Coming Home/ 归来/ Guīlái – 2014 Chinese Film

BY RUBY CHINGU

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Ouh, yours truly have been absent from the world of blogging for oh-so-long. Things have been changing so much and so fast, at times I feel like I can’t breathe. BUT hopefully my blogging craze has finally returned. My duties as an amateur film reviewer shall continue!! (dear God, please don’t let me be lazy!)

After my three months absence, what better way to start my review with a film by my most favourite director of all time, Mr Zhang Yi Mou? I know – there is no better way. 

Coming Home is a film that reminds us why Mr Zhang is a force to be reckoned with. Truth to be told, I have been experiencing difficulties to enjoy Mr Zhang’s post-2000 films in comparison to his pre-2000 films which I have always worshipped such as Raise the Red Lantern and To Live. However, Coming Home reminded me of the rawness and endurance of human emotions, much like his previous work. 

ComingHome

Coming Home is a simple tale of a family whose life had changed dramatically due to the Cultural Revolution. There are three main characters in the film – Lu the father, Yu the mother and Dandan the daughter. The film began with Lu, who had been imprisoned by the government for more than ten years for his rightist political leanings, escaping from prison. His wife, Yu was a school teacher who had been taking care of their daughter on her own. Upon receiving contact from her husband, she was exhilerated, desperately yearning for a reunion with her long-awaited beloved. 

However, their daughter, Dandan hated her father. Due to the bitterness of being a political prisoner’s daughter, she reported the reunion to the authorities in hope to receive the main role in a ballet performance in the national dance academy. Having separated her parents, she did not receive the main role as promised by the officer, cast away by her mother who was afflicted with an amnesia-like mental illness a few years later and gave up dancing to work in a textile factory. 

Simply put, Dandan was struck with guilt for tearing the family apart. 

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After a few years, Lu returned home. However, Yu failed to recognize him due to her illness. Despite that, Lu did not give up. For years, he stayed close to Yu, becoming her neighbour, driver, letter reader and even a piano tuner for the sole purpose of taking care of his wife. The touching part of the film was that Yu, despite not realizing that her husband had been in front of her all along, would wait for him on the 5th of each month at the railway station. They stayed like that for many years – together as a family – despite Yu’s non-awareness of the people she loved had been around her all along.

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Shit, the film is so sad… *wiping away my tears* 

That is the specialty of Chinese films. They start off sad. Then, they get sadder. And sadder. Without any moments of happiness and humour. Life is challenging. Life is difficult. Some people never get what they deserved. Deal with it and keep marching on. 

The film displays how policies and action by a bigger foce ie the authorities affects the lives of its people, especially family based on the film’s context. Loneliness and self-reliant led to the conditions of a parent raising the children on his or her own as their partners had been taken away by the government for the purpose of ‘rehabilitation’. Children, who barely knew their imprisoned parent, would grow up to be complicated individuals as they had to bear the labels of ‘criminal’s children’. 

Simply put, families were torn apart and forced to be made incomplete. 

The main question is – how would they find themselves back together? How would they mend all the lost times? 

The father was relentless in his devoted love for his wife. He stayed with her despite his wife not knowing him anymore. He became the father his daughter finally needed. The daughter asked for forgiveness and moved on. With each other’s support, they cared for Yu the mother. 

Chen Daoming (Lu the father) and Gong Li (Yu the mother) were amazing in their performances. Completely in character and superbly realistic, I shall not drag the review with praises for them. Like… c’mon, we know they can act! The daughter, played by a newcomer Zhang Huiwen, was great, too.

I hope there will be more films like this in the future – realistic, poignant, simple and heartrending. At times, we do need films to entertain us. However, at times, I would like to lie down on my bed and let films teach me a thing or two about life…

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THE PALACE/ 宫锁沉香/Gōng suǒ chénxiāng – 2013 Chinese Film

BY RUBY GEGE WHO IS HAVING HER EXAMS THIS MONTH BUT CAN’T SEEM TO SHAKE OFF HER OBSESSIONS WITH HISTORICAL CHINESE DRAMAS AND MOVIES. ARGH!!!

