Sabahans could be Earth’s saviours!


Sabahans could be Earth’s saviours
By Zan Azlee

The movement and collection of heat and carbon dioxide caused by pollution and global warming shows a worrying trend for countries near the equator. Satellite images show that it is heading towards the equator where most of the world’s forests are, and that includes Malaysia, and more specifically Sabah and Sarawak.

The reason why the forest areas are the places heat and carbon dioxide gathers is because only the forests have the natural ability to actually treat the problem. And what is more interesting, studies have shown that the areas where most of the world’s forests are, are also places that have the most numbers of languages spoken.

This study was made known to me yesterday, at the start of the 2013 Borneo Eco Film Festival in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, by speaker and festival organizer, Agnes Agama. I’m convinced the study, conducted by Terralingua.Org, is true seeing that the Amazon has so many different tribes and ethnicities and different languages.

And I am even more convinced when I see Sarawak and, more specifically, Sabah where there are also many different ethnicities and languages. It also seems totally logical without an ounce of coincidence that the responsibility of saving the earth falls on areas that have such wide biocultural diversity.

If you have ever been to Sabah, then you would know that the relationship amongst people of different races and religions is different than in Malaya. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

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I’m speaking at TEDx Merdeka Square… meet me in the FLESH!


Wahlauwei!! If you want to see me in the flesh… I’ll be speaking at TEDx Merdeka Square this Saturday, 17th August 2013! There are other speakers lah… like Nurul Izzah Anwar, Datuk Johan Jaafar and many more!! But hey…. meet ME in the flesh!! Hahaha!! Oh… and the topic… I’ll be speaking about… solo-journalism as a catalyst for social change.

Debate me Sharifah Zohra Jabeen Syed Shah Miskin!


Sharifah Zohra Jabeen, I challenge you to a debate!
By Zan Azlee

18 JAN – You were way out of your depth. It was obviously clear. And that was the reason why you had to pull the microphone away from KS Bavani when she was speaking. But you definitely had no realisation of this, I’m sure. You thought you were all that in your sophisticated looking pant suit and fancy title of President of Suara Wanita. Trying to go for a SW1M? Try not to sink instead!

You were at a university, University Utara Malaysia, a learning institution where people go to (where most of them are actually legal adults) to obtain an education. You were a part of a panel forum. A panel forum, which I’m very sure, had an objective to bring forth discourse and intellectual discussion, and to share that with the students.

The forum, which was titled ‘Seiringkah Mahasiswa dan Politik’, had given the panelists a chance to speak, and also had a session that was opened to the floor, a chance for the students to speak. If the panelists were allowed to share their thoughts and opinions, then by all means, the members of the floor should be given that chance too. It is a forum anyway. [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]

Self-selected news, The Daily Me… call it whatever you want. You’re still going to be a frog under a coconut shell.

Self-selected news, anyone?
By Zan Azlee

As a content consumer, I love New Media for everything that it is, which is an endless information source for content consumption. Anyone from anywhere who is interested in anything can find it New Media. It’s really just a limitless, almost infinite, source.

If you like mainstream music or even the weirdest kind of genre, you can definitely find it in New Media. If you like politics (from the local comical kind to the most complicated American kind), you can definitely find it in New Media. If you like alternative sports like BMX, skateboarding or body mutilation, you can definitely find it in New Media.

I can go on and on harping about the wholesome goodness of New Media as compared to traditional and conventional media. But hear me out now. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider.]

So you want to make money? I’ll teach you how… ‘entrepreneurial journalism’!

So… you want to make money? I’ll teach you how!

Entrepreneurial Journalism
By Zan Azlee

JAN 27 — In one of my previous columns several weeks ago, I wrote about not wanting a lot of money for my work as a journalist. Many who read it seem to agree with my idealism (fuuyo!), but many also seemed to think that making money isn’t important.

I don’t want people to think that working in journalism or the media means that one will live poor and hungry forever. What I believe is that one must be resourceful and enterprising in whatever one does.

