klue.com.my - July 27 , 2001
by Mel Tang
From Jailhouse to Big Screen
The name Hishamuddin Rais may be an anthill on the film-making field, but it is a mountain on Malaysia's political landscape. Currently held under the Internal Security Act (ISA), the former student-protest leader of the '70s has a personal history far more colourful than his newly-released film Dari Jemapoh ke Manchestee. Here is a man who fought by the young Anwar Ibrahim's side, lived in exile for twenty years and returned home only to be incarcerated. Released shortly after, he made a film, and was then imprisoned again recently. Here is a man who really has a story to tell.
However, Dari Jemapoh ke Manchestee is neither autobiographical nor political. It is one that celebrates hope and the desire for freedom in the young generation. Filmed in 1996, the idea for this "anti-epic" was first conceived when Hishamuddin was detained upon returning from exile in 1994. But while his body was held captive, his mind was still free - his imagination led him to the story of two young men and their dreams beyond their immediate existence.
Upon his release, he started the wheels turning on his road movie. The screenplay was rewritten and refined to the very last punctuation. Auditions for the cast were held far and wide - Hishamuddin preferring raw and untapped talent to mould to his perfectionist requirements. The chosen few were drilled through intensive training for two months - acting workshops, theatre studies - all for the sake of the art.
The youthful emblem of rock 'n' roll plays another integral part of the film. Hishamuddin embraced both the music of his generation and that of today's - a symbiotic symphony between pop yeh-yeh of the '60s with contemporary punk rock/underground sounds. From Kassim "La Obe" Selamat to Carburetor Dung, the dynamic soundtrack was fused into the film and Dari Jemapoh ke Manchestee is brought to vibrant life in a blend of music and drama.
When the film was finally completed in 1997, lack of financial resources and other factors prevented it from nationwide release. It was not until 1998 that Dari Jemapoh ke Manchestee received a world premiere in the Singapore International Film Festival. The response was rapturous and the word of a new Malaysian sensation was out. A world tour of international film festivals was soon on the agenda - Indonesia, Germany, Sweden, Holland and Croatia were graced with screenings of the film. At the Munchen Film Museum, Hishamuddin's work was paraded along with other soccer-related movies in conjunction with World Cup '98 in France as a celebration of the game and most of all, the power of youth.
This 2 August, the vision of Hishamuddin Rais continues burning as Dari Jemapoh ke Manchestee is finally released on Malaysian soil. "Dedicated to the youth of the past, present and future," this vision of undying aspirations and a better tomorrow is never more poignant in the climate of our times.