 The dramatic poster, which I love!

the dramatic poster, which I love!

The_Palace_Chinese_Filmthe sweet poster, which I equally love as well!

REVIEW: 4 DURIANS OUT OF 5 (Because it made me believed in love, for like… 10 minutes)

PLOT SUMMARY

The Palace is essentially a love story set during the reign of Kangxi Emperor of Qing Dynasty between the 13th Prince Yinxiang and a palace maid by the name of Chen Xiang. If you guys remember, quite a number of dramas was based during this era ie Bu Bu Jingxin, Gong I and also Gong II. But I can definitely understand why drama writers seem to be super obsessed with the era of Kangxi Emperor. He sired many princes who would fight and compete for the throne. In the movies and dramas, they always make the princes handsome and extremely charming. Amongst the instrumental princes who contended for the throne was the 4th Prince, the 8th Prince and the 14th Prince. Other princes who didn’t really want to be emperors had to choose sides in order to survive the game.

Liu Li and Chen Xiang
Liu Li and Chen Xiang

This film, however, doesn’t really revolve around the political crisis. It did touch a little, but yeah, only very little. It is mainly about Chen Xiang (Zhou Dongyu), an innocent palace maid who had been best friends with Liu Li (Zhao Li Ying), a vivacious naughty maid as well. As they grew up, the palace maids dreamed of entering the palace ranks by being taken as wives or concubines by the princes. Therefore, they often bribed the eunuchs to provide them information about the location of the princes so that they could meet them ‘coincidentally’ and tried to capture their hearts. Liu Li was one of the more ambitious girls amongst the lot. One night, she threw herself at the 9th Prince, hoping to be accepted by his wife. Little did she know that the 9th Prince was only using her and had no intention to do as such.

lifPkK90Xk3QAt the same time, Liu Li asked Chen Xiang to replace her for a duty or something. Chen Xiang, who covered her face with a handkerchief (cause that’s how the ancient ladies did it, people, to appear more… I don’t know, mysteriously pretty?), had a sweet encountered with the 13th Prince(Chen Xiao). They caught butterflies together in the middle of the night, had some sweet chit-chatting and generally fell in love with each other ever since. However, the 13th Prince had no idea what Chen Xiang looked like and had a clue only in the form of the handkerchief she dropped. A few days later,  a manhunt for that ‘mysterious girl’ was conducted. Liu Li came forward and claimed that she was the one as the handkerchief that Chen Xiang used to cover her face was actually hers.

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Liu Li and the 13th Prince. Chen Xiang was standing behind Liu Li, becoming her personal maid

Thus, the role reversed and the ambitious Liu Li finally got what she wanted. She was trained to become the 13th Prince’s wife and won his affections overnight. Which still baffled me. I mean, even if the ‘mysterious girl’ covered half her face, couldn’t the 13th Prince tell that their facial symmetries were COMPLETELY different? Chen Xiang’s eyes were small and pretty, Liu Li’s eyes were round and bright. But then, what are fictional historical films without the baffling illogical twists… I’ve somehow grown accustomed to expecting no explanation at all arising from unreasonable plots.

Thus, Chen Xiang accepted her fate of the lost opportunity to marry the 13th Prince, whom she began to fall in love with. She became Liu Li’s maid. However, the 13th Prince and her started to get close as the Prince was always bothering her for help in finding out Liu Li’s likes and dislikes. For such purpose, he cooked for Chen Xiang and took her horse-riding. Tell me, people, who wouldn’t fall in love with a man like that?!! If it was me… damn it, I would just scream to the Prince and confessed who I really was.

