You may define your own banner on the settings page.
FilmsAsia: Asian film reviews
Soh Yun-Huei
Dave Chua
Brandon Wee
Wong Lung Hsiang
Felix Cheong
Foong Ngai Hoe
Adrian Sim
Chris Khoo
O Thiam Chin
Lau Chee Nien
Ambient Noise
Sarhan Rashid
Ying Wuen
Ellery Ngiam
Toh Hai Leong
Toh Hai Leong, Auteur
Wong Kar Wai
The Seduction of Wong Kar Wai
Tsai Ming Liang
Lav Diaz
Mikio Naruse
Leslie Cheung
Jonathan Foo Interview
Chinese Ghosts
Assassins in Asian FIlms
Sex in Asian Cinema
Erotic Cinema of the Shaw Studios
Homosexuality in Chinese Films
My Left Eye Sees Creativity
Hollywood Remakes
Comic Book Superheroes
One League of Social Consciousness
Emerging Trends in East Asian Cinema
Postwar Korean Cinema
Decline of Hong Kong Cinema before 1997
Rise of Afghan Films
Singapore's Mini Cinema
Creating A Singapore Cinema
Why Cinema is Important to Singapore
Singapore Film Industry
Rites of Passage
Replying to Critics
Daniel Yun Interview
Singapore International Film Festival
Bangkok International Film Festival
Tokyo International Film Festival
Toronto International Film Festival
Writer's Block
All Tomorrow's Parties
And Also the Eclipse
Another Heaven
At Five in the Afternoon
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Bangkok Haunted
Barking Dogs Never Bite
Batang West Side
Battle Royale
Bear Hug
Beautiful Boxer
Beijing Rocks
Bend It Like Beckham
Best of Times
Betelnut Beauty
Big Durian
Big Shot's Funeral
Bird Man Tale
Blissfully Yours
Blue Kite
Bounce Ko Gals
Brighter Summer Day, A
Cafe Lumiere
Cat Returns
Chinese Odyssey 2002
City of Glass
City Sharks
Color of the Truth
Color Blossoms
Confucian Confusion
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Dark Water
Destination 9th Heaven
Divine Intervention
Double Vision
Dumlings: 3 Extremes
Enter the Phoenix
Era of Vampire, The
Eye, The
Eye 2, The
Eye 10, The
Fat Choy Spirit
Floating Weeds
Fog of War, The
Formula 17
Full Alert
Ghost in the Shell
God or Dog
Golden Chicken
Golden Chicken 2
Goodbye, Dragon Inn
Guru, The
Hana-Bi (Fireworks)
Harold and Kumar
Hidden Blade, The
House of Flying Daggers
House of Fury
House of Sand and Fog
Howl's Moving Castle
I Not Stupid
In the Mood for Love
Infernal Affairs
Infernal Affairs III
Innocence: Ghost in the Shell 2
Iron Ladies 2
Isle, The
Jan Dara
Jealousy is My Middle Name
Joint Security Area
Ju-On: The Grudge (2003)
July Rhapsody
Korban Fitnah
Kung Fu Hustle
Lan Yu
Last Life in the Universe
Last Samurai, The
Legend of Zu, The
Liang Po Po
Love Letter
Lucky Number
Marry a Rich Man
Me Thao
Medallion, The
Monrak Transistor
Moveable Feast, A
Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.
Musa the Warrior
My Left Eye Sees Ghosts
My Neighbors The Yamadas
My Sassy Girl
Naked Weapon
Name of a River, The
New Police Story
Nobody Knows
Nobody Knows How to be a Film Critic
One Leg Kicking
Perfect Blue
Phone, The
Ping Pong
Pirated Copy
Princess D
River, The
Road Home
Romance of Book and Sword
Runaway Pistol
S Diary
S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine
Scent of Green Papaya
Seoul Raiders
Seventeen Years
Shall We Dance?
Shanghai Knights
Shaolin Soccer
Singapore Gaga
Skywalk is Gone
So-Called Friends
So Close
Someone Special
Song of the Stork
Spider Forest
Spirited Away
Spring Summer Fall Winter Spring
Stories About Love
Storm Riders
Summer Holiday
Sumpah Pontianak
Super Size Me
Surprise Party
Swing Girls
Tale of Two Sisters, A
Tears of the Black Tiger
Teenage Textbook Movie
This Charming Girl
Three: Extremes
Tokyo Raiders
Touch, The
Tree, The
Truth or Dare
Twelve Storeys
Twenty-Four Eyes
Twins Effect
Twins Effect 2
Virgin Stripped Bare by her Bachelors
Visitor Q
Volcano High
Warriors of Heaven and Earth
Way Home, The
Welcome Back Mr McDonald
Wesley's Mysterious File
When I Fall In Love With Both
Wishing Stairs
Wolves Cry Under the Moon
Woman is the Future of Man
Women's Private Parts
World Without Thieves, A
Zombie Dog
A Time to Live A Time to Die
e-mail me