A term that I particularly like is entrepreneurial journalism, which describes what I ideally think journalists should constantly practise. [Click to read the rest of the article at The Malaysian Insider]

The perception of honesty is a lie

The perception of honesty is a lie
By Zan Azlee

JAN 20 — When people watch the news, it is automatically perceived as something real because that’s what news is all about, which is the reporting of actual happenings. When people watch documentaries, it is also automatically perceived as something real because that’s what documentaries are. Sometimes, this perception that people have can actually be manipulated and used against them.

I remember showing a group of undergrad students of mine the popular 1980s film, “This is Spinal Tap”, directed by Rob Reiner. For those who aren’t familiar with the film, “This is Spinal Tap” is a mockumentary about a fictional rock band called Spinal Tap. The film follows the band as they go through their career from uber famous to uber has-beens in true documentary form.

The film is hilarious and absurd since the band members are not that bright and make ignorant and comedic comments and actions all the way. After the film ended, my students and I had a discussion about it. Many of them were shocked to see how stupid these rock stars were. In fact, several students even asked me if I knew what happened to the band and its members since they were just unbelievably stupid.

Now this seemed hilarious to me. All of the students thought the film was a real documentary about a real rock band. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Local broadcasters, be warned!

Here’s my warning to all local broadcasters… especially employees. Heed my call!

Local broadcasters, be warned!
By Zan Azlee

NOV 18 — Beware all broadcast media professionals! Take heed of recent international media news (if you’ve been keeping abreast, of course!). This week, CNN, that great global 24-hour news network, just laid off a significant number of their staff from their offices around the United States.

Among those let go were journalists, cameramen and editors. The reason, said senior V-P Jack Womack, is the change in workflow due to current technology. An internal memo he wrote that is available online states:

“Technology investments in our newsrooms now allow more desktop editing and publishing for broadcast and online. This evolution allows more people in more places to edit and publish than ever before. As a result of these technology and workflow changes, CNN is reducing the number of media editors in our work force in Atlanta. … Consumer and prosumer technologies are simpler and more accessible. Small cameras are now high broadcast quality. More of this technology is in the hands of more people. After completing this analysis, CNN determined that some photojournalists will be departing the company.”

Apparently (obviously!), technology and the media have developed so much that what used to take whole production teams to do can now be achieved by single individuals. Surprise! Surprise! I have been preaching, and practising, this for many years now. Almost 10 years, to be exact. And people are only realising this now? [Click to read my full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Muzzle knowledge, and be muzzled by fire!

As an academic, I have been insulted by incidents in the last few weeks. So, here’s my column for The Malaysian Insider this week.

Muzzle knowledge, and be muzzled by fire
By Zan Azlee

NOV 4 — Education and knowledge is something that is very important to me. And equally important is the process of gaining it. The recent issue with the International Islamic University’s (IIU or UIA) suspension of Prof Dr Abdul Aziz Bari is an embarrassment in my eyes.

An academic should be allowed to express his educated and intellectual views if so he wishes because it is his right and his responsibility to do so. It is this right and responsibility of an academic that will lead to better educated students and a more civilised society.

If this right and responsibility is taken away from an academic, then the society that has done so would be a society that stifles intellectual development. As an Islamic university (as its name suggests), should it not be more Islamic?

Maybe I can assist by providing a particular quote by Prophet Muhammad:

“Whoever conceals knowledge would be muzzled on the Day of Resurrection with a muzzle of fire.” [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Athena dressed up in a spaghetti strap dress to help her pops sell his book at Readings @Seksan!

My sexy self serenading the pork!

I was recently invited to participate in Readings @Seksan by Sharon Bakar and of course, it was to read from my book ‘Operation Nasi Kerabu – Finding Patani in an Islamic Insurgency‘. The line-up was fantastic! It was Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad (Coming of Age), Rumaizah Abu Bakar (The Female Cell), Adib Zaini (Zombijaya), Julian CH Lee (Policing Sexuality) and, obviously, to cap everything off and to add to the prestige… ME! There was also music by Reza Salleh.