Misfortune struck the 13th Prince due to his failed rebellion against his Emperor father to save the 4th Prince, whom he admired. He ended up blind and was sentenced to house arrest for the rest of his life, to be visited by no one and to live his remaining days in isolation. His soon-to-be wife, Liu Li abandoned him and joined the 9th Prince household – whom she was having a love affair with – as his concubine. Literally, at this time, 13th Prince had no one to rely on. Blind and alone, his world was full of darkness and misery (over-dramatic alert! )

20130807-a6ae21a06d2cc429The only person who cared for him was Chen Xiang. Thus, she tried everything to get into that guarded section of the palace he was locked in. She sought the help of Liu Li, who forced her to walk on burning coals (which she did in the name of love). Upon meeting the Prince, she was again mistaken for Liu Li. I literally banged my head in frustration – you stupid bastard, not again! But then, who could blame the Prince? He barely knew his former fiancee. He barely talked to her yet he fell for her already. Therefore, when a young lady came to visit him in his chamber, he instantly thought that was Liu Li whom he had been waiting for. Chen Xiang did not deny it. Maybe because she wanted to spare him the misery of being abandoned by the woman he loved. To gain continuous access to the Prince’s chamber, Chen Xiang became an experimental guinea pig to the royal physician. She suffered and suffered, all due to her devotion to the 13th Prince, who did not even know who she was. She gave himself to him, she comforted him and became his only hope to live.

201308170309329cb38It was so sweet I almost cried. It would be perfect if only the Prince realized that the lady was actually Chen Xiang and not Liu Li.

As the 4th Prince ascended the throne, the 13th Prince was freed. By that time, he had heard about Liu Li’s affair with the 9th Prince and told Chen Xiang (whom he still thought as Liu Li) to leave him as he supposedly stopped loving her. Chen Xiang did exactly that, thinking that it was over between them.

I don’t fucking get it, Chen Xiang. Just tell him the fucking truth. What is with all this super innocent suffering-loving passive heroines in ancient China? Why do they love this kind of characters so much?

Of course, in the end, the 13th Prince finally learned the truth. Liu Li passed away and Chen Xiang reunited with her lover. The film ended sweetly, like a caramel candy that melts in your mouth.

REVIEW:

I have to be completely honest with you. Despite the grand scale of the film – it being a luscious costume piece – the story is really not about an epic political commentary or even about two different women living in the period of Qing Dynasty. It is, simply, a love story. A simple sweet one, I must say. Our main two characters are simple-minded people who believed in love and naive at hearts. What made the film a little better than your usual romantic piece are the complex supporting characters, especially Liu Li.

The first thing that I love is the innocence of the love story between the 13th Prince and Chen Xiang.

Img378499290You can’t help but to go… awwww. Awwwww. *Cries* and then, awwwww again. The 13th Prince initiated a friendship with Chen Xiang, whom he thought was instrumental in helping him develop a connection with his future wife. Chen Xiang, already in love with him, asked nothing in return. Her feelings for the Prince was pure and selfless. When they were together, you cannot help but to smile. When you see Chen Xiang suffering for the Prince’s sake, you can’t help but to cry along with her. It is just too…. sweet. Arghhhhh!!!!!!!

714236f3jw1e6t97idjofj218g0t0k40The second thing I love is, of course, Liu Li.

20130720091927492She is essentially an evil ungrateful bitch in this film. From a palace maid, she evolved into a prince’s fiancee and a royal concubine. Without her, the film would inevitably walk the dull path. Unlike Chen Xiang who was all innocent and passive, Liu Li was aware of her desires. If she saw an opportunity, she took it. If there was anything she desired, she grabbed it. One misgiving I have about the film was how it displayed an unbalanced portrayal of two types of women in that era. Somehow, I feel that the film stereotypes women who are aggressive as manipulative and cruel whilst the soft–spoken women are kindhearted and sincere.

The third thing I love is the costume, the set designs – basically everything visual in this film. The costumes are crazily detailed and so so so pretty!!!!!! Somehow, the great regal visuals in the film elevated it to more than just a romance film – it gave the film its epic kick!

The fourth thing is undoubtedly….. the 13th Prince.

urlkkkmOMG, each time he appears on the screen, I freaking blush! How can he be so cute and charming and handsome and charismatic at the same time?!!! OMG!! HIS SMILE IS TO DIE FOR!! *swoon* This is not healthy, this is not healthy. Okay, I don’t give a damn. The actor who played him, Chen Xiao is 20 times more good looking in modern attires. He is now officially my favourite mainland actor, second only to Liu Ye.

Him in real life. OMG, how can someone be so good-looking?
Him in real life. OMG, how can someone be so good-looking?

