Gendering Old and New Malay through Malaysian auteur filmmaker U-Wei Haji Saari's literary adaptations, The Arsonist (1995) and Swing My Swing High, My Darling (2004)

Gaik Khoo

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    This paper discusses two adapted works of the Malay filmmaker U-Wei Haji Saari (b 1954): Kaki Bakar (The Arsonist, 1995), from William Faulkner's short story 'Barn Burning' and Buai Laju- Laju (Swing My Swing High, My Darling, 2004) from the novel by James M. Cain, The Postman Always Rings Twice. A close reading of these two films provides some insights into the filmmaker's thoughts on where Malay society is heading in terms of development, progress, social change and cultural values. The films focus on the tension between the individual and society, which is heightened by state capitalism and the drive for economic success. Along the way, each film deconstructs the notion of the achievement and success of the New Economic Policy (NEP, 1971-90) and suggests that men and women manage and manifest their existential anxieties differently. The author argues that Kaki Bakar and Buai Laju-Laju highlight oppositional dreams of individual versus collective Malay identity through movement and stasis, gendering stasis as traditional and male (Old Malay) and upward mobility as female (New Malay). Finally, Buai Laju-Laju's morally ambiguous ending, in which the femme fatale triumphs over the anti-hero, subtly comments on the social and moral costs of a state capitalist ideology that privileges developmentalism and materialism over human ethics.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)301-324
    JournalSouth East Asia Research
    Volume18
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2010

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