18 August 2009, 19:42 | Text: Dmitri Tselikov | Listen to this news
A group of Malaysian filmmakers produced 15 short films dedicated to contemporary issues of racism, corruption and religion, which are now available to be seen on the Internet.
This is a rare occurrence in the country, where the mass media avoids such problematic topics, being under strict censorship.
Potong Saga, the first of the five-minute films, which humorously portrays a Chinese man's attempt to open an account in an Islamic bank, was released yesterday (see link below). The remaining 14 short films, both comical and serious, will be laid out on the Web over the course of the month.
"Television is under strict censorship, but on the Internet people can be more candid," reckons Pete Teo, producer of the 15Malaysia project.
Many famous people participated in the production of the films, including politicians - for example, one legislator has played a taxi driver - this indicates the public's gradual willingness to put aside taboos in discussing racial and religious problems.
Malaysia is a multiracial Islamic state. The authorities believe that such talk (racism, corruption, religion, etc) may create threats to the stability of the country. Racial and religion-themed jokes are prohibited on television and in films. Actresses and female TV show hosts cannot expose their hands above the wrists so as not to upset conservative Muslims.
The Internet remains free of censorship; the government implemented the promise made in the year 1996, at the same time created a lot of legislation to prosecute people who distribute 'materials of inflammatory, racist and abusive nature'.
Prepared from Associated Press material.
Translated with the help of Google translate (just so I don't have to check every word), my trusty Russian dictionary, my Kyrgyz friend Maxim and two years' worth of basic Russian vocabulary that was obtained more than 3 years ago (read: fast dwindling). Maxim tells me that that still photo displaying Malaysian soldiers (caption reads "Malaysian soldiers celebrate Army Day") is completely irrelevant to the article.