The film is not a great epic historical piece, that’s for sure. However, it is a good entertaining film that would be able to touch your heart in certain scenes. It has a sweet love story as its focal point and the sumptuous designs to accessorize the whole film. Trust me, it will make you delusional and started fantasizing about finding a prince of your own, which will never happen. So, that kind of sucks. But who cares when you have films like this to satisfy your never-ending desires? Hahaha

[Book Review] – A Fort of Nine Towers (2013) By Qais Akbar Omar

By The Gorgeous Palah Chingu

“I have long carried this load of griefs in the cage of my heart. Now I have given them to you. I hope you are strong enough to hold them.”- Qais Akbar Omar

My Rating: 5/5 (Thats because I have not been so moved by a book in a long while).
My Rating: 5/5 (Thats because I have not been so moved by a book in a long while).

If you ask me is it that GOOD to give 5 stars for this book, i would say 5 is not good enough. I cried, I laughed, I cheered and I felt all sort of emotions that the author told me via his story. This book consisted of 3 parts of author and his family story in it. The first part, you felt warmhearted imagining at the back of your head how he told his childhood story. The way he presented his point of view about his culture is just an honest expression of how he felt due to the way he was raised. He was born in the Pashtun Family and he lived together in a big house with his uncles, aunties and his grandfather is in their culture. He talked about it and enlightened those who find it such a strange culture. He described his childhood to be bright and colorful as he was surrounded by playful cousins and loving relatives. He pointed out that though his family are from Pashtun ethnic but he never spoke Pashto in the house. All of his family members are comfortable using Dari (another language that are widely used in Afghanistan aside Pashto). It is not a big deal for him because he learned Pashto and knew how to use it but he stated that he preferred Dari More. The Kite competition during his past childhood is one of the fiercest battle he ever encountered when he was a kid. He bragged about how his cousin Wakeel can easily defeated other opponent and has been named as ‘The Cruel Kite Cutter’ in their neighborhood. He cherished the moment of one of his family’s servants, Bahar helped him to win the competition by cutting Wakeel’s kite. For the author, The childhood in the big house with all of his cousins is one of the best memories he had.

The second part, you started feeling sad and wanted to help them to get through that awful war ( from Russian, Mujahideen, Taliban and American army). When the war (The Mujahideen Army) is approaching Afghanistan, The Author’s family felt that they are the savior. They had came to chase the Russian and Communism. They felt optimistic about this Army and wished that they will build back their destroyed nation. They are indeed wrong. Not long after Mujahideen’s arrival, The power struggle between factions occurred. Many died because of that. The author’s family felt they are no longer safe staying at their big house. The battle between factions of Mujahideen had turned most of them from being a ‘God’s Man’ to ‘Low-class criminal’. They robbed other’s properties and killed those who defied them. Fearing that their life will not be saved, the author’s family decided to take a refuge in his father’s friend house. They stayed there until American Army came to hunt every single Taliban army that resides in the country. The whole feeling when i read the second part is helplessness. I cant bloody do anything, I just keep moving on to the next pages, hoping the author’s family survived the calamity fell upon them. There was one scene that i deeply remembered because i truly feared that the author and his grandfather will not survived. First scene is when his grandfather stubbornly wanted to take a look at his house that he left a long time ago since Mujahideen Army came. He wanted to bring Author’s uncle originally but his uncle pleaded to wait until a few days for ceasefire between factions to happen. However, His grandfather could not wait any longer and ordered the author to go with him. When his father did not object his grandfather’s decision, he knew he had to accompany him no matter what. When they are on their way, They has been captured by Hazara’s faction of Mujahideen. It was truly a terrifying moment. They had been locked in a room where the walls are full of writing of those who ever lived in it. His grandfather knew that they are going to be killed. He told the author to be strong and in case if he’s got a chance to live, try his hardest to escape. He also told the author that those men might ‘used’ him but he insisted him to endure as surviving is more important. The author cried and asked his grandfather to stop talking nonsense. When the leader of the faction asked what they are both doing in the area, His grandfather told that they are visiting his house in the area. It turned out before the war, the leader is one of the students of the author’s father. He decided to let them go and send them both back. The author picturized the whole scene as his first death escape experience.