I even managed to sell quite a number of copies of my book. A bit of advice… the best marketing strategy is to carry your baby daughter around and announce that all proceeds of the sales of the book will go to buying milk and diapers for the week. Fail-proof plan!!

For those of you who did not attend the reading (I shall unfriend you on Facebook!)… fret not! You can listen to a recording of my reading by clicking on the audio player above. And if you want a copy of the book (with a free DVD!)… you can still buy it at any major bookstore or order directly at the FAT BIDIN e-STORE for a signed copy!

Sharon Bakar, organiser of Readings @Seksan

Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad (Coming of Age)

Adib Zaini (Zombijaya)

Julian CH Lee (Policing Sexuality) is the one on the far right. I was busy snapping pictures of him with his camera during his reading so I don't have any pictures of him in front of the crowd in my camera!

Rumaizah Abu Bakar (The Female Cell)

Athena all dressed up in a spaghetti strap ready to seduce the crowd into buying her pop's book!

Athena being lullabied by Reza Salleh.

Dear Assoc. Prof. Dr Mohd Ridhuan Tee Abdullah. What the hell are you talking about?

Dear Assoc. Prof. Dr Mohd Ridhuan Tee Abdullah. What the hell are you talking about?

Implement hudud by force, he says.
By Zan Azlee

OCT 28 — “Hudud needs to be implemented by force!”

I was shocked to hear an academician, Assoc Prof Dr Mohd Ridhuan Tee Abdullah, utter those words at a recent Islamic forum on hudud. According to the academician who teaches at the National Defence University, time is running out and it looks like the non-Muslims will never accept hudud and Islam. As a Muslim myself, I felt ashamed and embarrassed by what he said at such a public forum.

First of all, I would like to ask one vital question. If non-Muslims are not willing to accept hudud or Islam, why question their reasoning for it? The non-Muslims would have made their decision based on what they have seen, heard and observed. Can you blame them if what they’ve seen has been all negative? So, maybe what he should have said, instead of using force, look within and solve the internal problems before you start preaching outside.

Any educated individual who has even a little bit of learned experience, Muslim or non-Muslim, will tell you that Islam is not, and never was, a religion of force.  [Click to read my full article at The Malaysian Insider]


My book ‘OPERATION NASI KERABU – FINDING PATANI IN AN ISLAMIC INSURGENCY’ is finally done and all my adoring fans are invited to the launch (even if you’re are not a fan, you’re still invited!)! The book comes with a free DVD of my film ‘THE LIFE & TIMES OF AN ISLAMIC INSURGENCY‘. I’ll be there screening some clips from the film. The main character of the film and book, the great journalist and fixer Tuwaedaniya Meringing from Patani, Thailand, will also be there to talk about the conflict in his hometown and the role journalism can play in advocating for peace. My book is published by ZI Publications and the launch will take place at the KL Alternative Bookfest 2011.

Date: 19th June 2011
Time: 3pm
Location: The Annexe Gallery, Central Market, Kuala Lumpur

Book synopsis: The news from Patani is like a movie: smoke, bombs, a near civil war. Yet just over our northern border, the people are Muslim, Bahasa-speaking, baju-wearing Malays, just like us. With this in mind, documentary-maker Zan Azlee set off to find the real Patani, trying to seperate the kedai kopi from the Humvees, the gunfights from the nasi kerabu. It’s hard to make new friends and man a camera while looking over your shoulder for suicide bombers. But he was determined to ask the question: how do people live their lives in a warzone? With his resulting film banned for political reasons, this is Azlee’s first chance to share what he found.

So come and be enthralled!

When creative minds get together – The Marketplace of Creative Arts, Singapore

And so you all knew I went to the WIEF’s Marketplace of Creative Arts in Singapore on the 19th of February 2011. Below are some pictures and videos along with an article I wrote for The Malaysian Insider.

