FAT BIDIN MEDIA


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.
[Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]
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In Focus: Singapore Rebel

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Tonight’s ‘In Focus‘ documentary episode takes a look at how Singapore, a country so representative of first world development is also one that is notorious for media censorship and also curbing freedom of speech. I hang out with a couple of artists (Art Fazil, Martyn See, Lee Kim Min aka Mr. Brown) on the island to understand better their situation.

In Focus
Tuesdays
8:30pm
Astro AWANI (501)

If you can’t wait for tonight, there is also an online special to preempt the TV version. Just click on English.AstroAwani.Com to check it out.



In Focus: A struggling Vietnamese rock music industry in a booming economy

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Tonight’s ‘In Focus‘ documentary episode takes a look at how a fledgling alternative rock music industry is struggling to survive in a country whose economy is among the highest growing in the world – Vietnam! So tune in as I interview Vietnamese rockers and death-metallers to find out their struggles and ambitions. ARGHHH!!

In Focus
Tuesdays
8:30pm
Astro AWANI (501)

If you can’t wait for tonight, there is also an online special to preempt the TV version. Just click on English.AstroAwani.Com to check it out.



In Focus: The Istanbul riots (Part 2)

‘In Focus‘ tonight is the second and final part of my Turkey Riots special. It’s like BOOM!! So make sure you tune in.

In Focus
Tuesdays
8:30pm
Astro AWANI (501)

There is also an online special to preempt the TV version. Just click on English.AstroAwani.Com to check it out.



In Focus: The Istanbul riots (Part 1)

My documentary series ‘In Focus‘ is going on strong in it’s second season. Tonight’s episode is something many should be looking forward to (or so I say!) as it is an in-depth, on the ground look at the Istanbul riots in Turkey. Being in Istanbul during this period is pretty intense and this is only part 1 of a 2-part series (9th and 16th July). So make sure you tune in.

In Focus
Tuesdays
8:30pm
Astro AWANI (501)

There is also an online special to preempt the TV version. Just click on English.AstroAwani.Com to check it out.



‘IN FOCUS’ is on NJOI AWANI’s YouTube page… means you get to watch it over and over again!

If you missed the first episode of IN FOCUS, which was on Astro AWANI 501, then you’re in luck! You get to watch it on NJOI AWANI’s YouTube page over and over and over and over and over again! The first episode sees me checking out how the street protest industry works in Egypt in Tunisia!

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Working together with Karim Raslan on the TV version of his column ‘Ceritalah’… on Asto AWANI!

Ceritalah Malaysia is the TV version of Karim Raslan’s long running newspaper column and book series where he travels the country speaking to ordinary Malaysians to get a sense of the true Malaysia. I used to read Karim’s writings more than ten years ago when I first started writing myself (funnily.. I haven’t read his stuff in quite a while now! muahaha!). But now we’re working together… and it’s pretty cool!

Produced by Zan Azlee and Karim Raslan for Astro AWANI (501). Every Monday nights, starting tonight, at 9:30pm (with repeats throughout the week).

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Google’s top 2012 searches… that led to my website!

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2012 according to Google
By Zan Azlee

DEC 28 ― The year is coming to an end and it is time to look back and reflect upon the momentous events of the passing year. I thought it would be a good idea to look back at 2012’s top ten searches on Google… and that led to my website, Fatbidin.com!

10. Ridhuan Tee Abdullah

Number ten could be one that has given me the most pleasure this year. I disagree with everything this academician, TV host and writer ― whose real name is Tee Chuan Seng ― says. We had a brief heated exchange in our respective columns (his is in Sinar Harian), from which I emerged victorious.

9. Kabul

Being the gloriously brave war journalist and adrenaline junkie that I am, I went to Afghanistan to shoot a documentary. After a decade of war and after the Taliban, it’s quite a surprise that the country is still getting media coverage.

8. Bersih 3.0

This has to be one of the lowest points of the year. I witnessed things that I don’t ever want to witness in Malaysia again. The police were brutally attacking demonstrators and even journalists like a bunch of street thugs ― after they removed their nametags, of course. But the spirit of Malaysians that gathered, now that was a high point.

[Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]



I’m on the cover of a magazine… again! And I am looking beautiful!

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“Yeah pops… I’ve been on the cover of magazines too!”

