Big corporations producing big festivity television commercials (TVC) have been a staple in Malaysia for decades. We all remember the late great Yasmin Ahmad who used to make all those heart-wrenching Hari Raya and Chinese New Year commercials for Petronas back in the day.
Well, these days, producers have taken it a step further by creating even longer narrative stories and posting it on social media as compared to the classic 30 seconds that used to appear on television. It has become more or less like a short film festival when Hari Raya, Chinese New Year or Deepavali comes.
As a film director, critic, lecturer and just all-round enthusiast, I look forward to the seasons when these TVCs start to emerge. To be honest, it has become very cliched with almost everyone trying to emulate the Yasmin style. But every once in a while, there will be a gem or two that grabs everyone’s attention.
Here are five that caught my eye.
The fast-food chain came out with a story of a young woman who reminisces about her elderly mother’s hair salon. She remembers how her mother would do her hair every Chinese New Year in outrageous styles when she was a kid until she became a teenager and boys started making fun of her.
She never allowed her mother to touch her hair anymore after that. But then, this year, she softens up and misses the fun times when her mother would do her hair, so she makes a request which makes her mother beam with joy. And they all eat french fries after that!
It’s okay, I guess. The TVC is nothing outstanding. It’s just the common trope of reminiscing about old times and old folks. I don’t have much to say about it other than that it’s too common and cliché. Watch it and see for yourself.
Digi’s TVC is yet another common trope of putting family first and reminiscing the advice of the elders. A young girl who graduated with a business degree wants to change the concept of the family’s restaurant after her parents passed away. She gets into a fight with her uncle and in the end, they patch things up and realise they cannot forsake family.
It’s not too bad. I like how she and her uncle resolve things in a real way where a simple apology doesn’t just work out. Things can get complicated, but if you keep your priorities right, everything will work out in the end.
This one is a little bit different, and I have to say that I quite enjoyed watching it (something funny instead of a tearjerker for a change). An old lady is facing a string of bad luck while out shopping. Then she meets a Chinese sifu who sells her an expensive jade bracelet that is supposed to turn her luck around.
Surprise surprise! It doesn’t! And eventually, her family comes to cheer her up and says that together (yup, it’s that family theme again!), they can change their luck for the better. This is great because I am someone who totally does not subscribe to superstition. If anything, I will try to debunk it.
This one veers away from the fictional stories of the others. It tells the true tale of a group of children in Teluk Intan who took matters into their own hands when they noticed that their village was always strewn with trash. They start a gotong-royong campaign which eventually even gets the apathetic adults involved.
It’s a nice story, although I can’t help thinking that these little kids will have their spirits crushed by the system when they get older and want to continue their activism spirit into adulthood. But who knows, with Undi18 going strong and more youth getting socially aware, it could turn out alright.
This could probably be my favourite Chinese New Year TVC this year. There are these three guys, a Malay tailor, a Chinese chicken rice seller and an Indian barber, who are all preparing to close shop for the CNY holidays. What’s interesting is that they all speak Mandarin to their customers.
We see them gather their families and drive happily back to balik kampung. Then they all arrive at this huge house and are greeted by a multiracial group of children. They then walk in and call an elderly Chinese lady ‘Ah Ma’ and hug her. It turns out they were all raised by her at the orphanage.
It is such a heartwarming story that I couldn’t maintain my annoyance with the cliched tearjerker TVC trope. But, I can still play up some criticism. Heheh! The Ali, Muthu and Ah Hock thing does make it seem like it is trying a little too hard. Also, how come the Indian guy marries an Indian lady, the Malay guy marries a Malay lady and the Chinese guy marries a Chinese lady?
If they are so multicultural and all that, wouldn’t their upbringing influence their preference and choice in a life partner and how they raise their families? It shouldn’t be so racially segregated, no? But I’m just being nitpicky. It’s quite a nice story.
So there you go, everyone. My top five Chinese New Year TVCs that you can all watch on YouTube. Gong xi fa cai and happy Chinese New Year of the tiger to all Malaysians!
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