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Boluomi (2019) Film Review

Boluomi directed by Lau Kek-Huat and Vera Chen is based on director Lau's memory to tell the history of Malaysia. The uses of memory flashback as a way to shift the narrative timeline from past to present days, vice versa, brilliantly create a voice for the film itself for the audience to enjoy. For director Lau, as a Malaysian Chinese immigrant to Taiwan, which is perceived by many Southeast Asians to a developed country that provides an opportunity for a better future. But, there's more to migration than economic factors, and in Boluomi, it blended with the complex history of Malaysia that deserves to be known by more people.

To me, ImmigrationImmigration and colonialism were never topics of discussion. Instead, they have been a part of my life. My first documentary, Absent Without Leave, was about my grandfather. In his generation, he was so-called a "Migrant from Mainland China". Both my father and grandfather's generations have experienced the transition during Malaysia was being recognized as a country. They would have to go through this process of self-recognition." said, director Lau

The main storyline centres on a Malaysian Chinese teenager Yi-Fan, who has a hard time with his family and peers. Yi-Fan decided to study in Taiwan after he failed to attend university in Malaysia, as one is less likely to be admitted if he or she is not Malayan as the result of the educational inequality among different ethnic groups in Malaysia. It's not long before Yi-Fan realizes that everything has its dark side, and Taiwan, though appearing to be prosperous, democratic, and multicultural, is no exception. Yi-Fan feels a sense of exile and being an outsider even though the native language in Taiwan is the same as his.

ImmigrationImmigration isn't just happening in Taiwan, Singapore or Malaysia but all over Asian. We have to think about humans has been migrating around continents since the stone age; their histories are much longer than ours. The countries in this modern time, only have a history of a hundred years or so. But why is migration now a big issue to modern countries? It's something worth to think about." said, Director Lau.

A group of migrant workers altogether in a foreign country, it's common for them to get together either for physical or emotional supports. In the film, there is Yi-Fan, Laila and Shue-er. The plant jackfruit at the end wasn't successful grown by Yi-Fan but instead Laila. As viewers, we expect to see Yi-Fan and Laila becomes lover, but that didn't happen in the end. Even with sheer affection for Taiwan, the directors never shy away from the social injustice that exists and that people tend to turn a blind eye.

The friendship between Laila and Shue-Er is a beautiful part of the movie. Though she couldn't communicate with Shue-Er by words, she still treated Shue-Er well. Even when she was in a relationship with Yi-Fan, she was still nice to Shue-Er. But Yi-Fan, in the end, was more selfish because he could compromise a lot of things to stay in the country. So he was not the type that could bring the jackfruit back to life. To me, the person who planted the jackfruit was Laila." said, director Lau.

Director Lau bewilders us with his intention to indicate common issues over generations: trauma, memory, the truth and all that needs to remember. Despite all the dejections in society, there is a beauty too. If you notice, the only Taiwanese character in the film is the guy who is willing to steal eel for someone he loves. For me that's the real kindness of Taiwanese, can be a bit old-fashioned but kind and simple."

I want people to remember the harmonica; the song was Lenggang Kangkung. If you scrutinize it, the scene doesn't make sense at all. Because that place burned and the mother died, the kid should be gone. How would he go back to the room to play the harmonica? Liao Ching-Song was my mentor, and he told me that a film is a baby, rather than forcing to create a voice for them, the film should speak for itself with its voice. That's why the scene makes at the end might make the least sense, but it feels right and empower the film's voice itself." said, director Lau.

Boluomi, streaming on-demand until 30 July. Watch now.


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