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I’m on the cover of the Dec-Jan 2013 issue of 360 Celcius magazine! You’ve never heard of the magazine, you say? Well, neither have I, until recently! Hahaha! This is like the upteenth time I’ve been on the cover of a magazine/newspaper over the years. I wonder what is with the obsession they have with good-looking guys like me! Muahaha! (Click on the images above to read the article)



And a brick hits the Egyptian guy protesting next to me

A passion for documentaries
By Zan Azlee

NOV 30 — Shooting documentaries in the Middle-East isn’t for the faint-hearted; there is the harsh natural environment and, of course, the volatile political situation in the region. Still, I find myself in the region (as I have many times before) shooting a documentary about the Arab Spring. My first stop is Cairo, Egypt.

The first day I arrive and start shooting, a piece of broken concrete thrown by the police hits a protestor standing literally right next to me. His injured and unconscious body was carried to safety by fellow protestors while I stood there thinking that three feet of empty space was what kept me safe. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]



Is there such a thing as over-protesting?

When democracy is a double-edged sword
By Zan Azlee

NOV 23 — Sometimes democracy works in very funny ways. I recently observed this first hand in Cairo, Egypt, where a revolution recently ousted a dictatorship. Everyone is familiar with the Arab Spring and one of the countries that played a big role in it is Egypt, where I currently am shooting a documentary for Astro Awani.

Tahrir Square, in the heart of Cairo, was where the entire Egypt gathered after they were all tired of the dictator Hosni Mubarak and decided to bring him down. A country that was suppressed for years suddenly took matters into their own hands and turned themselves into a democracy. Now they have a new government that they chose themselves through democratic elections. A government led by a Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mohammed Morsi.

And so on the first day that I arrived in the city, I immediately headed to the iconic square (which I surprisingly find out isn’t square at all… it’s really a roundabout!). A crowd of about 300 people had gathered on a street off the square and were obviously demonstrating against something. They started to get quite violent, throwing rocks and what looked liked Molotov cocktails into a school that had been taken over by the police. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]



Will the real racist please stand up?

Will the real racist please stand up?
By Zan Azlee

OCT 19 — I was in Singapore recently to shoot a documentary on one of the Malay world’s greatest music icons, Zubir Said, who composed songs during the golden era of Malay cinema in the 1950s and ‘60s. P. Ramlee considered him a mentor and he even composed the Singapore national anthem. Zubir also submitted three songs for consideration for our national anthem but none was chosen.

But that isn’t the story here. The story that I am about to tell here really is about something that happened in Singapore while I was there for the said documentary. I had bumped into a Singaporean friend on the streets of this first world city-state and the first thing he said to me was: “There’s a story you can write about for your column!”

It was the Amy Cheong issue that was hot in the Singapore media. And spending many a lonely night in a cold hotel room watching Channel News Asia, I was very familiar with the story. A National Trade Union Council employee (Cheong) had posted a racist remark on her Facebook page that insulted the Malays (something to do with noisy and extravagant weddings!).

All hell broke loose and the first-world citizens of Singapore from all races raged against her. Not only that, the NTUC even sacked her. Then the politicians joined the fray, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong leading the way in condemning Cheong’s behaviour and saying that racial harmony must be maintained.

It played out for a few days and some Singaporeans even started calling for Cheong to be charged by the authorities for what she had said. Then the politicians stepped in again, saying that she had learned her lesson and everyone should move on. And it seems that things have indeed moved on over there.

Now that my shoot is over and I’m back home in my own country, I start reflecting. It seems to me that Singapore, like Malaysia, has her fair share of underlying racial problems. So do so many other countries. Yet, unlike Malaysia, overall, the people of Singapore are quite united in their stand against racism, or so it seems, or maybe I’m just naïve.

The first thing that has to go in Malaysia in my humble opinion is the racial-based politics that has existed in the country from the very first second of its birth. [Click to read the rest of the article at The Malaysian Insider]



TUNKU – The Documentary

I co-produced/directed a documentary on Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, for Malaysia Day with Noor Azam Shairi, an old Kelab Seni Filem buddy who is also now my colleague. The documentary, titled TUNKU, airs today (16 September 2012) at 6:30pm on ASTRO Awani (501). (Click here or the image above to watch the promo)

Repeats will be on:

Monday 17 Sept – 11am
Tuesday 18 Sept – 3:30pm
Thursday 20 Sept – 2:30am
Friday 21 Sept – 11:30am
Saturday 22 Sept – 5pm

It is the iznit of the izzle in the golden drizzle!



It was a different Malaysia…

It was a different Malaysia
By Zan Azlee

SEPT 7 — Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Tunku Ahmad Nerang, the son of the late Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s first prime minister. At 79 years old, slightly over six feet in height, and with a booming voice, one could get carried away that one is actually with the former prime minister himself.

