Category Archives: directing

Wayang kulit, pigs and Islam


Wayang kulit, pigs and Islam
By Zan Azlee

I remember many years ago, I directed a documentary film about Dollah Baju Merah, the last classically trained wayang kulit dalang in Malaysia from Kelantan. He has since passed on and I was the last person to officially interview him and to document his last wayang kulit performance on camera.

What I remember most about the interview was how he tried to explain to me his relationship with his art using a pig analogy. During an election year, he thought he was being religious by voting for a religious party (guess what party?), but it ended with him being ostracised for practicing his art.

“Those whom I voted for declared that wayang kulit is haram because it has non-Islamic roots. And whoever practices it is committing a sin,” he said.

“But let me explain to you about pigs. A pig is an animal created by God. The pig itself isn’t haram. It’s just an animal like any other animal in the world. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

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In bleak times, faith in Allah should prevail


In bleak times, faith in Allah should prevail
By Zan Azlee

Three years ago, I remember shooting a television reportabout the “Allah” issue in Malaysia for a Dutch news agency. I had interviewed Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew, PAS parliamentarian Khalid Samad, the then home minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and several Malaysians.

The situation was tense then. The court case against the Catholic weekly Herald was taking place and a church in Klang was set on fire. It was a sad, depressing and humiliating time for Malaysia and its people when racial and religious tension was at an all-time low.

I have always used my column here at The Malaysian Insider as a platform to try and encourage discourse and understanding towards multiracialism and pluralism. It’s been so many years and I continue to use this platform, including every other media platform I have access to, for that purpose.

Now, we are in 2014. And what is the situation we are facing with regards to racial and religious tension? Has there been an improvement? The case against the Herald still exists. The issue of the word “Allah” being used by non-Muslims is being brandied around. And protests are happening.

It seems like Malaysia and its people haven’t gotten very far ahead since that television news story I did five years ago for that Dutch news agency. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Students protest the rising cost of living on New Year’s Eve (TURUN)


Students protest the rising cost of living on New Year’s Eve
By Zan Azlee

As any other New Year’s Eve celebration in Kuala Lumpur, Dataran Merdeka was jam-packed with people who were there to usher in the New Year and to enjoy the live performances that have been organised there for years without fail.

But this year, the situation was a little bit different. A call by Gerakan Turun Kos Sara Hidup (TURUN), Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia (SMM), Jingga 13 and Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) saw thousands gathering there as well, but for a different reason. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

Don’t doubt the ‘lost at sea explanation’


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Don’t doubt the ‘lost at sea explanation’
By Zan Azlee

As many would know, aside from writing my articles, I am also a broadcast journalist and documentary filmmaker. Hence, a lot of my time is spent on film and television production shoots. I shoot alone as a solo-journalist and also with a crew whenever the treatment calls for it.

I have been in many different and sometimes unnatural and even dangerous situations when I am on my production shoots. I have been in quiet and serene environments such as in the jungle, small villages and air-conditioned studios where everything is nice and comfortable.

I have been in war and conflict areas whereby I have had to wear protective gear such as helmets and bullet-proof vests. I have even had to learn to shoot a gun (which I hated). I have been in huge protests, riots and demonstrations where people around me have been shot at, gassed, bludgeoned and even pelted with concrete slabs.

I have had experiences shooting on flat ground, on hilltops and mountains, on skyscrapers, underground, and even in the sky. But I have to admit, there was one situation in which I have to say was the most dangerous of all, and that was when I had to shoot on a boat at sea. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

The opening up of Myanmar… on In Focus tonight on Astro AWANI!


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The opening up of Myanmar
By Zan Azlee

Myanmar is a country close to my heart. It’s not because I have relatives there or that I’ve lived there before. In fact, it’s because I have failed in my attempts over the years to enter the country as a journalist.

The most recent failure was in early 2012. But this year, I finally made it into the country successfully. And I’m convinced that it is due to how the country’s military junta government has slowly started to open up to the world, allowing foreign journalists in and freeing up the media (relatively).

In fact, it isn’t just the foreign media that has been entering the country, an increase in foreign investments such as GLCs and SMEs have been on the rise due to the lifting of trade sanctions, with countries like South Korea, Japan and Malaysia leading the pack.

And with my trip into the country, it is clear that this has directly affected the economics of Myanmar in a positive way. The number of jobs is increasing and Yangon, although with buildings and people who look like they are from a time two decades ago, is bustling with activity.

Progress is progress and we have to acknowledge it no matter how slow or late it comes. But problems are problems and it will still exist, especially for a country that is now forced to have to adapt to a new world order fast if they want to survive.

The local workforce is still obscenely underpaid with normal blue collar workers earning an average of between 10,000 and 25,000 Kyat a month (RM36.40 to RM91.00), while local journalists are still very sceptical about the government’s approach to the media.

Aung San Su Kyi, who has been the symbol of human rights and democracy in Myanmar, has been freed from house arrest and is even now a member of parliament. But, in recent months, has kept quiet on issues that she would have made a fuss about back then.

During my trip, I meet lots of everyday Burmese (or Myanma) from journalists to factory workers, and even taxi drivers and cobblers, and they tell me about life in the country from their perspective.

So tune in to the last episode this season of In Focus this Tuesday, 24th September 2013, at 8:30pm on Astro AWANI.

*This entire episode of In Focus was shot on a smart phone.