Photographer Edmund Lee
Stylist Azreezal Hafidz
Make-up artist Fendi Sani using Dior Beauty
Hair artist Yusof Ruzaimi
This story was first published in Prestige Malaysia August 2019 issue
“I have never been so proud to be Malaysian,” Dian shares, reflecting on her experience in making the documentary. “Because it is not just about the victory. Even before the election,I said that it doesn’t matter the outcome because we have won the battle for change. The amount of ground movement that was happening. – the Undi Rabu, Pulang Mengundi movement. People were organising themselves. These are the things that were never heard of before.”
The documentary reveals many aspects of election night taking place within the confines of Sheraton PJ that till now would only have been privy to a privileged few. Unbeknownst to us, at one point during the night, police descended upon the ballroom, armed with machine guns.
“The immediate instinct was fear,” recalls Dian. “But it wasn’t. It was because they knew the results and they wanted to make sure that everything would move smoothly.
“This is one of the first times that you get to see the rough and tumble of it,” explains Ineza. “Everyone really didn’t know what to do with the process because it had never happened before. They were all trying to figure it out on the go. It felt very new to everyone and we were all on a rollercoaster. It took many hours, the results were slowly trickling in…”
Now that we are more than a year into the “New Malaysia,” Dian hopes that this behind the scenes look will serve as a reminder to all Malaysians.
“To be able to change governments without a shed of blood through the ballot box is something that we all should be very, very proud of,” she stresses.
But she reminds that there is still much to accomplish. However, the intention is that this film will inspire people to reflect on the events that surrounded GE14, and with that, continue the debate around building the new Malaysia.
“There are still so many things that need to happen but we, the people, need to continue the conversation,” adds Dian. “Young people need to participate, need to be politically aware and have their voices heard.”
A version of M for Malaysia has already made the film circuit and has been showcased to international audiences. The response, thus far, has been pretty overwhelming, giving Malaysians living abroad the opportunity to resolve some of their feelings towards the country.
“The response has gone beyond all expectations,” says Dian. “To give them some sort of catharsis and pride for what we have achieved back home has been really overwhelming.”
One such moment took place in New Zealand. The organiser of the festival there talked of his father who left Malaysia in the ‘80s “bitter and angry,” not returning since. After watching the documentary, the 80-year-old informed his son that he is now ready to go back.
“It is sentiments like these that make it worth it,” says Dian. The mother of three admits that her filmmaking journey has not been without sacrifice. There were missed birthdays, her son’s primary school graduation, family celebrations. “Small” compared to sacrifices of others, she says, but sacrifices nonetheless. Also, with the making of the documentary, the “closeted activist” has put herself “out there.”
“There were lots of moments when I questioned whether I was doing the right thing,” she admits. “But the response of the people, who have come up to me after almost every screening, and would hold my hand and say thank you for making this, makes everything worth it.”
With the impending Malaysian premiere, the filmmakers find themselves somewhat anxious given the intensity of the current political divide. They are fully aware that the film is not going to appeal to “everyone,” but they hope that Malaysians have achieved a level of maturity that will allow for the acceptance of contrasting views.
“I was in Langkawi during nomination day and there were these two groups, one was from PAS and the other was Pakatan. They were talking and laughing with each other. I went up to them and asked them about being on opposite sides and they replied kita matang. That’s what democracy is about. We have different opinions but we can be mature and objective. We must have our own voice and we must make a stand. It is so important.”
The objective, after all, she adds is the same “that we want a better country.”
For Ineza who describes herself an “introvert,” though the upcoming premiere is “pretty scary,” she believes that the storytelling has been honest and authentic – she wouldn’t have done it otherwise – and she hopes that people will see it, even if it is simply because it is something different from what Malaysian audiences would typically see. Till now, the idea of a political documentary being shown in local cinemas has been unlikely.
For Dian, it is more imperative that people watch it and “remember,” particularly those in the current government.
“There was really so much hope and good in that we have a chance to hit the reset button and make things right,” she says. “I want them to remember what it took for this to happen because it didn’t happen overnight. It took so much to get us to where we are, so don’t mess it up. It is a very hopeful time in the nation.”
M for Malaysia will open in cinemas in September 2019