My chat with him made me realise many things. I realised that Tunku Nerang and his family feel a sense of pride being of Tunku Abdul Rahman’s lineage. And this should rightfully be. Tunku Abdul Rahman was a great man who contributed and sacrificed a lot for the country.

I also realised that it was a different time then compared to now. It was a time when things were much simpler and happier.

“My father used to say that he was the poorest prime minister and also the happiest prime minister,” said Tunku Nerang.

Although I never met the man, from the stories I heard of him, it sounded like he was a very carefree person, yet very honest and sincere. And because of him, it gave me the impression that the country of Malaysia (or the Federation of Malaya) at that time was one that was carefree, honest and sincere too. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]



Irritating Hari Raya TV ads!

Irritating Hari Raya TV ads!
By Zan Azlee

AUG 17 — Have any of you seen the latest batch of Hari Raya television commercials yet? I don’t know about you but I’m getting pretty annoyed and irritated by them. It seems to me that they are all competing with each other to see who can make Malaysians cry the most… no matter what the cost! It’s like the end justifies the means or something. The worst this year has to be the one by Bernas.

It starts out at a boarding school or orphanage of some sort where a lot of young children are about to leave for the Hari Raya holidays. Everyone of them has family members coming to pick them up except for these two boys. One is speech-impaired and the other is blind.

The speech-impaired boy tells the blind boy about his mother in the village. So the blind boy suggests they ditch the school/orphanage and find their way to the village. They go through all kinds of challenges that would make me, a grown man in my 30s, give up on life. But, of course, these boys persevere. When they do reach the village, guess what? The speech-impaired boy’s mother is dead! They are there to visit a grave and he tells the blind boy that they can share a mother!

Well, cut my chest open, tear my heart out, throw it on the ground, stomp on it a few times, pick it back up, put out some cigarettes on it and shove it back in! What will they do next year to top off this year’s TV commercial? Film a quadruple amputee rolling on the ground and flash the words “Selamat Hari Raya” on screen? [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]



I became a ‘Lomo Amigo’! Does this mean I’m a hipster now? Astarghfirullahalazim!

Oh God forgive me… I’ve turned into a bloody hipster!! Recently, Lomography Malaysia contacted me and offered to make me a Lomo Amigo. They sent me… all the way from Hong Kong… one of their latest products to use before it was in the market… the LomoKino Super 35 Movie Maker. It’s a film camera that shoots moving pictures using 35mm film… and you crank it manually!! Knowing how Lomography hipsters keep harping on and on about great it is to shoot pictures without thinking (it’s so irritating if you ask me!)… that I decided to be the total anti-thesis of that concept. I decided to shoot a short documentary film about refugee children in Malaysia with the Lomokino. Check out my Lomo Amigo page by clicking here or on the the screenshot above. And… you can watch my documentary film below:

The camera is actually really fun to use and it was great that Lomography Malaysia gave me this opportunity.



I guess my New Media isn’t so new!

Newer new media
By Zan Azlee

JUNE 15 — I’ve always had the idea that multimedia or interactive content meant that it had to be able to be delivered over traditional and also new media. Basically, I thought that if you produce this kind of content, you could have a version on television, radio, print and the Internet at the same time. Many of my documentary projects have been based on this concept and have always been designed so I can adapt the content for any kind of media.

For example, my latest project, which I shot in Afghanistan, appeared on television, the Internet and print media. And to be honest, I think that this particular concept is already quite interesting and innovative. In fact, it has allowed my content to be more widely accessible. But this week, I had this point of view totally transformed. I’m currently attending the Sheffield Documentary Film Festival in England as part of the Malaysian delegation. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]



Teach a man to make videos… and you teach him to fish for a lifetime!

Empowered by video
By Zan Azlee

MAY 18 — One of the main objectives of the existence of the media is to give a voice to normal people, or the rakyat. But sometimes, this objective gets lost when the media themselves get a bit overwhelmed (or big headed?) by all their obligations.

That’s why I always jump at the opportunity to help give a voice to the common folk, or the rakyat. That’s how, last week, I found myself in a small village called Kampung Sukau in Sabah, teaching locals how to tell stories using video. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]



Guide to Afghanistan: The Adventures of a KL-ite (Part 10 – Living at the feet of Buddha)

This week is part 10 of my multimedia documentary, Guide To Afghanistan: The Adventures of a KL-ite, which includes video, still photos an text. As you would know, this is concurrent with the 10-part feature on The Malaysian Insider website, of which you can view part 10 here:

Living by the feet of Buddha
By Zan Azlee

FEB 13 — After the days I spent on patrol with Malaysia’s MALCON ISAF 2 in the rural areas of Bamiyan building water filters, educating health officials and saving lives, I was glad to be back in the safety of Kiwi Base in the city of Bamiyan.

