) nature of the killing and the fact that a Malaysian female pop singer happened to be one of the prime suspects.

After leaving her not-so-successful music career, Mona Fandey (whose real name was Maznah Ismail) made a profession change to black magic, becoming a bomoh or a local shaman.

In July 1993, Mona Fandey together with her husband Mohamad Nor Affandi Abdul Rahman and assistant Juraimi Hassan were reportedly performing a cleansing ritual on Mazlan.

During the ritual, the trio asked Mazlan to lie down, close his eyes and wait for money to fall from the sky. Instead of money, an axe came down on Mazlan, chopping his head off.

He was reported missing on 2 July 1993, but by then his bank accounts were cleaned out of RM300,000. Mona was soon after spotted on a shopping spree and driving a Mercedes Benz.

Her high-spending life was cut short after Juraimi made a statement to the police disclosing the location of Mazlan’s remains, which were buried near Mona’s house in Pahang. He was found in 18 pieces.

The trio were found guilty of Mazlan’s murder and were executed on November 2, 2001 at Kajang Prison.

5.Bukit Kepong (1981)

We cannot talk about Malaysian movies inspired by true stories without mentioning Bukit Kepong (1981).

The movie was based on an armed encounter which took place on Feb 23, 1950 between the Federation of Malaya Police and the gunmen of Malayan Communist Party during the Malayan Emergency.

The movie was directed by legendary Malaysian actor Jins Shamsuddin.

Over the years, it has become one of the must-feature films on national television channels especially during August, Malaysia’s National Month.

A special mention…

There is one upcoming Malaysian movie inspired by true events which might be worth the hype.

Director Adrian Teh (King of Mahjong, Hungry Ghost Ritual) is working on an action film highlighting the Royal Malaysian Navy’s Naval Special Warfare Forces, otherwise known as Pasukan Khas Laut or Paskal.

Scheduled for a 2019 release,  Paskal is said to be a biopic of Lieutenant Commander Arman Anwar who, in 2011, led a Paskal team to rescue the crew of MV Bunga Laurel which was hijacked by Somalian pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

Filming locations include Kuala Lumpur, Lumut, Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Semporna in Malaysia as well as Morocco.

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.
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