at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Rabun (My Failing Eyesight)


Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 6:30pm
Center for Korean Studies Building

Malaysia (2004, 90 min)

Director: Yasmin Ahmad
Screenplay: Yasmin Ahmad
Cast: M. Rajoli (as Pak Atan), Kartina Aziz (as Mak Inom), Yuhang Ho (as Elvis), Norkhiriah (as Orked), Rosie Rashid (as Cik Nor), Irwan Iskandar (as Yem)

This is a rare opportunity to see Yasmin Ahmad’s first film, with a new subtitle track, that has only been screened once in the US (Honolulu Academy of Art, 2007).

Yasmin Ahmad’s characters are very ‘P Ramlee’ (Malay film idol) – easy to identify and understand. It is perhaps this reason why P Ramlee’s films are a hit with everybody. Rabun is deceptively simple but in reality, very complex. Yasmin uses binary opposites throughout, but very subtly. We see Yem and his step-mother about to perform the dawn prayer. Strangely, we never see Mak Inom (M. Rajoli) or Pak Atan (Kartina Aziz) ever doing it. Yasmin’s contention is that being religious does not necessarily mean that one is spiritual, but being spiritual makes one religious.

The story is clearly an ode to Yasmin’s parents, as the focus is squarely on the on-screen version of Pak Atan (M Rajoli) and Mak Inom (Kartina Aziz). It’s a simple heartfelt story on the elderly folks as they journey out from the city to the village, where life is perceived to be easier, the neighbors nicer, and the environment just less complicated. But a series of events force them to rethink these assumptions, especially after interactions with Yem (Irwan Iskandar) and his stepmother (Rosie Rashid).

The film begins with the voices of children playing – and ends with visuals of adults playing. If only the grown-ups’ hearts could be like children, couldn’t they ‘enter the Kingdom of God?’ I may not share Yasmin’s total optimism, but I give her the right to dream of a world where good people live – with their lives inspiring us to do better. -Hassan Muthalib and Stefan S

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