Yasmin Ahmad. A name that needs no further introduction as she’s no stranger in the Malaysian film industry.
Malaysians mourned the day she passed away exactly nine years ago, on 25 July 2009.
The critically-acclaimed director's demise left a big impact not only on the industry but also those who admired her work. She was a human extraordinaire, to be honest; she was a daughter, a wife, a friend, a director, but most importantly, an amazing storyteller.
Her craft was undoubtedly on the rare end of the filmmaking or storytelling spectrum. It was compelling, honest, sincere, and resonates with many Malaysians. She had a quality, a certain je ne sais quoi,
that no other director in Malaysia can compare to.
She left us far too soon, but that doesn’t mean she left us forever. You can ‘find’ her through the masterpieces she’s done over the years such as Sepet
, and of course, the countless memorable Petronas ads.
In order to commemorate the anniversary of her passing and to celebrate the life she put into her work, we ask Malaysians including those who have personally worked with her on why they love the late Yasmin Ahmad.
A Motherly Figure, A Loveable Character
Award-winning actor Syafie Naswip
was one of the many people who had the privilege to work with Yasmin Ahmad. His breakthrough role in Mukhsin
introduced Malaysians to him. He later starred in Talentime
, Yasmin’s last feature film.
When asked what was she like in person, he has nothing but love and praises for her.
“She’s eccentric, she’s a focused person and knows what she wants and what she’s working on.”
“But what I love the most about her is, she doesn’t discriminate anyone, she treats everyone equally no matter who you are or where you’re from. She’s such a motherly figure and will treat you like family.”
One of the qualities Syafie admires the most is her sincerity. It shines through her work, and even when she’s giving advice.
Among her many words of wisdoms that she shared, there was one that Syafie kept close to his heart.
“Jangan buat kerja untuk anugerah, sebab yang luar biasa itu datang dari Tuhan.”
A Tale Told to Be Remembered for Generations
Admit it, if you’ve watched all of Yasmin’s movies, you’d agree that her movies are timeless classics and age like fine wine. So, we asked a few Malaysians which movie or ad is their favourite.
For Syafie Naswip, his all-time favourite aren’t the ones he has starred in, it was actually Sepet
. The film depicts something that’s rarely highlighted in local films and TV shows – interracial love.
“It’s highly unusual that a film’s main plot or theme revolves around interracial love and the fact that it featured a Chinese lead actor in a Malay movie made it more unique,” Syafie told Rojak Daily
Syafie wasn’t the only one in the Sepet
camp, talent manager Sofia Farhana also echoed the same thoughts.
“She wasn’t the typical filmmaker, she steered away from all the cheesy chick flick themes, she created a masterpiece and touched our hearts without trying so hard.”
As for writer Hafizan Mohd, it was the beautifully crafted Mukhsin
that struck a chord with him.
“There is something exceptional about Mukhsin
that cannot be found in any other movies. It was pure, real and unpretentious,” Hafizan said.
“The characters all fit beautifully with the story’s setting and timeline. The movie realistically depicts what happens in a Malay society without sugar-coating it like most TV dramas or movies do.”
“The term ‘makcik bawang’ (people who like to gossip) was coined recently and went viral but Yasmin did it way before it became a term in Mukhsin
11 years ago.”
Her ads also resonated with many Malaysians even until today.
Among the favourites and memorable ones were the “Ikan di laut, asam di darat” featuring two friends Raju and Suparjo and of course, the young and innocent ‘love story’ between Tan Hong Ming and Ummi Khazriena.
After Nine Years, She’s Still Loved and Celebrated
When asked what people love and think about Yasmin, everyone had the same sentiment – she was anything but ordinary and there’s no one else in the world like her.
“Every time I re-watch her ads, the feeling is always the same as if I watched it for the first time. I’d laugh, I’d cry or get surprised over and over again. Not many people can achieve that through their work, but she did,” Syafie told us.
For producer Fara Syazween, it was Yasmin’s bravery that inspired her.
“She was a catalyst, she was the definition of change for the Malaysian film industry. She dared to be different, she was fearless.”
Sometimes, straying to the unconventional path poses its own risks, especially in our local film industry.
Yasmin believed in being different and although being different made her controversial at times, she managed to get her message across.
“She subtly educates people about the things that we don’t openly talk about or stuff that’s considered taboo in Malaysia,” Hafizan told Rojak Daily
He then gave examples where Yasmin touched about these taboo subjects that can be seen in the great storyteller’s movies.
there’s a conversation about tampon between Orked and her mum and in Gubra
, a bilal
(someone who recites the call for prayer for Muslims) pats a dog while making his way to the mosque for morning prayers.”
Yasmin Ahmad may have left us, but in all honesty, she hasn’t left completely.
You can still feel her presence through her works in which she immaculately weaved her passion and soul into each piece. She was a rarity in the world, like a rose without a thorn, blooming gracefully in a garden of wonders.
There is indeed, no one like her. We miss you, Yasmin Ahmad.