When creative minds get together
By Zan Azlee

MARCH 4 – Filmmaking to me is almost like a solitary process. Being a solo-journalist, I write, shoot, edit and do everything as a one-man crew. To me, it’s almost like writing or painting, whereby the writer or artist produces artwork in solitude, almost like meditation. I enjoy the process very much as it gives me total control of my work. It is also a form of discovery for me – about the subjects of my films and also about myself.

However, sometimes being in solitude doesn’t do much good for the creative soul. To be a creative artist, one needs to sometimes interact with like minded souls. So, when I was invited to the World Islamic Economic Forum’s Marketplace of Creative Arts in Singapore (held for the second year), I jumped at the chance. [Click to read the rest of the article at The Malaysian Insider]

Tun Musa Hitam (Chairman of WIEF Foundation) does his best Facebook pose!

Some panel discussion going on.

This was the panel discussion to be at since I was a part of this one! Topic: All the World is a Stage- Role of Education & Information in Propagating Appreciation of the Arts

Me, Sirajuddin (one of the Singaporean organisers) and Yosep Anggi (a filmmaker from Jogjakarta)

Of all people to bump into... I bumped into Amanda.... We acted together once in a film called 'Benda Aneh Bernama Cinta', directed by Azharr Rudin.

Click here to watch the trailer of ‘Benda Aneh Bernama Cinta’.

The whole lot

I had to indulge an adoring fan!

And a video of Otam during rehearsals.

I’ll be in Singapore screening some films and speaking… come catch me in the flesh!

I’ve been invited this year (again!) to screen some of my films and to speak at the World Islamic Economic Forum’s Marketplace of Creative Arts in Singapore, this 19th February 2011, at the Asian Civilisations Museum near the Esplanade Park. Click here to check out more information on the event. So all you fans of mine should come out in droves! Singaporeans… here’s your chance to see me in the flesh… my very sexy flesh!!

“The WIEF Young Leaders Network is coming up with another excellent showcase on creative arts. This time it will be just next door in Lion City – Singapore, organised in partnership with the Young Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) in Singapore. This will be the Marketplace’s first ever regional leg, focusing on up-and-coming artists in the Southeast Asian region namely Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and the Phil…ippines. Visual artists, great musicians, exotic dancers and thought-provoking filmmakers awaiting you in the city of lions. Excellent venue, near the Esplanade Park and by the Singapore river.

For those who are interested to attend, please be informed that this is a registered event i.e. only registered participants are allowed entry (no walk-ins on event day), and for licensing purposes we have limited the crowd to 300 participants for the day. We have to close registration if we reach 300. So, if you want to book your place, please register online by clicking here. First come, first served!”

Objective journalism or honest journalism? Take your pick

I’m a biased journalist, but at least I’m honest!

Honest journalism vs objective journalism
By Zan Azlee

JAN 21 — A while back, I wrote a piece on how I thought objective journalism had become passé in this day and age and that we need to have our biases. The response I got was varied. Some people agreed with me and said that objectivity has always just been an ideology only and never practical.

Some disagreed and said that journalists should always strive to be objective as much as possible because this is their responsibility to the public. Well, I do agree that journalists do have a responsibility to the public. But what exactly is that responsibility? Is it really objectivity? [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

So you want to be a documentary filmmaker and journalist (Part 2)

And the ultimate syok sendiri session comes to an end with part 2 of my article this week!

So you want to be a documentary filmmaker and journalist (Part 2)
By Zan Azlee

NOV 26 — Being a university lecturer for the past six years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and interact with a lot of young people who want to do what I do for a living. The thing about being with them is that it always gives me a positive feeling about myself. Selfish, I know!

But seeing their enthusiasm for life and their fire to pursue their ambition just reinforces the reason why I do what I do. So this two-part article will be my way of giving back to them. Hopefully, it will inspire them (or at least make them question if this is really what they want to do!).


