Sepet : Beyond A Malaysian Love Story
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - March 10, 2005 Posted: 11:34:15 AM EDT

Keywords: Sepet, Yasmin the Story Teller, Ah Loong, Orked, A Malaysian Love Story, Race Relations in Malaysia, challenges of a multiracial society, inter-racial marriage, racial polarization, ideals, purity, review, critique.

I finally went to watch SEPET on Tuesday 8th March with Flo & Andrew at Sunway Pyramid.

Though I've heard so much about it from so many people and read all the reviews, I must say I was not prepared for the whole experience.

It was beyond my expectation. It was great story-telling. There were weaknesses in the movie if you want to pick on it but I would give it 4 and a 1/2 stars over 5.

It's better than all the Hollywood movies I have watched the last couple of years. I think perhaps only Dead Poet's Society was that soul-stirring. And yes, it's way beyond Puteri Guning Ledang of 16 Million. I was numbed when I walked out of PGL. I was inspired and touched deeply (yeah, I won't try to give you all those macho s**t ) when I drove home after Sepet.

Sepet by Yasmin Ahmad

Sepet is a moving story. It is also a very artful piece of drama that weaves the themes of Malay-Chinese racial relations and the issue of nationhood within a simple plot of a love story.

The Movie Site : http://www.sepet.com.my/
The Director's Blog : http://yasminthestoryteller.blogspot.com/

I am not doing a review but I am going to dig a bit into the movie. I think what Yasmin has done in terms of political and race relations analysis and commentaries is unparalelled in Malaysia. She got away with very deft nuances which I think the censorship board might not have picked up. But that's her art. The only other Malaysian works I've seen that use this art as effectively was Mat Som by Lat. The comic strip, not the movie. To an extend, Lat's Town Boy can be seen as a precursor of Sepet. I am sure Yasmin was inspired by the storyline and exploration of the cultural identity of 'the Other' in Lat's Town Boy. 

If you hate movies to be taken apart, don't read beyond this line.

I like Yasmin's treatment of a difficult Malaysian theme. I will try to reveal the beauty of the symbolic story-telling as I could see them. But this is not comprehensive. If I am inspired and if I do find the time, I hope to write a proper critique of this rare but successful attempt at engaging a theme not done before in Malaysian movies.

Surface Theme:
A Love That Transcends Racial and Cultural Barriers.

Undercurrent Theme:
The Chinese migrant's story of failed adoption of his new homeland. The struggle of a prototypical economic migrant in his attempt to achieve union with his adopted homeland and the shadow of his past that prevents him from consummating the relationship.

The story weaves together an emphatic story about the struggle of a migrant race in Malaysia and their attempt to breakaway, to reinvent themselves, to redefine who they are in relation to their adopted land, beyond the long shadow of history, cultural confines & socio-political lines that force them to take on their limiting identity, roles and ultimately their meaning of existence and destiny. 

Plot :
A Chinese boy falling in love with a Malay girl and goes through a series of events that ends 'tragically'.

Great Scenes

Lost Dragon and Caged Rabbit
Caged

Maggie thought the price of her love, a timid rabbit in a cage, was too expensive. Loong was looking for for the 'rose of his love' all around town but couldn't buy it for all the money he has. He didn't find the elusive flower but stumbled upon Maggie, a past he is trying to breakway from. But he is again coerced into an unhappy union.

In the next scene, Loong tries to escape from a shophouse’s back staircase but was again caught be Maggie who finally let him leave, with a threat to get back at him. 

Great use of symbolism, the caged, the searching, the shophouse and an escaping Loong.

Chinese Family Dinner
Eat Rice and Die.

Stuffing chicken to choke the words out of a cynical father/husband who was showing disapproval about Loong's relationship with a Malay girl. 

Very deft symbolism. 'You only know how to eat, you are all about eating, food is everything to you. Just eat another piece of chicken, we don't need your opinion about this!'  

Keong : An Unreachable Itch in Hospital Scene
An unreachable itch

Loong is aware of his longings and tries to seek out his love, to fulfill his a yearning for a pure union with his beloved. Keong couldn't get to his itch and his talk degenerates into a physical desire, provoking an erection at the thought of the “malay girls in wet sarongs”.

