country has its native rice dish. In
Malaysian, it is nasi lemak. They also
have their local political rabble-rousing rapper, known by his handle
Namewee. The Malaysian government was
not thrilled at the prospects of the latter extolling the virtues of the
former, which is why they were less than supportive of his foodie movie. It was a hit nonetheless. Prepare yourself for generous helpings of
multi-ethnic humor (that you might not fully get) when Namewee’s Nasi Lemak 2.0 (trailer here) screens at the
2012 New York Asian Film Festival.
studied abroad with a master, Hero Huang is an uncompromising specialist in
Chinese cuisine. He is beloved in the
neighborhood because he stands up to all the punks, but everyone prefers the
street vendors’ Malaysian food. However,
Xiao K. has need of a skilled Chinese chef.
Control of her family’s upscale restaurant depends on a Chinese cooking
competition instigated by her greedy aunt, who hopes to turn the establishment
over to her lover, Lan Qiao.
K. and her father need a champion like Huang, but he has never beaten his old
class rival Lan before. After enduring a
few beatings and some official harassment at the behest of Xiao K’s aunt, Huang
gets with the program and sets off on a roadtrip with her to discover the
mystical secrets of Malaysian cuisine in all its ethnic varieties.
there are a lot of jokes in Lemak that
only Malaysians will understand, but the silly slapstickiness of it all is hard
to miss. Reportedly, a few local
professionally-offended Muslims were upset with the film, but it is hard to
understand why, unless you happen to be barking mad. The film could also have more cameos than Around the World in Eighty Days, but
many of them will be lost on Western audiences.
For instance, former Miss Malaysia Nadine Ann Thomas appears as Curry
Daughter, whom Huang and Xiao constantly press to enter the Miss Malaysia
contest while they stay with her curry-master father.
might have his Public Enemy moments in Malaysia, but Lemak is all rather gentle and well intentioned stuff. Essentially, it extols unity and tolerance
through Don Rickles and Jerry Lewis style humor. Most of the musical numbers are comedic
novelty numbers, such as the Bollywood parody, but the closing hip hop version
of the Malay folk song “Rasa Sayang” is pretty cool.
his comfort with physical comedy and his big lummoxey screen presence, Namewee
acquits himself just fine as Huang.
Malaysian pop idol Karen Kong is also quite a good sport, buried under prosthetic
Dukakis eye-brows, Pippi Longstocking pigtails, and Clark Kent glasses, but
still projecting a vivacious earnestness.
goofy, Nasi Lemak 2.0 is ultimately
more interesting to international audiences for what it represents for Malaysia
than the on-screen humor. It is not the
only film at this year’s NYAFF to mix music with beatdowns. Grandmaster Y.K. Kim & Park Woo-song’s The Miami Connection (video here) also screens at
the festival, ahead of its in-your-face re-release later this year, courtesy of
Drafthouse Films. The Miami Ninjas pick
a fight with the wrong band when they try to roust Dragon Sound from their new
gig at “Central Florida’s hottest new night club.” The ninjas and drug dealers might have formed
an alliance, but they are no match for the one-two punch of Tae Kwon Do and
cheesy 80’s synthesizer rock.
is maybe a touch hackneyed (you know when a Dragon Sound member puts on a fancy
new suit for a special occasion, he is in for a world of hurt) and the dialogue
is what it is, but the fighting is pretty awesome—and since co-director and
motivational speaker Grandmaster Kim will be attending the screening
(demonstrating the power of Tae Kwon Do and motivating your lazy butt), you had
better agree, if you know what’s good for you.
This is why we love NYAFF. You don’t see films like this at most other
snobby festivals. So take note, Miami Connection screens this Saturday
(7/7) and Nasi Lemak 2.0 screens this
coming Monday (7/9) and Thursday (7/12) as the New York Asian Film Festival
continues at the Walter Reade Theater.
Labels: Grandmaster YK Kim, Karen Kong, Malaysian cinema, Miami Connection, Nadine Ann Thomas, Namewee, Nasi Lemak, NYAFF '12