Category Archives: film

The Look of Silence – a film that forces us to reflect on our humanity



The Look of Silence – a film that forces us to reflect on our humanity
By Zan Azlee

Sometimes, bygones should be left as bygones because when you start to stir things up, things can get very discomforting. Unless, of course, if such bygones are considered serious injustices that have been overlooked all this while.

Joshua Oppenheimer did exactly that when he directed and released the documentary film ‘The Act of Killing’ in 2012. The film discusses the 1965-1966 genocide that happened in Indonesia when a military coup took over the government.

The new regime brutally killed around 500,000 Indonesians who they claimed were ‘communists’. The film’s main character is Anwar Congo, the leader of one of the local gangs who carried out the killings on behalf of the government.

The film made so much of an impact that it was banned in Indonesia and was even nominated for an Academy Award. It also opened up a whole can of worms among Indonesians, who started questioning their own national history.

Oppenheimer is now back with a sequel to ‘The Act of Killing’. If the first was shown from the perspective of the perpetrators, the new documentary, ‘The Look of Silence’, turns the table and we see things from the eyes of the victim’s family. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

The launch of my latest book is this Sunday,17th August 2104, 2:30pm, at MPH, Nu Sentral (KL Sentral).

The launch of my latest book is this Sunday, 2:30pm, at MPH, Nu Sentral (KL Sentral).

You better come!! It’s an awesome non-fiction graphic novel about my adventures shooting a documentary in war-torn Afghanistan! It’s also a sweeeeettt collaboration with my bosom buddy Arif Rafhan Othman!

We’ll be there with a show for you guys!!! And signings… and photo-taking… and flirting… and wild, wild, passionate mingling!! Buy our book and exclusive merchandise on that day!

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Title: Adventures of a KL-ite in Afghanistan
Genre: Non-fiction graphic novel
Venue: MPH Nu Sentral (KL Sentral)
Time: 2:30pm, Sunday, 17th August 2014

Video journalism basics – storytelling with no words or just with a single shot

The police and fire department are all over the site.

Video journalism is all about visual storytelling. It is annoying to see video reports that is obviously just a voice-over with a bunch of visuals dumped over it that makes no sense. The best way really is to not have an voice-over, because if you do have it, it just means your visuals can’t do the storytelling for you.’s Matt Allard, who used to live in Kuala Lumpur as a cameraman with Al-Jazeera, makes this point in a video documentary he shot recently about a knife making expert in Taiwan called Maestro Wu. No voice-over… not even an interview soundbite.

There is also a technique known as the ‘one-shot’, where a news story is done in just a single shot on the camera with no editing cuts. This one is even more of a challenge, but when done right, it can give quite an impact. Best suited for a solo-journalist, if I do say so.

Sometimes people forget the basics when it comes to video storytelling. If you keep things simple, a lot can be said. Below is a story I did about the Empire Shopping centre blast in Subang a while back. No voice-over but I had an interview though to explain a little bit of facts.

And another one I did… on the demolition of the historical Pudu Jail in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.


Solo-journalists are intimate creatures!

zan flirting in iran

Solo-journalism is becoming somewhat of a fixture these days in the international journalism world. I’ve been doing it for almost a decade now in Malaysia and I see that there has been a bit of a resistance by journalists here, mainly those who work as staff employees.

It seems like they feel for a reporter to have to learn to handle the camera or video editing software is just having to something out of their official job description. And it goes the same for cameramen who are expected to learn to write scripts or even appear in front of the camera.

In fact, some broadcast journalists are even disgusted if they are expected to write an article for the web, and for print journalists to have to do a TV piece. It annoys the hell out of me.

I had been self-employed for ten years before I became a staff employee at a news organisation where I am now. And I would have starved to death during those ten years if I wasn’t a solo-journalist who could shoot a camera, edit a video, write an article, take photographs and appear in front of the camera.

It was the sheer financial and economic elements that made me do it (actually, I enjoy journalism so much that I just wanted to do it all anyway!). And that’s how I survived, by being multi-skilled and being able to offer more to my clients. I was a value-added vendor!

But honestly, there are so much more advantages to solo-journalism than just the economics side of it. The main reason I love it is the intimacy you get to foster with your subjects. When I shot my feature documentary ‘I’m Muslim Too!’ in Iran, I spent a week with the Persian metal band Arsames in the town of Mashhad. We really became buddies and it showed in the film. Also, the locals were just totally unintimidated by me because I was just this one guy walking around alone.

Yeah, things might get a little messy technical-wise since one person is doing everything, but the frankness of the story more than makes up for it. The guys from the band and I are friends till this day. But if you are careful and put in a little bit of effort, there shouldn’t be any reason why your work has to suffer technically anyway.

Malaysia desperately needs another Sudirman


Malaysia desperately needs another Sudirman
By Zan Azlee

“Eh, you know that Malay actress?” asked the Chinese lady.

“Which one?” replied the Malay lady.

“Haiya! The one in all of those Malay dramas lah. Fasha Sandha! She’s my neighbour you know.”

“Oh! Wah! You actually know these Malay celebrities! Quite good for a Chinese.”

“I don’t actually. She happened to appear on the AEC channel once lah. And I noticed she looked familiar.”

This may seem like a fairly innocent conversation to many. But I see it as something disturbing that shows the polarisation of the many races in Malaysia. From my point of view, this is just evidence of the segregation that has crept into the lives of Malaysia’s so-called multi-racial society.

Even the entertainment industry has been polarised. Malays will watch Malay dramas, Chinese watch Chinese dramas and Indians watch Tamil dramas. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]