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Abang Adik: Masterclass of an activism-themed movie

The mute elder brother's tirade in prison is easily the most intense and nuanced delivery in sign language I have ever witnessed

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By Philip Yeoh

My Sunday afternoon (26 May) was hosted by and well spent with Aliran, the Malaysian Citizenship Rights Alliance, Family Frontiers and the International Organization for Migration at the MM2 Cineplex in Prangin Mall.

It is no coincidence these NGOs chose the movie Abang Adik to relay their message to the public at large. This movie is a masterclass on how an activism-themed movie should be made.


It had already been acclaimed all across Asia and won the Best Actor award at the 60th Golden Horse Film Awards in Taiwan by the time it reached us. Several complimentary screenings were sponsored in several cities throughout Malaysia after a short but critically lauded commercial run in local cinemas.

The characters carrying the show are, in fact, composite types of actual documented cases in the crisis of statelessness in Malaysia.

The narrative was executed grittily, with a constant undertone of quiet desperation among the stateless underclass throughout, with peaks of surprising emotional intensity, yet without any of the histrionics that typically accompany this genre to detract from the storytelling.

Without giving away too much more, I’ll end here by observing that the mute Abang’s tirade in prison is easily the most intense and nuanced delivery in sign language that I have ever witnessed. It followed a delicious plot twist.

If the national film development body Finas has any Academy Award aspirations at all for 2023, Abang Adik is to me a shoo-in to carry Malaysia’s challenge to Hollywood in the Best Foreign Picture category.

If you want to spend a couple of hours watching a movie, invest your time with this one.

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Philip Yeoh lives in Penang.

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.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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6 Jun 2024 10.54pm

Yes, the film was very well made, very realistic and touching. Much to be done to improve their plight.

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