The third part is where the age of ignorance came and how the Taliban rules did alter the whole nation. He told what he deeply felt about them in this book. He stated that they brough strange peace into the country. How peace can be such strange thing? He revealed decrees of Taliban that insisted on Hudud Punishment and Fundamentalism of Islamic Law. No Music, No Entertainment, No Pictures, No Free Relationship between Boys and Girls, No Open Courtship and up to the extend of NO to everything. How did they governed Afghanistan? They said Yes to everything which considered good in Holy Quran. When he said strange peace, he does not mean it a good way. He felt the Afghan community and culture suddenly died and they can no longer do what they usually did. He said girls in Taliban’s time faced it much worse because they cant attend school , they have to wore Burqa all the time , they cannot work and they have to be accompanied by their male relatives if they wanted to go to other places. He portrayed vividly the moment of how Taliban used the stadium to carry out the punishment of those they claimed to be a sinner. To witness the scene of girls being stoned to death, the thieves whose hand is being cut and the murderers being shot at the head right away is one of the horrifying moments author ever had. He also reflected back the time he went to jail just for not cutting his hair according to Taliban Standard. In the jail, he was beaten by the religious officers and only to be released when he could answers all of their questions about Islam and Taliban.

According to this book, The author’s cousin named Wakeel and his grandfather played a big role in his life. He cherished both of them in temple of his heart. The wording that he put in this book to portray them both is simple yet poetic. You can sense his sincerity and tenderness in the book. The author even managed to share some of the stories of good people he met despite of war in his journey back and forth with his family.Whether it is from Hazara, Turkmenistan or Pashtun, They are indeed kind people who helped him when he needed it.

Can you see how huge this book is?
Can you see how huge this book is? The book size that i preferred is on my left (The Kite Runner Book) and in the middle one (which i tolerated because it is not that heavy).

To be honest, I hated books that had a huge size (compared to the normal size) which is for me difficult to hold it during reading. This book turned me off right away when i first saw it sitting among bookshelves in a local bookstore. I wanted to ignore the book and move on to another section but my instinct kept asking me to flip a few pages of this particular book. I turned a few pages of this book and i sighed. There is no foreword or rave review by other famous authors. I am skeptical at first but i bought it. I bought it in the sense that i loved non fiction books and above all, it is middle-eastern literature especially from Afghanistan and Iran. After reading a few chapters, I was completely blown away. I wondered how Afghani authors (Khaled Hosseini and others) can easily grasp my attention and i am completely hooked on the way he told his tale. If you like Khaled Hosseini, You should buy this book. What differentiate Qais Akbar Omar from Khaled Hosseini is he did tell the TRUE story and what really happpened to him while he was growing up in Afghanistan in a time of War. I can assure you guys that this book is indeed one of the best books i’ve ever read in 2014.

Wadjda (2013) : Foreign Film Review

By The Gorgeous Palah Chingu

“when the rules dont fit, find the courage to follow your own’

My Rating: 4.5/5
My Rating: 4.5/5

I watched this film like 3 days ago. I am still impacted by this movie. I know I am not supposed to criticize culture that I did not understand but I just cannot brain this one particular culture. The sort of culture that women build because their own men said so or otherwise. The sort of culture that shows a totality in conforming what their husband or father demanded. Trust me, I am a bit similar with those poor women and I am still trying to free myself ever since. I was raised in a household that upholds the tradition of man is superior to woman. It still is and I don’t know when we will evolve from this. I am still fighting the equality that I deserved from my parents yet they shoved it down my throat by saying ‘You are a girl’. The phrase of ‘You are a girl’ really get on my nerves, it just show the value of yourself in the family. Yes, I was given a chance to education because I was born in Malay Middle Class Family. As far as I am concern, middle class family values education above other matters. However, despite being educated, I still am expected to behave like a proper Malay girl. I am expected to do household chores and in their mind, I will somehow get married and settle down like a normal and ordinary girl would do. If my life was planned to be so dull like this, I don’t have to go to school at all. I should learn basic things only and prepare my entire life ahead to be a good housewife. I didn’t say being a housewife is not good; it is just not for me. The education that I received until now shaped the way I thought of this world even in small matters. For me, Marriage is a total submission to one man until you die (if your husband dies or you both are divorced, it will be another story).