A Bumigeoisified Orked
Orked of the West.
 
A chic, made-up Orked (bumigeoisified) being driven away in a red 4 wheels drive with other rich Malay kids, looking at Ah Loong with sad, longing eyes. (Nice touch, Orked looks a little like 'Lolita' here, albeit a reluctant one). Are we heading towards a materialistic culture that will polarise us and destroy our dream as a nation? Are we going to forget our ideals as a plural nation with a single destiny and discard the deep longing for the unification of our selves for crass materialism and westernizaton?

Attempted Gang-style killing of Ah Loong
Ah Loong's past caught up with him at the backlanes of the shops. He is confronted by the master of the 'business district'. Can he break away from the role that's limiting his true desire to live the Life he wants; to love, to belong and to be truly fulfilled, or will he be coerced into replaying and re-living the stunted lives of his father and his ancestors? Between the struggle of 'material subsistence' and the desire to love and to belong to the adopted homeland, which will be triumph?  Between the 'boss of the streets' and the pure hearted Ah Loong, who will win the fight?     

Clueless Abah in Journey to Airport
Crying mom and daughter and a clueless father, moralizing out of context at the driver seat. Good juxaposition of the emotionally intense and the ridiculous. 

Irritating Ringtone
Annoying handphone ringtone “Pick up that bloody call la”. Pure fun. 

Super great features
Great acting by Sharifah Amani and 3 lovely songs by Sam Hui.

The Ending Disputes
I wonder why Yasmin didn't end the movie with the gang-style killing of Ah Loong and Orked's fruitless search for him in her Abah's old red volvo. She would have said it all with poetic brevity.

I've received a couple of requests to help track down the 3 songs by Sam Hui. Here they are:

Sepet, Sam Hui

These songs should be included in Sam Hui's Greatest Hits collection. Tip, you can get it from your neighborhood's Ah Loong. ;-)

Check out another of my blog on Sepet: Sepet: Crossing To the Other Side
http://www.ximnet.com.my/thelab/blog/blog.asp?id=57 

34 Comment(s) Link to this blog

SM said...

very GOOD observation. u go deep into the director's mind.

14/3/2005 


Please help said...

Dear Chin, Was browsing the internet to find out the titles of Sam Hui's songs in SEPET . Perhaps you can provide the titles for the sake of my 4 year-old grandson. He watched the movie on Astro, became captivated by it and asked me to buy the CD. I prefer to download the songs. Please help. Khatijah

8/4/2005 


Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin said...

Hi Khatijah,   I am not sure there's a place to download the songs. But I know you can buy a Sam Hui's greatest hits and you will get more than those 3 lovely songs.   Happy listening.   Wiley 

8/4/2005 


gambit said...

love what you have written here

that means i'll definately be back to read more of your musings and thoughts.

15/4/2005 


rose said...

hello wiley...

i have one of the songs, the intro one (saisiyukei), ive been playing all day long while workin ;)..to Kak Khadijah, i can send to her if you have yahoo email.

rose for d love one :)

p/s-what's d name of the roses ek? winkk

20/4/2005 


Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin said...

Hi Rose, here's Khatijah's email address Nellysya@tm.net.my. You can send her 1st song. For those of you with the rest, I am sure Khatijah will be very happy if you can help her.

The rose in the movie?
It is called Tuberose.
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/factsheets/bulbs-summer/polianthes.html

20/4/2005 


sepet-fan said...

Hey there! I wanted find the tracks by sam hui but failed to. Can you send to me as well? Thank you very much! This blog rocks!

26/4/2005 


Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin said...

Sepet-fan,

I think Rose will be happy to help you out.

27/4/2005 


sepet-fan said...

yay! tq very much wiley! So can you send me the song rose? TQ! my e-mail is kool_jet_dj@hotmail.com! thank you wiley for this wonderful blog for sepet-fan like me! ;)

28/4/2005 


yasmin@airport,on de way to s'pore said...

wiley, your in-depth review made me feel naked.