With the money I made from that sale, I decided to make another feature-length documentary. This time, I decided to go a bit further. I titled the film “I’m Muslim Too!” and went to four countries in the Middle East (Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan) to see how young people lived their lives in their respective countries. The film was also shot solo-journalism style.

I went to Iran and interviewed a heavy metal band called Arsames. Then I headed to Syria to search for the Hezbollah video game Special Force, and to Jordan to visit the annual Jerash Arts Festival. I also went to Beirut in Lebanon to experience a little bit of war and to see how Palestinian refugee kids spend their days.

Being from Malaysia, I had never experienced war and in my mind, I might have romanticised it a bit. When I got in to Lebanon, there were military checkpoints lining every street. Tanks and soldiers were everywhere. Turn on the television and you would see “live” coverage of bombings, shootings and fighting just 20 kilometres from the city. It was terrible and it scared me.

“Hey! Answer my question! Who are you!”

And I was jolted back to reality… [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

*Part 1 can be read here

I’ll be on ‘IN CONVERSATION’ on BFM (89.9FM) today at 7pm

I’ll be appearing on BFM (89.9FM) on the show ‘In Conversation’ today (Thursday, 25 Nov 2010) at 7pm. Listen to me talk about my life, inspirations, writing and filmmaking career! After listening, you can all start trying to be like me! Muahahaha!!

So you want to be a documentary filmmaker and journalist (Part 1)

So you want to be a documentary filmmaker and journalist (Part 1)
By Zan Azlee

NOV 19 — Being a university lecturer for the past six years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and interact with a lot of young people who want to do what I do for a living. The thing about being with them is that it always gives me a positive feeling about myself. Selfish, I know!

But seeing their enthusiasm for life and their fire to pursue their ambition just reinforces the reason why I do what I do. So this two-part article will be my way of giving back to them. Hopefully, it will inspire them (or at least make them question if this is really what they want to do!).


Five heavily-armed and hugely-built Lebanese soldiers grabbed me by the arms and dragged me out of the small coffeeshop. Screaming in Arabic, they also grabbed my bag and my camera. I was stunned as they shoved and prodded me across to their military checkpoint.

As we entered the premise, another soldier ransacked my bag. I was then brought into an empty room with nothing but a chair in the middle of the room. They sat me down and left me alone. I was trembling, when their superior, a large and rotund man, came in holding my passport which had been taken from my bag.

“Where are you from? Who are you?” he barked.

As I sat there scared and trembling, I asked myself, how the hell did I get myself into a situation like this? My mind started to wander… [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Objective journalism is so yesterday!

Ahhh… objectivity is so passe! Read my column this week at The Malaysian Insider.

Objective journalism is so yesterday!
By Zan Azlee

JULY 30 — We always complain in Malaysia that journalism is never objective. Apparently, the government keeps a tight rein on the information that goes out to the public. So all the news outlets (or shall I say the mainstream news outlets?) have a slant towards the ruling party, especially when it comes to political news. I, for one, used to complain all the time. I felt that, as a profession, journalism wasn’t going to develop, and neither would Malaysia as a nation because of it. Even in the lectures that I give, I would constantly harp on about the importance of being objective as journalists. Give both sides of the story and let the people decide. I felt that there was no place for personal opinions and bias when it came to reporting the news. Leave that to the public relations practitioners! But I think I’ve slowly come around… [Click to read the rest of the article]

Come to the 6th World Islamic Economic Forum to get a chance to see me!

Come one! Come all! I have been invited to speak at the 6th World Islamic Economic Forum 2010 under the Marketplace of Creative Arts! I’ll be talking and screening clips from my films ‘I’M MUSLIM TOO!‘ and ‘THE LIFE & TIMES OF AN ISLAMIC INSURGENCY‘. Come and you might even get the chance to touch me!

Date & Time: 18th May (12:30pm), 19th May 2010 (2pm)
Venue: Conference Hall 2, Level 3, KL Convention Centre
(Click on the images below for more details)

Marketplace Schedule

Marketplace Speakers


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