It is so great to be born in Malaysia where Islam is practiced moderately. I feel lucky because I have access to many things though there are still culture restrictions on woman of we should do this and that. I read so many books featuring the story of my sisters in some middle-eastern countries that does not have access to education. Even if they have, they can’t because they are not supposed to. Why they are not supposed to? That’s because their dad/brother/husband said so. They have to live in total seclusion and barricaded themselves within 4 walls. They bear the responsibility of being a good mother and obedient housewife. They are taught that there is no other life aside from serving the family and dedicated their whole like being a proper woman. If you are ended up in this kind of life, you will teach your own daughter the same life values you had. You yourself can’t even teach your daughter to try other option because in your mind there will be no other option. The chain of this restrictive and backward way of life will deny your own daughter of what choice she will have in her life. That is why it is so refreshing seeing many activists in Saudi Arabia this year protesting loudly and bravely in against the order of woman cannot drive. We live in 21st century and we still have this absurd law in some country. Saudi Arabia is the only country that didn’t allow women to drive and places in a top position among other countries that score zero for not having any women in their political field. Anyway, I don’t want to talk much about Saudi Arabia, Everything is Google-able nowadays. You can type women’s rights in Saudi Arabia in the search box and read it yourself.

wadjda

The reason I watched this film because it shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the Director of this film is a woman. This film may focus on how one teenager struggles to buy a bicycle for herself. You might wonder why the story line is so simple. My friends, it is not that simple. In this film lay bricks by bricks women’s issues faced by the Saudi Women. Wadjda is a 10 years old girl who’s a bit peculiar and adventurous of her own. She often played with a boy around her age named Abdullah in their neighborhood. She got jealous seeing Abdullah can ride around it in his bicycle and want to get back at him once she got a bicycle of her own. She asked her mother to buy it for her only to be dismissed by saying ‘you can’t ride it, you are a girl and it will be not good for your health as a woman’. We have been playing a bicycle since we were kids and our parents can bought it for us without any hesitation but there, the girl around wadjda’s age did face this harsh treatment. Wadjda knew that begging her parents won’t change anything; she decided to enter the Quran Recitation competition that bears the money prize. She wanted to use the money prize to buy a bicycle. While I am writing this review, I actually didn’t finish watching this film yet. It is too suffocating to me. I didn’t face this much repression compared to Saudi women but I slightly face it when people often told me I can’t do it because I am a girl. It is so disappointing when those who often incite the gender differences are your own family members.

Waad Mohammed as "Wadjda'
Waad Mohammed as ‘Wadjda’
The bicycle that she wanted to buy.
The bicycle that she wanted to buy.

Wadjda may encounters her own problem in this film but her mother also faces another dilemma of being a wife who is no longer can pregnant and on that note, unable to produce son to her husband. When this happened, taking another wife is often the answer. Islam allows polygamy marriage and man can take 4 wife if he’s able to do so (he’s rich and can support all of them). In this case, her mother unable to produce another child due to complication of labor she experienced during Wadjda. Her Mother in Law already looks for another possible bride for her son and she knew about it because gossips spread around in the neighborhood. She tried to win her husband back by her delicious cooking and gorgeous dress but she knew it won’t help much. Sooner or later, he will still take a second wife. Back to Wadjda’s story, In School Wadjda known as a trouble maker. The Principal of the school always try to find any flaw in Wadjda. If she found one, she will keep talking how it is bad and threatened to expel her from the school. One day, Wadjda was playing around the field where 2 older students sat there doing their own thing. The principal passed by and caught the 2 girls in a suspicious act (both girls actually were doing a fake tattoo on their feet with a marker pen). Wadjda was called upon to be a witness by them because they wanted to prove that they didn’t do anything. Wadjda is so afraid that she can’t participate in the competition told the principal she can’t claim to see anything because she’s too far from them at that time. The principal is afraid that it will be root of Lesbian (which considers in Islam as a huge sin) imposed much strict rules regarding of no holding hands even you are both girls, no showing affection by giving cards or letter to each other and walk apart from each other. Can you believe how absurd it is?

