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Yasmin Ahmad retrospective at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies

The Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa is presenting a retrospective of the acclaimed Malaysian film director Yasmin Ahmad at the Doris Duke Theatre at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. The retrospective will screen all four of her feature films, including MUKSHIN, her latest film, which won two prizes at this year's Berlin Film Festival. The retrospective will also screen Ahmad's "Orked" trilogy, which explores love, religion and race in a multi-cultural Malaysia.

Director Ahmad will fly from Kuala Lumpur to attend the screenings.

Roger Garcia, former director of the Hong Kong International Film Festival said of Ahmad that, "It's rare to find a woman filmmaker in Muslim society, and even rarer when she is an outspoken talent unafraid of controversy." Paul Rausch, Associate Director of the Center, said, “Ahmad's films are deeply inspired by the Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu and display scenes of everyday life with a depth of emotion. The Yasmin Ahmad retrospective is a unique opportunity for the people of Hawaii to hear stories from a part of the world that often goes underreported here in the west.”

This event is sponsored by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, a National Resource Center for Southeast Asia at the University of Hawai`i. All films will be screened at the Doris Duke Theatre, Honolulu Academy of Arts and will be free and open to the public.

Director Ahmad will appear in person after the screenings of GUBRA (April 14) and MUKSHIN (April 15) for a moderated discussion and extended question-and-answer session. An opening reception for the director will be hosted by NETPAC (Network for the Promotion of Asian
Cinema) on Friday, April 13, 4:00 pm., The Cupola at the Honolulu Design Center, 1250 Kapiolani Blvd. Cost $23/NETPAC members/$25 non- members. For more information, contact Jeannette Paulson-Hereniko at
(808) 396-8353.

Malaysian-born Yasmin Ahmad graduated with a BA in Psychology from a
university in the United Kingdom and landed a job in banking.
Subsequently, she joined IBM as a Marketing Representative and moonlighted, by night, as an infamously rude blues pianist at a club called Scandals. This lasted a year. Next came copywriting at Ogilvy & Mather. She describes her venture into advertising as "a clueless girl with a dislocated personality stumbling into a haven for failed novelists and talentless playwrights". Eight years later, Yasmin joined Leo Burnett Kuala Lumpur as Creative Director at the less-than- tender age of 34. Yasmin is now Executive Creative Director, mostly known for the social statements she weaves into corporate ads for Petronas, the Malaysia owned oil and gas company. As a filmmaker, her work has screened at the Berlin, San Francisco and Singapore International Film Festivals. Yasmin Ahmad served on the jury for the 2007 Fajr International Film Festival in Tehran, Iran. Her latest film, MUKSHIN, received the Glass Bear (Special Mention) and the Grand Prix of the Kinderfilmfest International Jury at 2007 Berlin Film Festival.



April 13 7:30 p.m. RABUN

April 14 4:00 p.m. SEPET
7:30 p.m. GUBRA

April 15 7:30 p.m. MUKHSIN

Where: Doris Duke Theatre, Honolulu Academy of Arts
900 South Beretania Street, Honolulu, HI
1 808 532 8768


2003, Malaysia, 35mm, Malay w/E.S., 1h25m

Retired couple Mak Inom and Pak Atan leave the countryside to live in the city with their daughter Orked who has just started working. They often complain to Orked that city folks are not as civil as their neighbors and relatives in the country. Upon discovering that she has inherited her late father's house in the country Mak Inom grabs the chance to do it up so they can return to enjoy some idyllic weekend breaks. Things take a surprising turn when they discover that their relatives have been making some shady deals with the contractor whom they assigned to do the renovations.

-Tokyo International Film Festival

2004, Malaysia, 35mm, Malay, English and Cantonese w/E.S., 1h55m

It's rare to find a woman filmmaker in Muslim society, and even rarer when she is an outspoken talent unafraid of controversy. In her second film, Yasmin Ahmad tells a story of interracial teenage love, between Chinese Jason, a peddler of pirated videos, and Orked, a Malay schoolgirl who likes Hong Kong movies. Sepet is Malay for “single eyelid” but pejoratively it means “slit eyes.” From this provocative title the film penetrates stereotypes of race and narrative to explore the complexities of a multiracial society that has institutionalized the superiority of the Malay race and Islamic religion. The film’s opening moves from Sam Hui’s yearning Cantopop song to Jason reading Indian poet Tagore’s work in Chinese translation to his Peranakan (mixed Malay-Chinese descendant) mother.
This frames the multi-Asian strands of Malaysian society, film tradition and modernity, the Malay-Chinese-Indian pyramid, and the purity and impurity of culture all set within a classic maternal metaphor.In this context, Ahmad’s gentle and engaging tale of doomed love assumes both political and personal dimensions. In its own subtle way, it stands as a signal work both of the new Malaysian independent cinema and as a heartfelt plea for tolerance.

-San Francisco International Film Festival

2006, Malaysia, 35mm, Malay, English w/E.S., 1h34m

Early in GUBRA, amorous horseplay between young Orked and her husband Arif is interrupted by a frantic phone call from her mother: "We are losing your father!" Orked and Arif rush to her parents' house and, amidst much wailing and scolding, load him into a car and drive him to the hospital. It is a comic reminder of the hysteria that can accompany any family crisis and the catalyst for an important encounter at the hospital with the brother of Orked's lost love, Jason. The story of Orked's interracial love affair with Jason was told in SEPET, but GUBRA is more than just a sequel. This meditation on forgiveness portrays the variations of familial love and malice through the stories of four families: the happy marriage of a muezzin and his wife, the two prostitutes they befriend, Orked's boisterously affectionate Malaysian family and Jason's working class Chinese family. Sharifah Amani reprises her role as the tiny, shrewd Orked, and Harith Iskander and Ida Nerina return as her parents. Nam Ron gives a solid performance as Pak Bilal Li, the muezzin whose religious outlook is solidly rooted in compassion, and Abidah Noor is wonderful as a hefty, no-nonsense servant so beloved by Orked's family that they would never dream of referring to her as the maid.
Ahmad successfully combines the comic and the tragic as her characters face betrayals that range from petty cruelty to outright brutality and confront the question of what is and is not forgivable.

-San Francisco International Film Festival

North American Premiere!
2006, Malaysia, 35mm, Malay, English w/E.S., 1h34m

A prequel, of sorts, to SEPET, features an adult Orked (Sharifah
Amani) talking to her ten-year-old self (played by Amani's real life sister, Alliyah). Mukhsin is a boy, Orked, a girl, and there comes a point in their lives when this becomes important. Orked comes from a strong family and is consequently not afraid to play with boys. When she meets Mukhsin, the two soon become the best of friends. He constructs a second seat on his bike and before long they are pedalling down the avenues and out into the meadows to fly kites.
When evening comes around they are wont to sit on the branch of a tree, dreaming. Orked finds it strange when, at times like these, Mukhsin gently brushes her arm. Friendships can change. When the boy curses at her, Orked brusquely rebuffs him. Coming from her mouth, the word 'no' seems particularly harsh - especially when it means never. MUKSHIN received the Glass Bear (Special Mention) and the Grand Prix of the Kinderfilmfest International Jury at 2007 Berlin Film Festival.


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