What surprises about Webtvasia’s Rise Ini Kalilah was its cautious determination not to over-vilify anyone. Not too much, that is.
Rise Ini Kalilah Synopsis
The experiences and dilemmas of Malaysians before and during their country’s May 2018 General Election are depicted in this compilation of six interconnected stories. Characters featured include a policeman torn between providing for his family and staying righteous, a disfranchised overseas student, a disgruntled worker returning home to vote, and a young teacher aghast at the open corruption swirling around her.
Before I get down to the review proper, allow me to highlight certain challenges I’m facing.
- I mostly refrain from watching movies with strong political themes i.e. it’s not my “thing.” Not that I’m apolitical. I just tend to be too affected.
- A Singaporean blogger commenting on a Malaysian film inspired by the momentous events of Malaysia GE 14? Touchy! Like all neighbours, we grin and hug for photos, but fight over everything, including who has the right to claim certain dishes as national cuisine. Just how do I avoid being offensive?
- (2) is not helped by the fact that despite Webtvasia’s insistence, Rise Ini Kalilah is still a strongly political film. One favouring the new Pakatan government. There are many Singaporeans uncomfortable with that change i.e. I risk irking the local trolls.
- I tend to avoid movies inspired by political change because they often veer toward being preachy or demanding. In the process, souring the viewing experience.
Because of these challenges, I was hesitant to accept Webtvasia’s invitation to the premiere screening of Rise Ini Kalilah. Well, I’m glad I ultimately did go, because surprisingly, the movie was far from being as in-your-face or as critical as one would expect.
Rather than focus on political crusading, or the shaming of the BN government, the movie opted to present straight-forward, relatable stories of common Malaysians swept up by a political tide. Including the experiences of those who might have preferred for the election not to have happened just so as to be spared the decisions involved.
This direction, to a great extent, made Rise Ini Kalilah palatable to a (semi) foreign viewer like me. Actually, I even found myself relating to one of the key characters, this being the disfranchised student away in London. She initially just wanted to stay away from it all. Despite the movie never explicitly explaining why, I could somehow sense the reasons for her disposition.
Surprising relatability considered, the movie is not without its flaws, an obvious one being the unevenness of the characters. While the character progressions of the policeman and the student were well depicted, I was constantly grasping for the thoughts of the Chinese worker returning home.
There were also the Dr. Mahathir moments, archival footage which I felt unnecessarily pushed the movie towards being partisan propaganda. All in all, though, Rise Ini Kalilah was in no way the brash, politically strident mouthpiece I thought it would be. It stumbles a little here and there, but overall, it is an enthusiastic and digestible celebration of Malaysian integrity. More importantly, it is an earnest production that international viewers wouldn’t find unfathomable.
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