Friday, September 17, 2010

Screening to the focus group: my family

Suddenly I had a tight knot in my stomach (where were the butterflies?).

The final cut of the film documentary, all 28 minutes of it complete with title and end credit will be screened in my living room to the most important people: my parents, sisters and their husbands, nieces and nephews and my own family.

  • Age: between eight and 67; 
  • Education background: primary school to postgraduate; 
  • Job background: mostly engineers, banker, entrepreneur, trainer, and a daily news editor;
  • Political views: varied; Malay supremacy must reign, Prime Ministers need not even be Muslims, PKR is only sympathetic to Anwar not to the people, PAS is the way to go, Any party but Umno, No MIC, PAS is too unfashionable, UMNO is the people's saviour and the non-partisans who watch Animal Planet religiously;
  • Hobbies: ranging from photography, violin and piano, Transformers, Nokia, to bargain hunting in Bandung and Bangkok;
  • Common trait: all are seasoned travellers;
  • Common interest: good food.

Their feedback is essential to help me gauge a general response to this film. As a family, they have been supportive of my previous work (including television dramas, docudramas, and a novel) but I dared not speculate their reactions towards this film, largely because it was rather different in tone and subject. But they have been, and for this film could be, critical too.

Could I accept criticism from the people I love? Would I be mature enough to sift between support and honest views? The knot in my stomach tightened.

The family-cum-focus group arrived in batches. After the last one was seated, the lights were dimmed and the final cut of Tauke Mancis dan Minyak Tumpah played. The room was silent, even the young ones paid serious attention to the opening scene.

I stood at the back of the room gazing at the faces of the audience, capturing in mind their expressions and gestures.

They clapped when they saw my name on the title run, cheered when they heard my voice narrating the film in the background, they were loud and generous with running commentary as the film progressed. At  about two third of the film my father walked out of the room. Clearly perturbed, he had to smoke but continued watching from the doorway. My mother sat very still.

At the end of the film, they gave me a round of applause, I switched on the lights, grinned and the knot in my stomach grew into a massive Gordian.

In brief here are the comments:

“You can't change this any more? The intro is just too long.”

“Perlu ke pijak kepala lembu tu?” (The Animal Planet fan club was agitated with the protesters stepping on the severed cow's head)

“What's wrong with PKNS? The residents should have sued them a long time ago.”

“Ehh Ustad tu familiarla. Dia punya ceramah memang best.”

“Can I have the end credit song made into a ring tone?”

“This film should not be shown at international film festival. It is embarrassing to tell foreigners of our internal conflicts.”

“What do we do with the extremists?”

The last comment was the Alexander sword that swiftly sever the Gordian knot. Alhamdulillah.

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