the offensive stuff must have been lost in translation. Like clockwork, the
latest film from Namewee, the rapper, film director, and goofball government
critic was banned by the Malaysian authorities, but for westerners, it is hard
to fathom why. Sure, he shows his dependable reckless disregard for logic and
decorum, but so what? Maybe you really have to be looking for it. Most viewers
will simply try to keep their heads from spinning when Namewee’s multi-national,
multi-ethnic cast starts ricocheting all over the place in Banglasia, which screens as part of the 2015 New York Asian Film Festival.
Harris is a poor, put-upon Bangladeshi migrant worker, who has come to
Malaysian to earn enough money to marry his sweetheart. Unfortunately, Laboni’s
latest letter announces her imminent arranged marriage. DH has two days to get
back to Bangladesh to set things right, but rather inconveniently his scummy
exploiter boss Omar holds passport as collateral, until he pays off his transit
debt. Harris tries to talk things out with him, but a gunfight breaks out instead,
as they will.
an odd (and we do mean odd) chain of events, Harris gets an amnesia inducing
knock to the noggin and winds up on the run with Hanguren, a Malaysian
anti-immigration rabble rouser, whose name translates to “Korean Man” in
Mandarin, and Omar’s rebellious daughter Rina, a nurse who swoons at the sight
of blood. Rina immediately has eyes for DH, but Hanguren’s befogged grandmother
mistakes him for her long deceased husband to further complicate matters. Frankly,
it is a logical misperception, since Namewee contrives a way to get DH into the
dead man’s rhinestone cowboy outfit. Fortunately, it seems the amnesiac can
also shoot, which will come in handy when the Luk-Luk army invades Malaysia,
with the help of the treasonous Omar. Or something like that.
some point in all that, the Malaysian government put its foot down and “oh, no
you don’t.” Perhaps they did not appreciate the mockery of Hanguren’s
border-closing rhetoric, but it is weak tea compared to vitriol directed at big,
bad Donald Trump. Nor is it a glowing endorsement of the treatment immigrants
typically receive, but Omar is not exactly a loyal patriotic Malaysian either.
whatever. If you enjoy wildly goofy comedy amped up on Red Bull and Pop Rocks
than Namewee is your huckleberry. No gag is too goofy and no cast-member is
privileged enough to wriggle out of taking some humiliation for the team. Yet,
somehow Nirab Hossain maintain a sense of dignity as the utterly confused Dirty
Harris. Naturally, Namewee hams it up something fierce as Hanguren, because
somebody has to in a film like this. The elegant Atikah Sumaine is also a good
sport dealing with a relatively tight wardrobe a spot of blood here and there
as the besotted Rina, while Shashi Tharan is completely insane as Wira, the berserker
There are a number of potshots taken at the
increasing regional domination of Korean culture, so let’s take a moment to welcome
our Korean friends to rest of the world’s jealousy party. Trust us, you’ll get used
to it too. However, it is hard to imagine Namewee films ever feeling old hat.
For those who saw his Nasi Lemak 2.0 a
few years ago, Banglasia is even more
barking mad. Recommended for those who dig truly outrageous comedy, Banglasia screens this Friday (7/10) at
the SVA Theatre, as part of this year’s NYAFF.
Labels: Malaysian cinema, Namewee, NYAFF '15