   Big Durian  


The Big Durian

1. Reviewed by Justin Santiago 2. Comments by Ambient Noise

Director : Amir Muhammad
Writing Credits: Amir Muhammad
Country: Malaysia
Language: English, Malay, Cantonese
Genre: Drama
Year Released: 2003
Runtime: 75 min

1. Review by Justin Santiago

Rating: **½ (out of four stars)

Amir Muhammad gives no excuses for his latest film, The Big Durian. If he appears to give a myopic view about the events surrounding Operation Lalang, the third biggest swoop under Malaysia’s Internal Security Act which detained more than one hundred people without trial on 27th October 1987, then you are the one who needs to get spectacles.

The movie is a social commentary and was scripted in a way that intersperses readings of newspaper articles during that period with on the ground interviews with people remotely connected with incidents of that day. On the surface it shows the different races living in Malaysian coping at their comic best with each having to live under different sets of rules. On a deeper level it tries to provoke a response to a personal view that the constitutional rights of Malaysian citizens to their fundamental liberties of freedom of speech, assembly and association are being held hostage.

The film however does not touch upon the fact that such controls are imposed by governments on citizens all over the world and that Malaysia is not unique in that respect. It does not say anything positive about the fact that Malaysia has come a long way in allowing such a film to be produced in the first place!

Some observations about The Big Durian. Many of the people interviewed were social activists or were connected with social activists which gave the film an uneven balance. Also, a lot of footage was devoted to Private Adam, the trigger-happy soldier who ran amok and killed three people during those tense moments although two questions remained, "Who is Private Adam?" and "What has happened to Private Adam?"

A couple of notable achievements:

The Big Durian was shot in an amazingly nine days according to producer, James Lee and seeing that shooting was completed just 11 days before the closing date for the Singapore Film Festival.

The Big Durian is refreshingly Malaysian - a mixture of languages, cast and crew which blended quite well into an end product that Malaysians of all races can identify with.

2. Comments by Ambient Noise

A good friend once told me, When the government calls our society a 'multiracial' one, that is in itself a racist statement. Racist, perhaps not because the government delineates the citizenry according to ethnicity but because that truism was only ever intended to convey a tourist-brochure picture of a melting-pot society. Indeed, too often are minority views (in Malaysia as well as Singapore) subsumed under the hegemony of the ethnic majority. Swirling beneath politically correct surfaces are strong undercurrents of ethnic resentment, prejudices and misconceptions. For the sake of harmony, unity and social order, we should all just shut up, put on a happy face and treat those issues are nonexistent.

Not anymore.

Amir Muhammad explodes the myth of a multiracial society and makes us confront what we’ve known all along: 'harmony' is merely an excuse for not bothering to listen to what others are saying. The Big Durian uses the incident of Private Adam's amok with an M16 in Chow Kit, 1987 as a starting point to examine the issues of race, religion, the Internal Security Act, neo-feudalism and, most worryingly, bad 80's pop music. Imbued with Amir's characteristic humour, wit and candor, this film doesn't play with kid gloves but invites you to bust it open with a parang and deal with what you find within.

But why should anyone here give a damn about it?

Because it is the first truly Malaysian movie.

Everyone in this movie is uniquely, identifiably Malaysian. "Malaysia truly Asia"? Bollocks. There is not a hint of political correctness in here. This is how Malaysians (at least KLites) talk, and what they talk about. They speak in Cantonese, Hokkien, Malay, English or East Malaysian dialects. They speculate, they gossip, they recollect, they opine. One person who made the strongest impression on me was political scientist, Dr. Farish Noor. Speaking in mellifluous Malay, his words were strident and provocative. My favorite quote of this Fest comes from him:

"Budaya politik kita ni langsung tidak bertamadun." ("Our political culture is absolutely uncivilized)."

If I have just one complaint, it is that those unfamiliar with Malaysian's socio-political landscape may find the deluge of names, places and events overwhelming. Amir, after all, made the film for his people, for Malaysians. If we feel it doesn’t pander to outsiders, then that’s our problem.

The Big Durian is a film that sticks in the memory. It raises questions. It persuades us that, in a multiethnic society, perhaps what's needed is not tolerance but dialogue. Dialogue, without fear or fervor but with the understanding that we are all in this together, and no-one should get left behind or cast aside.