You see, I am not really into independent films (that would be more up Fikri’s alley, not me). I prefer those commercialised Hollywood blockbusters with loads of explosions, special effects, computer-generated creatures, and the works. However, on the off chance that I do watch an indie film, there’s a 50% chance that I will like it. Like ‘Flower in the Pocket’ a locally made film by Da Huang Pictures and directed by Liew Seng Tat.
You might be surprised to hear this, but this is actually my very first local independent film (yes, I have not even seen those films by Yasmin Ahmad), and made me realise I should watch more (which I will, since the lovely people at Da Huang have sent us a few more together with this). It gave me a whole new perspective on Malaysian films since I have always thought that it’s a pre-requisite for all Malaysian films to have the extremely over-rated (and not-at-all funny) Saiful Apek as its lead, and bad, unnatural dialogue to go with it.
The story follows the life of two brothers, Ma Li Ahh (Lim Ming Wei) and Ma Li Ohm (Wong Zi Jiang), who are young school children (in fact, they’re in their uniform for more than half the movie). These two are a bunch of lazy kids who pays no heed to their education, never completing their homework and always wasting their time after school by doing all sorts of useless things. On top of that, they have a father, Ah Sui (James Lee), who’s always working till late and hardly bumps into them. Now it’s not that he doesn’t love them, but he’s simply working hard trying to make ends meet because these people are very poor. Looking at their living conditions made me love my bed even more that night.
The kids befriend a Malay kid (Amira Nasuha Shahiran), who goes by the name Atan outside and Ayu at home. She’s a tomboy and they play together nearly every afternoon. The brothers stumble upon a puppy they named Happy (this is where I normally insert the real name but I don’t know if it has any in this case), which is quite dear to them. So one day, when Happy was taken away from them, the brothers were devastated and this lead to a chain of events that will ultimately bring their father closer to them.
Now this movie terrified me, especially those classroom scenes. It’s reminiscent of my school days (I wasn’t a straight A student and had my fair of scolding from the teachers), and I feel that the filmmakers managed to capture the whole classroom atmosphere naturally. There’s always a busy-body kid, a lazy kid and a teacher that you just feel like you wanna slap. That’s why it terrifies me I guess, because I felt that it was quite real and the fact that Ma Li Ohm has that typical ‘budak malas’ image.
Speaking of the actors, I love everybody’s acting here, which is really something, because when it comes to Malaysian films, I am accustomed to those films like ‘Nana Tanjung’, and ‘Duyung’), which has the worst sort of acting and dialogue imaginable. In contrast, the two kids were great of course. They carried the film and were unabashed to show their little wieners. Only if you have passion for acting would you do something like that (though I am still wondering why Ma Li Ahh had an erection during that scene). Let’s not forget Amira as well, because that kid made me wonder if he was actually a he or a she. One a side note, James Lee looks really stoned in the movie. If he really was, nothing much can be said but if he wasn’t, that’s a fine actor right there (considering that it’s not his day job). Special mention has to be made to Mislina Mustaffa, who played Lina (Atan/Ayu’s mum). I thought she did a good job and was the best performer in the film. Hold it, there was one really bad actor in this movie and it comes in the form of a doctor played by Chee Cheong Hoe. He’s like the worse movie doctor I have ever seen (though to be fair, he was funny as hell). His scene was the only scene that made the movie un-real for me.
That’s not to say that it’s perfect, though. One thing I have always hated about Malaysian movies is that they’re always showing things that I don’t think we absolutely need to see. Like we’re always seeing someone coming home, searching for her keys in the handbag, opening the lock on the grill, then unlocking the wooden door, taking off their shoes and placing it neatly on the shoe-rack, locking back the grill, locking the wooden door, switching on the lights etc. That scene alone will take a minute or two and has always been a waste of time. Sadly, in this movie, we get to see such things too, like when Ah Sui was driving (yeah, he was just driving, but they showed it) and a few others that I can’t recall. I was trying to see if there are any significance for them to show all this but can’t seem to be able to identify any.
Another thing that I thought was inappropriate was a scene where Ma Li Ohm was taking a dump in the great outdoors and he needed something to wipe his butt with. So he asked his brother to get some papers in his schoolbag and spefically said to rip it from his Bahasa Malaysia exercise book. I did not like that at all. I am not patriotic you see, but to have someone wiping his butt with the pages of your national language’s book is just plain wrong. On a more personal basis, being a Muslim, I did not like the scene where Atan was playing with the puppy either (although she was wearing gloves and all that).
The most important thing, for me, about this film is not what the story is trying to tell, but how it is able to provide an insight into the lives of the poor. I don’t think you usually see this in typical Malaysian films.Seeing their terrible working condition made me feel grateful with what I had growing up. It’s certainly a movie worth checking out if you’re tired of all those Saiful Apek’s bullshit.
Anyway, if you’re watching Flower in the Pocket, keep a lookout on this one kindergarten boy with a pink uniform. The kindergarten authorities should be locked for dressing little boys in that uniform. Looking at that boy was just hilarious.
Fazil is now more willing to give Malaysian movies a chance (and Fikri is now tempted to give him a copy of ‘Duyung’ for his birthday 🙂 ). You can get a copy of the film, and other Da Huang Pictures productions, at their excellent new online shop.