Akmal Abdullah and Berita Harians brainless report

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An open letter to Akmal Abdullah, deputy editor of Berita Harian

Dear Akmal Abdullah,

I am not particularly pleased that you exist. Why is this so, when we haven't even met and you don't know me from Adam? But is that so surprising - considering your predilection for campaigning to ban movies you haven't even seen? Well, Akmal, I think you ought to be banned from paradise - unless you wise up and 'fess up to having been an outright obstruction.

July 29, last Saturday, was the day Kakikino (the feisty film club) was going to screen my first feature-length documentary, 'Rhythm of the Rainforest.' Months ago it had been all planned, they even e-mailed me an electronic flyer advertising their programme for the last week of July. Indeed, three days ago Martin Scorsese's 208-minute documentary on Bob Dylan - 'No Direction Home' - was to have been shown, and I was feeling quite chuffed about having my own work aired on the same programme.

However, you ruined it all by writing a brainless report in Berita Harian about 'babak lucah' (apparently some easily-shocked woman had caught a glimpse of nudity in a recently screened foreign movie and complained to you about it). I couldn't believe that would be enough to shut down Kakikino, whose free screenings of local and international films was an immensely positive feature of life in the traffic-clogged and besmogged Klang Valley. Bizarrely, one hysterical, hypocritical protest was all it took to panic the politicos. Over what? A fleeting glimpse of female nipples on the screen?

It defies all reason and rhyme, that we are permitted to view dismembered and mutilated bodies but, to protect our 'moral fibre', are forbidden to behold the beauty of the unadorned human form. What do you call this pathetic aberration, this obscene perversion of true human

values? Are you by any chance the reincarnation of Oliver Cromwell, who hid his insane lust for power over others behind a mask of puritanical piety?

Sabotaging Kakikino's efforts to facilitate access to quality films isn't your only offence against intellectual freedom and cultural maturity. Around the same time, I heard about your tirade on national TV against Yasmin Ahmad's latest film, 'Gubra.' You reportedly accused Yasmin of eroding the Melayu ethos with her cinematic tales of interracial romance and tolerance of canines. Hello? Have you been feeding your brain with putrid notions, Akmal?

I don't know Yasmin Ahmad personally, but I do appreciate what she has accomplished for Malaysian cinema. Mainly, she has restored a measure of intelligence and sensitivity to the medium. Indeed, Yasmin's work is enormously therapeutic for a multiracial community pathologically afraid to examine its own fears and prejudices. Do we forbid honest discussion because it might cause some jingoistic idiot to run amok with a parang of self-righteous rectitude, smiting innocent film-lovers and practitioners of cinematic art?

As if that wasn't enough havoc created, you then went on the rampage against Amir Muhammad's latest movie ('Lelaki Komunis Terakhir'), causing venerable members of parliament to actually sit down in a darkened cinema and watch an offbeat - and possibly arty-farty - offering from our well-known enfant terrible. As none of these politicos has since unsubscribed from the capitalist way of life (as far as I know), one can only assume that Amir's quasi-musical on Chin Peng was

more whimsical than subversive. However, the fact remains that the politicos banned the movie (after unanimously declaring it boring and amateurish).

Now that's not good news for anyone who supports artistic, intellectual, cultural and spiritual growth. Banning books and movies is an act of odious, insufferable suppression of innovative ideas and the creative impulse itself. It is, like the nightmarish Spanish Inquisition, life-denying rather than affirming. This sort of cultural witch-hunting stunts the mind and starves the soul, it's aggressively regressive behaviour that serves only to breed a nation of brain-dead zombies.

Akmal Abdullah, you stand accused of suppressing art and denying life. Have you anything to say in your own defence? When you look into a mirror, are you happy to be the person looking back? Do you see a frog trapped under your own obscurantist coconut shell?

Will you repent and henceforth channel your energies towards being creative rather than destructive? Or will you dig in your reactionary heels and doggedly remain a blight on the face of the earth with your acute case of 'cemburu kampungitis'? The Chinese have an instructive saying about this: 'The midget does not grow taller by chopping off other people's heads'.

Please heed these words if you'd rather be greeted by decent folk with a pat on the back instead of a kick in the butt.

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