Tanda Putera – Historical or fictional?

By Mahdzir Ibrahim

I’ve watched Tanda Putera at the cinema. Aside from wanted to watch the hype about this film, I consider this as my personal contribution to support the local filmmaker. Hopefully, the small amount of money that I paid for the ticket, to some extent will be able to help and develop the local film industry.

As a viewer, I have my own views and I will try to be fair to rate this movie.

According to media reports, the cost of this movie is around RM4.5 million. Of which, the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS) contributed RM2.5 million and the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) gave RM2 million. Excluding sponsorship from GLCs such as MAS.

With that cost, I don’t think the outcome in terms of the technical aspect is satisfying, perfect or worth it. The quality from the application of CGI or Computer Generated Image are messy, even to me, i don’t think it necessary for this kind of film. But it is up to the director, it her right.

Also, in terms of production design, props and costume. It is not perfect enough to describe the atmosphere during the 60/70’s era. Not comparable enough with Bukit Kepong or Leftenan Adnan. Is it because the producers wanted to save on budget?

After watching it, I wondered if the film is about the history of May 13, or what?

There were scenes depicting youths urinating on a flag pole. But, it’s not clear whether this incident really happened and is derived from historical facts. If true, where and what is the source? Before this, we never heard about it. So we want to know the facts, either from police reports or notes by historians.

It is not clear from the scene where the flag pole is located, is it in the compound of Datuk Harun’s (Selangor Chief Minister) residence or at the government office or in a hawkers area?

The scene is not clear and we are not sure at all. If they link the scene with the residence of the Selangor Chief Minister, most probably is just an assumption because the flagpole is flying the Selangor flag.

Or, is the flagpole urination scene a figment of the director’s imagination?

According to an eyewitness account by one Habib Ahmad, based on his location in Kampung Baru at that time, it is almost impossible that incident took place in the Menteri Besar’s residence. (http://www.roketkini.com/2012/09/14/kencing-tiang-bendera-kit-siang-difitnah-saksi-13-mei/)

So, if it did not happen at the residence of the Chief Minister, then where did it happen? This scene is not a stunt action that can be fictionalised. This scene is directly related to the history of May 13.

For me, the events of May 13th that intensified in early scene in the movie, seem to incite anger and portray the opposition as being the same entity or cooperating with the communists. Communists and opposition parties are painted with the image of the Chinese as well as the DAP logo emblazoned here and there in that particular scene.

Some short info for the directors – DAP is not a communist party. DAP is opposed to any struggle through the use of weapons.

I thought that this film would retell the May 13 incident in chronological order and include clear witness reports. I watched this movie thinking it would provide a clearer picture to the audience about what is really happening in this May 13 incident.

But it did not happen in that way. The director suddenly abandoned the topic of May 13 less than halfway through the movie. The thrilling topic was dropped after embedding the DAP logo and the image of communists in the viewer’s minds.

The rest of the movie revolves around Tun Razak’s family and his friendship with Tun Dr. Ismail, and several short scenes about his efforts in creating Felda, the implementation of the New Economic Policy (NEP) and the struggle to fight the communists.

The characters of Tun Razak and Tun Dr Ismail well cast and played, congratulations to the actors, Rusdi Ramli and Zizan Nin.

But the end of all this, I do not see or understand the significance between the incidents of May 13 and Tun Razak’s legacy in this movie.

If this film is not about the history of May 13, is it about Tun Razak and his friend Tun Dr. Ismail? If that so, certainly the film would spend more time developing the most important and memorable contributions by this leader, such his efforts to establish Felda accurately. However, it is not so.

Or, is this a fictional movie, hiding behind history and half-truths so that the directors or producers need not be accountable by the audience or anyone.

I can understand that any adaptation of the first source (origin) to another medium will be manipulated with the elements of fiction to make it more interesting and entertaining.

However, the nuance between fact and fiction should be clear. But in this film, fiction and fact was mixed and messed up, anyone who did not read about the actual history of May 13, will assume that all scenes in this film are hundred percent based on facts.

Finally, we would like to ask the director Datin Paduka Shuhaimi Baba, what film is this? A historical film or fiction film?

I think I am entitled to get an explanation from her because this film is funded from tax payers money, not a small amount but a lot. This tax payer’s money is collected by the government from all races, Malay, Chinese, Indian, even from Umno members, DAP members, PKR, Muslims, non-Muslims, poor and rich people even all.

If this is a historical film, then it belongs to the people and the people are entitled to get an explanation. If it is fiction, the publisher must be willing to be responsible for the images or scenes in her work.

I will always support the principle of freedom of expression and freedom of creativity and I will defend the rights of Shuhaimi Baba, if she is right.

Despite all this, I also wonder, how Finas can justify this film and be willing to invest millions of ringgit and risking our racial harmony. For what? The truth?


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