Home TA Online A historic day for Michelle Yeoh and Asia at the Oscars …...

A historic day for Michelle Yeoh and Asia at the Oscars … and for a refugee too

Would she have been able to get this far had she stayed on in Malaysia with all the censorship on creative endeavours that push the boundaries?

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Let’s forget the kerfuffle over the Mentega Terbang movie for the time being and celebrate Michelle Yeoh’s win at the Oscars for best actress in the sci-fi movie Everything Everywhere All at Once, making her the first Malaysian and first Asian woman to win the award.

Many in Malaysia are thrilled to land on the world map and share in the stardust. Few can deny that Yeoh deserves the award after such a long and illustrious career, even if the movie itself received mixed reactions from the public despite sweeping the Oscars. She will surely be a standard bearer, an inspiration now for women from minority groups in film and the arts.

Yeoh’s career only took off from the Hong Kong arts and movie scene. Perhaps those overseeing the Malaysian film industry could learn some lessons from that. It is worth reflecting: would she have been able to get this far had she stayed on in Malaysia with all the censorship on creative endeavours that push the boundaries?

It was a good day at the office for Asia with the south Indian song Naatu Naatu winning an Oscar for best original song, making it the first song from an Indian film to win the award.

Less well known is Ke Huy Quan, who won best supporting actor in the same movie Michelle starred in.

A Vietnamese refugee, he fled to Hong Kong in 1978, along with his father and five young siblings, and spent a year in a refugee camp. Quan’s mother and three other siblings also escaped from Vietnam, but they landed in Malaysia. The whole family was resettled to the US in 1979.

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Another actor, Hong Chau, was born to a Vietnamese woman (her father was shot while escaping the country) in a refugee camp in Thailand in 1979. She was nominated for best supporting actress in the movie The Whale.

Remember our less than stellar treatment of the “Vietnamese boat people” back then? Though Malaysia finally allowed them temporary refuge in its territory, many of them endured terrible conditions with poor sanitation on Bidong Island from 1978 to 1991 and difficult times in Cheras.

Quan’s achievement shows us the inert potential that lies within every refugee, including those in Malaysia who are still not allowed to work, at least officially. Refugee children are also denied a formal education. Imagine the untapped potential around us, waiting to be unleashed. Can’t we make their lives easier in “Malaysia Madani” (civil Malaysia)?

Given Michelle Yeoh’s milestone win at the Oscars, it is also high time we loosen the strictures on the Malaysian film industry. The Oscar winner has shown us that artistes and filmmakers in Malaysia have the potential to make it big on the global stage, if only we remove the straitjackets placed on them and give them the freedom to flourish.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Benedict Lopez
13 Mar 2023 9.15pm

Michelle Yeoh is at the most an average actor. She won the award because there was allegations and criticisms of discrimination against minorities. No need to go overboard in praising her. In what way did she contribute to the Malaysian film industry?

Ke Huy Quan is definitely a worthy winner. He lived the American dream!

Orang Ulu
Orang Ulu
13 Mar 2023 8.26pm

This Anail Netto writes rubbish as usual.

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