Well I finally watched Sepet. Thanks to my cousin for sending the video over.
When I was in Malaysia, I was caught up with the Sepet hype. The media was still talking about it. Malaysian blogs were raving about it. Being an ignorant bastard, I had no clue what the heck they were talking about because I have never heard of this thing called Sepet.
The film deals with the subject of interracial relationship between a poor non-religious Chinese boy who happens to write poetry and loves Malay films, and a middle class Malay girl who happens to love Chinese and Japanese films.
I have read somewhere that the Malaysian government wanted to ban this film. Obviously they did not. I am not sure if there are any substance in this rumour. Anyone who has a URL link to an official news piece then please post it in the comments area. If the ban rumour is true, it only proved what a backward country Malaysia is.
Was the subject of interracial relationship so taboo that it managed to court such controversy? I needed to find out. So after watching Liverpool beat AC Milan I flick PowerDVD on and started watching.
** possible spoilers ahead **
Sepet started with a sequence that pretty much sums up what this film would be. The pretence of being philosophical. The scene where the protagonist was communicating with his mother in Chinese while she replies in Malay was all so fake. There is an explanation for this, but was pretty unsatisfying. It was as though the auteur thought that such a scene would appeal to the arthouse community.
"Not all Chinese men cheat and not all Malay men are lazy."
And then there was the content. Was the early scene in the snooker bar really necessary? Personally I did not see how it would contribute to the narrative by showing an apparent idiot (who can't act) messing with 'Jimmy'. The filmmaker probably wanted to introduce the antagonist early on and the whole sequence ended up an utter mess.
"My father named me after this Chinese kung fu master, but he never taught me kung fu."
Then there is this major scene where Jason, the protagonist, meets 'Orked' for the first time. It will cause gooseflesh when you watch it the first time. Can humans actually communicate like that? I do not know. Sure it is love at first sight...but that doesn't make the whole scene any less scary.
"They make the best French fries..."
One thing the film got right is the highlighting of Malaysia's obsession with fast food. You got that right. They had their first date in a fast food eatery. Complete with a 'waiter' and short discussion of chips. The scene was excruciating to watch that I did not know whether to cry or laugh.
"I know you like movies..."
"I do? How do you know?"
"Because you bought my videos..."
By the middle of the film I was tired. Tired of picking flaws. I was very dissapointed. Perhaps I really wanted to like it. I would be lying if I said I didn't. The ending itself to put it mildly was farcical.
The acting was god awful that I forgave George Lucas for Samuel L. Jackson's performance in Star Wars Episode III. I have never heard more forced dialogues in any films. Even if the accent were faithful the fakeness in the dialogue is so apparent down to the forced "lahs".
Despite my peeves there were a couple of funny moments. I truly enjoyed those scenes where Orked's mum and sister were bickering with her dad. And that was it really. Maybe the filmmakers should have made a film on how the parents met instead. That would be a story.
The fact that by the end of the film I did not notice anyting controversial about it again proved that how living in London has skewed my mind. Here interracial and interfaith relations are the norm. In the end however, I believed the film gained notoriety not because of great (it isn't) filmmaking but because the filmmakers dared to tackle the subject. Which is commendable. But it is still a bad film.
Recommended films on interracial relations:
Japanese Story (2003, Sue Brooks)
Ae Fond Kiss (2004, Ken Loach)