Reem Abdullah as Wadjda's Mother
Reem Abdullah as Wadjda’s Mother
Wadjda and Her Parents.
Wadjda and Her Parents.
The Awful Principal
The Awful Principal

There’s another issue I find it so disturbing that I wanted to talk in this film. When Wadjda joined the religious club in order to enter the competition, the members of the club will practice together. In one class session, they are passing around some photos and joking around with their friends about it. It turned out one of Wadjda’s friend got married to a 20 years old guy. The teacher then entered the class and asks why the fuss that they are making of. They told that one of them is married and the teacher didn’t show any surprise emotion. She just told them that photos are not allowed to bring in class. When you see that kind of scene, you will be like ‘what the fucking fuck, she’s freaking 10’ or even though she’s older than wadjda, it may apart by 1 or 2 years. She’s practically still a kid to me. I just can’t accept any child marriage. The director of this film just shows us a glimpse of child marriage culture happened there. It’s a norm and acceptable there. Even Wadjda’s mother always joked around saying she will marry her off right away. There are certain codes that women should abide by and they are started from this school. There are one scene whereby the principal will nag any students whose laugh and giggling loudly by saying that they are not ashamed of themselves and try to attract attention of men. There is also a scene where Wadjda’s friend move from one location to another when they are playing in the school because male construction workers from another building can see them and it is not good for their honor.

Wadjda and Abdullah
Wadjda and Abdullah
Wadjda and her friends in Religious Club
Wadjda and her friends in Religious Club

I still have another 30 minutes left to finish this film but I chose not to. I can’t do it. I know it’s silly but I can’t help it. I am a bit emotional person, I must say. Overall, This film featuring a helpless girl in the oppressive culture and she try to do it in her way instead of abiding the rule it is so inspirational and in the same time, it is miserable because nobody will support her (not even her own mother). If you wanted to catch a glance what a Saudi women life will be in their country, this film is the good option to consider. Although I didn’t finish it, I read the whole in plot in IMDB. Later, Wadjda did win the Quran Recitation Competition but she didn’t get the money because it will be donated to a Palestinian cause. Her father get married to a second wife and in the end, her mother did buy a bicycle for Wadjda. Wadjda then used it to race against Abdullah. This one is among few films of Middle-eastern that I consider is good. The director didn’t use the film to downgrade her own culture but rather to let the audience think and interpret their own perception of the film.

Society, Individuals and the Domination of A Collective Mindset

by Ruby Chingu

bfbgghI am going to ramble a lot in this post. I am going to ramble proudly. Because this is a rare moment where I’d question the meaning of life and have many crazy thoughts about my life, individuality and the society around me in general. It has been a common occurrence lately, especially after attending Prof’s class on Public Law. How it is rarely the people themselves who shape the mindset but the government or the authorities above them. Is it the way it is – when one is born and is groomed to be a man/woman, it is easier to a subscribe to an existing standard of thinking rather than exploring various other alternatives and finally coming out with one’s own principles? Am I able to stop someone politely on the street in Malaysia and ask them – “can you please explain to me your guiding set of principles? What dictates your decision-making processes?”

I believe people do believe in something, someone or a great many things. But I also believe that some certain factions choose to believe and analyse issues based on their own collective lens. What are collective lens? Well, it is always presumed that a human being was born with a desperate sense to belong to a group to feel protected, secure and safe. Thus, when one is surrounded by like-minded people, it is easy to think that such like-minded people is the dominating society. Thus, sensitization towards the needs of other community may be made difficult. How can you, a person from Community A, understand a person from Community B, if you have never mingle with them before? How can you possibly understand any sorts of discrimination they face if you have been indulged in the benefits by the virtue of being a part of Community A? How can you even learn to understand the plights of your neighbours when you were never educated to see things from their perspective?

