Desire Against the Grain: Transgender Consciousness and Sinophonicity in the Films of Yasmin Ahmad

Hee Wai-Siam, Ari Heinrich

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Is this 1Malaysia? The Malay film director Yasmin Ahmad (1958-2009) presents a unique opportunity to discuss the intersection of the Sinophone and the queer. One of Malaysia’s most beloved auteurs, Yasmin made a series of semi-autobiographical films in which Sinophonicity plays a central role.1 Known as the Orked trilogy, the films depict various stages of the romance between a Malay Muslim girl called Orked and a Chinese Malaysian boy called Ah Loong, and include multiple layers of extended dialogue in Cantonese, Mandarin, and Hokkien, as well as numerous references to Hong Kong popular culture and a film score incorporating Cantonese pop songs.2 The films have been embraced by Malaysian nationalists and non-Malay movie-goers alike as powerful allegory for the political ideal of racial and ethnic harmony in Malaysia, most notably using the rhetoric of “1Malaysia,” a controversial nationalist ideological campaign promoted by the Malay majority government to encourage “ethnic harmony” and “national unity.” As one Malaysian Chinese scholar lamented upon Yasmin’s death, “I think what we’ve lost is not merely a director or an advertiser, but a Malaysian who knows better than anyone else what is the real significance of ‘1 Malaysia.’ ” In 2011, Yasmin’s film Muallaf (2008) posthumously won the 1Malaysia Cultural Award.3
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationQueer Sinophone Cultures
    Editors Howard Chiang & Ari Larissa Heinrich
    Place of PublicationLondon
    PublisherRoutledge, London
    ISBN (Print)9780203590928
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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