Kopi O Khau and Amina Wadud

I hadn’t really planned on going for it – my Friday was already hectic enough as it was. I had rushed downtown to attend our monthly WomenBizSENSE meeting at Jo’s shop and it had truly been an exhausting day. When that meeting was over and done with, I was up and running again – this time, going over to a client’s place to get some photos from her photo collection and confirming details of the website project we were doing for her.
Plus it was so hazy last Friday.
And on going home, I was stuck in the Scotland Road traffic jam. That jam happens every evening like clockwork. And I had to run to my Grandma’s place to pick up a very important fax.
ANYWAY… when Jana called me that evening, I was tired. I needed a shower. I needed to be still for a while, to really catch my breath.
But Jana being Jana, her enthusiasm was infectious. I told her if it was too arty-farty I’d leave. “No, it’s really good,” she gushed. So OK, I told Nic we were going for the FFF (Freedom Film Festival) that night. Even though I though having mooncakes and tea was truly what I needed. Yes, it was Mooncake Festival Night. It was the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. The first time I was not savoring mooncakes on the 15th of the 8th lunar month. How strange!
The three-day film festival at The Actors Studio Greenhall started on that Friday morning and short films by amateur filmmakers were shown throughout the day. After an hour of screening, the audience would be given the chance to debate and deconstruct the films. Sometimes the film-makers themselves would turn up and moderate the discussions.
Of course the topics and short films were controversial, eye-opening and alternative. I had the good fortune to sit in on Friday night’s films and Sunday afternoon’s films. Both days, the films were equally provocative although most times we being Malaysians, we tended to discuss politely and never went beyond our sense of self-propriety!
Yet, the films gave me an insight on matters which I had never paid attention to. For instance, Andrew Sia’s Kopi O Khau Sikit Kurang Manis talked about the police. Or rather, who’s going to police the police. He did it in a tongue-in-cheek style, with hip-hop music but it didn’t detract from the serious message – the worry over rising crime, where’s our police, who is going to jaga the police. Also, perennial Malaysian issues of corruption – what should we do about it? Do we shaddap and just give duit kopi or do we play good citizen and ask for a summon, only to be slapped in the face when there is a Malaysia Megasale Police Discount on Summons (instead of RM150, you just pay RM30).
Another interesting and extremely powerful film was Elli Safari’s film – Portrait of Amina Wadud. Amina Wadud is an African American Muslim woman who brought the issues of women’s rights into the masjid. She made news when she led a mixed gender congregation in New York in 2005. As a result of her action, and her constant questioning of the male exclusivity within the religion, she has been somewhat of a cause celebre plus the target of death threats and violence.
The film, all of 29 minutes, shows Amina Wadud (Professor actually) as a woman, a human being, a professor and a Muslim. It explained why she believes that women, just like men, should be able to lead a prayer congregration. But this film packed a mean punch in the last 30 seconds before it ended. When it did, all of us started clapping. It was a damn powerful last line. Like a tornado, it hit one straight between the eyes and to understand, one had to link the whole film, her words and action back to this one simple sentence she says at the end. If you can, do view this film.
Of course there were many other memorable films too like Said Zahari’s 17 Years by Martyn See and Medium of Love by Elli Safari. I had never heard of Said Zahari before this yet the interview with this 78-year old Malay man, a Singaporean citizen, shed light on ISA and Lee Kuan Yew. Said is a political prisoner who was jailed for 17 years without trial. He is now freed but resides in Malaysia.
Elli Safari has now made me a fan of hers (I hope it is a her!) through Medium of Love which is one Iranian clergy’s attempt to teach religion using cinema and films. Ali Afsahi’s poignant recount of his love for films and his new and almost radical way of disseminating and teaching religious values came to nothing because the Government started accusing him of spreading Western smut. And so it is with gatekeepers.
KOMAS (http://www.komas.org) is the organiser of this FFF and they’ve done a fantastic job in bringing thought-provoking films on gender equality, women’s rights, workers’ rights, issues of refugees, people and culture and lots more to joe public. I heard that they will be compiling a DVD of the films soon. Get a copy from KOMAS if you can.
Find out more about the FFF at http://freedomfilmfest.komas.org/Archive.html
(Unfortunately ,the screenings are over but I do hope they’ll bring the FFF to other cities in Malaysia. Worth the donation you give!)

7 thoughts on “Kopi O Khau and Amina Wadud”

  1. I was so hoping you would give us the gritty details of ‘a discussion’ when 2 guys were trying to argue with a roomful of feminists…
    That must have been one of the highlights!

  2. HI Vern: Yeah, I do hope they will bring it to more people in more towns across Malaysia. Worth the time.
    Hi D: Hah, by not mentioning the ridiculous discussion shows how little regard I have for THAT kind of response. I mean, are men really THAT animalistic that they cannot tolerate a woman imam leading the prayer congregration? I hold men in higher regard than that. But those two fellows were pathetic. They quoted nothing new, they possibly felt affronted by women anyway. And yes, they were so typical of their ilk that I didn’t see fit to mention them in my blog post. Get the details (I am sure you’d have) from Jana. She’s just as outraged as I am. But outrage is good – it means blood is still coursing through me! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Hi Marsha,
    Oooh you have to watch it. I won’t spoil it for you. When I get the DVD, I will pass it along to you. You’ll really love it, we of the feminist blogosphere!


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