Still, we blame other people for dividing Malaysians into factions. It’s not the fault of the Constitution. Notwithstanding its status as the supreme law of the land, it is just a book. A book can, at best, influence how people think. What divides Malaysia is the mindset of the people. People are given a box to live in – a very comfortable box – and refuse to leave the box. They are afraid of what exists outside the box. They are afraid to think outside the box. It is a social and intellectual confinement. Being in a box – the same box you have been in since you were born – will lead you to see things from the hole in your box ONLY. However, if we step outside the box and imagine ourselves being in the shoes of people from other communities, we will be able to understand them. To look at things from their perspective. How does it feel to be raised up, knowing that you can never be admitted to a certain institution because of your ethnicity? How does it feel to be persecuted because you choose to love who you love? How does it feel to be disowned because you dare to be who you want to be without harming other people? The truth is bitter yet it is necessary. It is reality. However, to keep things easy, we are forced to maintain the status quo.

ffsffs What if there are certain people who don’t subscribe to status quo? That people should not be shaped to comply with a certain standard of society? When can people accept and embrace the fact that a human mind is a powerful tool. If one has a stand or an opinion about an issue, no law or disapproval in the world can stop that. If one chooses to be who he/she wants to be, no slaps or beatings from the society can stop that. Conscience is the strongest tool I have ever encountered. Conscience neither yields nor surrenders just because someone say so. I believe conscience is a part of the human soul, the rational kind voice from within, always convincing the body, heart and mind to be kind and fair to others, notwithstanding who they are.

Thus, when clashes occur between the opinions of society and the conscience, which one prevails? Would you rather pretend to not care about your conscience and follow what the society wants you to follow to avoid troubles and fit it? Would you not choose to be a part of a group? To be protected? To survive? To be able to live without running the risk of isolation?

Or would your conscience prevail? Would you allow it to flourish in the name of being true to who you are? To be able to look back in the past and have no regrets in your life about fighting for what you believe in? Is it not risky – disappointing your loved ones with your thoughts and being who they do not want you to be. Most of the time, people’s consciences are invisible. At times, it can be completely different from their appearances.

fdIn defending our lonely fight against the collective, one somehow has to prepare to feel a bit lonely. To always be cautious about voicing out one’s disagreement over the majorly-accepted policies. Just because it benefits you does not mean it benefits the society. Just because it gives you more opportunity does not mean it is acting fairly to all people like you. Why, then, stay in the box? What meaning and adventure can life offer if one is living it confined to its four walls? The world is round for a reason. The world is surrounded by an endless universe for a reason. It is no longer a feasible thing to judge the situations and the laws based on the needs of one community. Even the idea of community is fading away. Globalization is happening. Whether you like it or not, individuals are formed with minimal collective mindset. Internet allows for border-less information. Travel allows the whole world to be our home. A passport and Visa does not determine where you want to go and who you want to be – they are just documents. Home is where your heart is and it can be anywhere. What can other people say if you choose to belong to a different place or choose to never belong to anywhere at all? Fact is, you are in control of your own mind, your own body, your own soul.

We are our own persons. Administrators of our thoughts and actions.

Thus, when we disallow the society to play that roles for us, how do we deal with the consequences? Face the music and risk being disapproved? Risk being unloved? Risk being unfairly judged? What do we do? I hope for an acceptance towards people who think differently. People who wish to unsubscribe themselves to the collective mindset. Just because our minds work in a different way does not mean we are going to hell and you are going to heaven. Who decides that? God. And yes, as much as you like to think that you are, you can never guess or predict God’s action. Who can say for sure that that man or woman is destined for hell? Is that not indescribably vain?

The truth is, being who you want to be and think what you want to think are two of the most difficult things to do in a society I live in. Instead of learning to be ourselves, we are, more often than not, educated to be a person of ‘ideal qualities’ – clever, pretty, religious and obedient. Freedom of individuality is not something we have been exposed to much and even if we did, the notion freedom has always bring in negative connotation. More conservative people will say freedom is not absolute. Yes, of course it is not but the basic principle is that freedom exists. Freedom to be who you want to be – to be able to uphold your identity and to be a human being – is that not the basic right everyone should have?