30/4/2005 


Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin said...

Alamak Yasmin, don't... :-)

Yor da best, keep shooting!

30/4/2005 


Khatijah said...

Dear Wiley Thanks to you, Rose (Anggun Selamanya)has sent Sam Hui's song. So glad I found you and Rose. Guess Yasmin is responsible. Thanks Yasmin.

3/5/2005 


Oversea Malaysian said...

Your blog on Sepet is true to the storyline of the movie. I am a Malaysian working overseas and had seen numerous tragic movies from different languages. The ones that really make my throat choarse were Anak from Philippines and Fly Me To Polaris from Hong Kong. But Sepet tops my chart as it cried my heart out. I am very glad and happy that we Malaysian is able to produce out such a great movie. I am definitely going to share it with my foreign friends with the Ah Loong vcd that I brought back.

3/5/2005 


Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin said...

Hi Overseas Malaysia, credits go to Yasmin the Story-teller.

3/5/2005 


blur said...

hi.. im new..anybody can send me the intro song of sepet by sam hui also..please2..i just found out who's the singer*poor me..hehe please2...thanks.. my email gurl_pawa@yahoo.fr

16/5/2005 


irt said...

I am also really impressed with the Movie, but your points are making me like the movie even more.

I am not Malaysian myself (Indonesian) but looks like most part of the stories are also typical South East Asean, so I think I can understand the feelings.

Thank you.

Iwan

 

17/5/2005 


Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin said...

Glad you share those experience Iwan.

17/5/2005 


acerolacherries said...

I just watched the movie last night, and was moved to tears at some point. The storyline is good, simple and typical, but yet embedded with it is a strong message about racial, religiuos and social issues so prevailing in Malaysia. Chief Alchemist, I certainly share your in-depth review and opinion about the great movie. It's simple artistic, innocent and brings me back to the good old days. Everything was just great, from the setting, music, chereography, acting, storyline, etc!

Kudos to Yasmin, the production team and all actors/actresses! For once, I am proud to recommend this truly MALAYSIAN movie to everyone, even foreigners! Yasmin, please keep it up and I hope to see more of your film!

p.s. err, I am a bit blur, here's one question about movie: what happen to Jason in the end? Did he die from the road accident? Was that Jason's friend whom Orked was speaking to while in the car? Maybe, I am going to watch it all over again, it's worth it afterall!

15/8/2005 


Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin said...

Hi Cheeries (your name very long la...)

I am sure Yasmin will be delighted if you catch the sequel of Sepet. It is called Gubra and from what I know, Yasmin and gang are shooting it at Ipoh now.

If you would like to know more, get it from Yasmin's blog at http://yasminthestoryteller.blogspot.com

Have fun.

15/8/2005 


late bloomer said...

nice review! glad you saw all of that in the movie. sadly, i didn't get most of it. perhaps you were involved in the making of it and therefore had a wider perspective? this i'll never know.

i thoroughly enjoyed the beginning of the movie though, ESPECIALLY the dance jason did at the start. very nice. very hilarious. had a good feeling about the movie then.

but it slipped, for me, after the [aborted? we'll never know as it wasn't shown but hinted at via jason's letter to orkid] street fight after he was fingered as the responsible party in the thug's sister's pregnancy. after that it became cliche'd (the going out with the old boy jo) and utterly predictable (the death of jason). the crying ladies in the car journey to the airport and the telecon with "jason" in the end? tsk... totally lost me then. 

so sad. what happened to the movie that i liked at the beginning? such potential, lost. but then again, that's just me. i'm glad to see lots of people enjoyed it though. hope jasmin makes lots more movies that are not necessarily in the same genre, but light edu/entertainment for us all.

4/9/2005 


Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin said...

Late bloomer,

I wasn't involved in the movie at all. But honestly, at the end of the day, a movie is to be enjoyed, not analysed. If you liked the movie, I think Yasmin should be commended.

5/9/2005 


sepet said...

this movie sepet is great...words can't describe how good it was...hope that there will be a sepet 2.

29/1/2006 


Azu said...

The movie is stupid la!

