There are so many things that we could boast about our country, yet rarely have we seen people talking about a decent feature film made by a Malaysian filmmaker.

The truth is, if everyone could look at the Malaysian film industry through rose-tinted glasses, there are a number of local feature films that certainly deserve more recognition in our country. After all, the Malaysian film industry has come a long way since the late entertainment icon P. Ramlee lit up the silver screen in Malaysia’s Golden Age of cinema.

In conjunction with Malaysia’s 57th Independence Day celebration, we gathered some of our favourite local feature films that has moved us to tears. We stand proud as Malaysians for these! Check out the list below:

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1. Sepet / Slit Eyes (2004)

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“Sepet”, a controversial romantic-comedy film which depicts the interracial relationships that have become increasingly common in Malaysia.

Directed by the late Yasmin Ahmad, the film is an eye-opening film for most Malaysians as it attempts to tackle the issues of interracial relationships in the country through the romantic love story between a Chinese boy and Malay girl. In the film, Ah Loong aka Jason (played by Choo Seong Ng) is 19-year-old boy who spends most of his time selling pirated VCDS in the slums. But when it comes to love, Ah Loong is an incurable romantic who loves to read and write poetry. His life takes an unexpected turn when Orked (played by Sharifah Amani) arrives at his stall to look for films starring her favorite actor Takeshi Kaneshiro. The two fall in love at instant despite being frowned upon by the social conservatives in the film.

Centred on the story of Orked, a prequel and sequel of the film, “Mukshin” and “Gubra”, have been released to complete “The Orked Trilogy”. All of the films were well-received by the critics and “Sepet” went on to win several prestigious awards including the Best Asian Film Award at the 18th Tokyo International Film Festival in 2005.

2. Puteri Gunung Ledang / A Legendary Love (2004)

Puteri Gunung Ledang

Passed down from generation to generation, “Puteri Gunung Ledang” is an iconic Malaysian folklore about the love story between a mysterious princess who lived on top of Gunung Ledang and the legendary warrior Hang Tuah. Malaysian screenwriter Mamat Khalid pitched the original idea of adapting the folklore into a TV series called “Hikayat”. However, Tiara Jackquelina, who starred in the film as the princess, insisted that the story was “too good” for TV and he eventually turned it into a film. The actress produced the film together with Shazalli Ramly and worked alongside director Saw Teong Hin.

“Puteri Gunung Ledang” is cited as the most expensive film in Malaysian history as it is produced at a cost of USD4 million. The film won several awards at Asia’s leading film festivals including the Malaysian Film Festival 2004, the 50th Asia Pacific Film Festival, and the inaugural Asian Festival of First Films in Singapore. It is worth to note that the film was also selected as Malaysia’s official entry for the 2004 Academy Awards.

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A digitally remastered producer’s cut of”Puteri Gunung Ledang” will be shown at selected cinemas to commemorate its 10th anniversary during the Merdeka weekend. The details are as below:

  • 3:45pm GSC Mid Valley (RM20)
  • 7:45pm Signature Gardens (RM50)

For more information, check out their official Facebook page.

3. The Journey (2014)

Believe it or not, “The Journey” is an absolutely heart-warming film about the awkward relationship between a conservative father named Uncle Chuan and his daughter. The film opens with Uncle Chuan’s daughter returning home from England with her fiance, Benji, to get her father’s blessing. Although Uncle Chuan approves their wedding, he insists to hand-deliver all the wedding invitations to his closest friends and embarks on a nationwide journey with Benji. Despite the lack of understanding towards one another, the 2 learns valuable lessons about accepting each other’s differences.

“The Journey” was proven to be a success as it became the highest grossing feature film in Malaysia, surpassing the previous record holder, “KL Gangster”‘ (which raked in RM11.74 million). The film even sparked a travel frenzy among Malaysians to visit the filming locations including:

  • Cameron Highlands
  • Chew Jetty
  • Pinang Tunggal Railway Bridge
  • Aur Island
  • Kuala Lumpur
  • Baling
  • Ipoh
  • Sabah

4. Songlap (2011)

Directed by Malaysian husband-and-wife filmmaking team, Effendee Mazlan and Fariza Azlina Isahak, “Songlap” is a hidden gem not to be overlooked by cinephiles. The film revolves around Am (played by Shaheizy Sam) and his younger brother Ad (played by Mohd Syafie Naswip) who survives on the streets working for a baby-selling organisation run by a woman called MAMA. However, things take an unexpected turn after Ad loses his best friend Razak to drug addiction and witnesses young girls being sold into prostitution. Ad decides to save Hawa (played by Sara Ali) from being sold into prostitution but faces a series of challenge including being on the brink of cutting ties with his own brother.

The film successfully captured the audiences’ attention as it paints a realistic picture of the criminal activities in Malaysia with its gloomy vibe. The overall production has earned them several awards at Asia’s leading film festivals including the Asean International Film Festival 2013, the 25th Malaysian Film Festival, the Screen Awards 2012, and the Film Critics Award for Kuala Lumpur in 2012.

5. Cuak (2014)

One story, 5 different directors; “Cuak” is a thought-provoking comedy drama film that tells the story of a young man named Adam (played by Ghafir Akbar) who is having second thoughts on his wedding day with Brenda (played by Dawn Cheong). Similar to “Sepet” and “The Journey”, the film depicts the struggles of interracial relationships including converting ones religion to get married.

From comedy to drama to mockumentary, the film combines all the chosen film genres from 5 different directors. However, the film managed to string all the parts into a seamless narrative film that focuses on the issues of interracial relationships. It is also the first time that a Malaysian film revolves around the topics about converting religions for marriage.

Honourable mentions:

So, which Malaysian film do you like the most? Do you have a better film you’d like to share with us? Let us know in the comment box below and don’t forget to spread more love and support our local film industry!

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Adrina was our former writer and now contributes to Hype. Find out what she's up to on her IG: @moonsglowslow.