Bamiyan is actually one of the safest provinces in Afghanistan and this is due to its population of predominantly Hazarat people who fiercely reject the Taliban. They are Shiites and were terribly oppressed, hurt and killed during the rule of the Taliban. So walking the streets of Bamiyan city is really like a walk in the park compared to in Kabul.

Now that I was feeling a bit secure and safe, I wanted to do something that I had dreamed of since I was 15 years old. That’s right! I wanted to go and see for myself, with my own two eyes, the great Buddhas of Bamiyan.

I was apparently still under the responsibility of the Malaysian Armed Forces, and the commander, Lt Col Rusman Sanip, did not want to allow me to roam outside of the army base on my own (although I had spent all my time in Kabul alone before meeting up with them in Bamiyan!). He was kind enough to escort me together with a couple of security team members. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Guide to Afghanistan: The Adventures of a KL-ite
Part 10 of 10
‘Living by the feet of Buddha’
Zan fulfills his 19 year dream of seeing the Buddhas of Bamiyan! And he discovers the ultra poor Hazarats living at his feet… literally.

Full Synopsis:
Zan Azlee, a Malaysian KL-ite journalist who has lived all his life in non-conflict zones, travels to Afghanistan to see if he can come up with the best travel guide for the country. With no idea what he is getting himself into, he dodges suicide bombers and IEDs, and even gets embedded with the army, to plan out the best tourist route in Afghanistan. This is a multimedia documentary produced by Fat Bidin Media and directed by solo-journalist Zan Azlee.

To view all the episodes, head to FATBIDIN.COM/AFGHANISTAN.

Click the thumbnails below to launch the photo essay (Part 10).

Sponsorship and advertising opportunities are still available… just give me a buzz if you are interested and we can talk! If you would like to own original FAT BIDIN MEDIA documentary films and books to enhance your coolness factor, visit the FAT BIDIN e-STORE!



Guide to Afghanistan: The Adventures of a KL-ite (Part 9 – A Taliban ambush)

This week is part 9 of my multimedia documentary, Guide To Afghanistan: The Adventures of a KL-ite, which includes video, still photos an text. As you would know, this is concurrent with the 10-part feature on The Malaysian Insider website, of which you can view part 9 here:

A Taliban ambush
By Zan Azlee

FEB 6 — The next day, we all had to wake up early because our vehicles were supposed to start rolling right at dawn. We were in for another challenging journey and heading deeper into the heartland of Afghanistan. I decided to forego another shower since the temperature in the mountains of Bamiyan were in the single digit in the early mornings.

Before we headed out, we had a security briefing. This is a must since it is when everyone gets information on the journey and also to talk about any emergency plans should there be an attack by the Taliban. After the briefing, we had the mandatory prayers for a safe journey and then we headed out.

This time, the journey was almost twice as difficult. The mountain area we had to go through was higher and rougher. Security was another concern since we were moving further away from central Bamiyan and heading nearer to the border with Daykhundi province, which had a stronger Taliban presence. This time it was serious and I made sure my bulletproof vest was strapped on tighter than ever. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Guide to Afghanistan: The Adventures of a KL-ite
Part 9 of 10
‘A Taliban ambush’
While embedded with the Malaysian Armed Forces in Afghanistan, Zan and the soldiers encounter a Taliban ambush.

Full Synopsis:
Zan Azlee, a Malaysian KL-ite journalist who has lived all his life in non-conflict zones, travels to Afghanistan to see if he can come up with the best travel guide for the country. With no idea what he is getting himself into, he dodges suicide bombers and IEDs, and even gets embedded with the army, to plan out the best tourist route in Afghanistan. This is a multimedia documentary produced by Fat Bidin Media and directed by solo-journalist Zan Azlee.

To view all the episodes, head to FATBIDIN.COM/AFGHANISTAN.

Click the thumbnails below to launch the photo essay (Part 9).

Sponsorship and advertising opportunities are still available… just give me a buzz if you are interested and we can talk! If you would like to own original FAT BIDIN MEDIA documentary films and books to enhance your coolness factor, visit the FAT BIDIN e-STORE!




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