Why?

One good example would,

do you remember these scene that when Jason gave his Hp no and all of a sudden they were on their first date to chicken king (what the f*ck ??? chicken king. poyo yang terlampau...)

and the ending was that stupid because the director was YAsmin Hamid. Jason was dead already but whern Orked called he pick up the phonbe,,, What the f*ck is that ......

Any way the jokes were pretty lame and phatatic especially when eda nerina in the bed room scene, she is so freaking fat....man she's fat.

 

27/3/2006 


Akki said...

I enjoyed watching Sepet too. Its quite rare to see a Malaysian movie that goes beyond the simplistic love themes that most local films prefer to tackle. I notice you've listed some of the Chinese songs from the film..this is a long shot, but would u happen to know the traditional malay song played during the scene where the main actor does a tradtional malay dance? It  goes something like..Dia datang...dia datang..

anyway, great analysis! <http://www.thecocoanut.wanzafran.com>

29/9/2006 


Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin said...

Thanks Akki, but you are right, I don't remember any other songs other than the Thai tune. Great site you have, fantastic good pix.

30/9/2006 


Johnson said...

Hi, can someone please send me the intro song also, I've been looking for the songs over the net but can't seem to find it. So far this blog is the most helpful and efficient one. The songs are great, the movie is great, the humour and the story, damn it rocks, so far the best Malaysian film that I've watched. All those bujang mami whatever crap can go swim in the drain. Please do send me the Sam Hui's songs, thank you so much guys.

29/10/2006 


Johnson said...

Btw my e-mail add is johnson2dage@yahoo.com. Forgot to post. Sorry. Please do send the songs! Thank you!

30/10/2006 


fifi said...

hye there!!ur blogs are relly rocks!!this movie really touch my heart..my mom is chines while my dad is malay but they can live happily together eventhough they are from different root..so with this movie, it can open many eye about the love from different race..thanx to the director!!by the way,can u e mail me the chinese song from thi movie?thanx!!

28/7/2007 


everybody said...

cerita ini memang menarik dan bagus...

please visit my blog at www.iedadrama.blogspot.com

8/12/2007 


whatever said...

well..yasmin have set a new trend :

Chinese guy+ Malay girl= people will say "oohh so sweet and adorable couple..soo cute"

so, we got this new joke among us, the Malay guys..

Malay Guy+ Chinese girl="people" will say " aiyah..so crazy la dat ah moi..why is she so stupid one..malay guy got future ahh??? 

that's why u can see "mini-sepet" TV add on TV for Merdeka last year about a standard one chinese boy and malay girl.

same goes to that new McD ." Are you a kaki-bola?" TV add.

Its a trend for chinese buddies are try to hook up with Malay girls now.

shishh

21/7/2008 


marsyi said...

Can anyone post me sam hui song in dis film..i've been looking for it since i watched sepet (2005)..aiya,very hard to find it lorr..anyone pliz? mizz_candays@yahoo.com

12/9/2008 


viperhinoa said...

yup, same to me..can somebody send to me all Sam Hui's song in sepet pls..been crazy searching for that song..pls email me at viperhinoa1@gmail.com.tqvm..

20/8/2009 


viperhinoa said...

yup, same to me..can somebody send to me all Sam Hui's song in sepet pls..been crazy searching for that song..pls email me at viperhinoa1@gmail.com.tqvm..

20/8/2009 


Aj said...

Hello,
Can you send me the song at the end of the credits, becoz its really hard to find. And its memorable alot to me during my childhood where i ate "pau" with my dad at the Muslim Chinese restaurant here in Kota Kinabalu. Can you send me because i'm not chinese and i can't understand it but i love the song. Send it @ aj@tronik.org . And thanks again for ur help.

20/11/2009 


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Wiley Chin
Chief Alchemist
XiMnet Malaysia Sdn. Bhd.

An alchemist of the Internet and marketing strategies, leading the charge to put our creative and software talents into serving companies who are out to slay the global giants. Also known as Chief of Caffeine Consumption and hallucinates between projects. Yes, that accounts for his “giant slaying” stuff.

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