Noob Film Review - SEMALAM DI MALAYSIA (1975) - by Nico Pelamonia by nazirullsafry

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Noob Film Review - SEMALAM DI MALAYSIA (1975) - by Nico Pelamonia
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The film opens with a male singer performing the song ‘Semalam Di Malaysia’ in Kuala Lumpur in front of a crowd.

This rare Indonesian film (last to be produced by Runme Shaw) about a poor fisherman family with one young son Jarot and also expecting another. One day the husband Marto (Koesno Soedjarwadi) had to go on a long fishing trip with Jarot. Their fishing boat then got hit by a storm and sunk, separating them both.

The now lonely wife Ruminah (Rina Hashim) then delivered a girl and having no source of income, had to accept the job offer as a maid with this rich Indonesian family that has no children. In return, they are to adopt her baby girl as their own, raise her in comfort of wealth and education. Ruminah had to witness her own daughter, Sandra (Nozie Nani) grow not knowing the maid is her real mother.

Marto survived the boat incident and lived in isolation and mourning his lost Jarot. For some reason he does not go looking for the wife. Perhaps ashamed of losing their son?

Little does he know that Jarot drifted across the sea, survived and raised by a Malaysian rich family (as how Sandra is) and now called Viktor (Sam Bimbo).

In a twist of fate, Viktor (Sam Bimbo) and Sandra met when they are in their 20s on stage, both an artist and deep in love. Incest is succesfully avoided (or has it) when Ruminah revealed to Sandra on her death bed that she is her real mother and Viktor is actually her brother (confirmed by the marking on his hand)

So in the end there is a big family re-union and their plan to get married denied. Both foster families agree for the truth to be revealed and both Viktor and Sandra accepted it too...
### ...too easily? 

Yes because it is a melodramatic containing a bigger narrative. The issue of the division of the same ‘rumpun Melayu’ through colonialisation and nationalistic borders by the Dutch and British.

It is shown early in the film through the shipwreak. Perhaps an allegory of the sinking of the previously known seafaring nusantara civilization. And the one victimised is the new generation who has lost its identity with their pop attires and hairdos (and education)

Also the death of Ruminah probably symbolises the death of the mother heritage itself (dressing in traditional kebaya whilst their adopted families mostly dressed in modern western attires) and the ending scene where Viktor and Sandra just looked at each other in confusion and hopelessness of their fate as the new generation, shown with the pitch dark background. Perhaps as a symbol that Malaysia and Indonesia will never be together, divided by neo-colonialists. As the poster also show both are divided by the sea (geographical,  geopolitical and metaphorically)
In comparison to when Jarot were young, despite being poor, they lived happily and deep into who they actually are, shown when they enjoying the Tari performance in a village.

Probably the title ‘Semalam di Malaysia’ gives a little bit of hope that now they are back to where they came from. Foreshadowed in the opening scene with Viktor singing that song with the same title. The song lyrics mourns the hard life not being in the home country with family and friends in a sad keroncong beat.
Mourn on the division of the same ‘rumpun’ this movie might be, but without these differences, there will be no story to tell.

Almost as biblically akin to Moses that was thrown out of Egypt to then return to his real people where he came from, across the sea. And the Pharoah slavery akin to modern colonialist indoctrination and propaganda. 

And that Koranic verse saying God made us in different races for us to know each other. What will we discover if we do that?  That we are all the same. (ok maybe I should stop)

Another succesful film screening and dialog weekend organised by Wayang Di-Atas and PBUY with the attendance of scholars Dr. Norman Yusof and Abro Rivai.

Thank you for dropping by!
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