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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Rest in peace, Yasmin Ahmad

Yasmin Ahmad
(photo from Yasmin's flickr account)

Yasmin Ahmad has passed away.

I've never met her in person before. Just a single, hurried phone conversation two years ago. Last month, I wondered why she added me on Twitter, or how she knew about me.

Sepet has a special place in many people's hearts, but to me her best film was Mukhsin. I watched it at the GSC cinemas in 1-Utama with Kannan and Woo Ming Jin, that was the first time I met the latter, who is now my mentor and filmmaking partner.

I remember saying in a Sin Chew Jit Poh interview two years ago that thanks to her, and James, and Mui, and the others of the Malaysian New Wave, the international film festival circuit was opening up for more Malaysian filmmakers.

I think her magnum opuses were the Petronas ads she did, those that were tinged with nostalgia and sensitivity, making me yearn for a past that was never really my past.

I've never met her before, nor do I know her in person. Yet she remained a major presence in my professional life, mostly because I was always with the people who knew her, and for better or worse, she was always a topic for a conversation, a standard to measure against as an imaginary competitor, a source for inspiration as one who had already cemented a place in Malaysian film history.

When I woke up and read news of her passing on MSN, I felt wistful. To be reminded of mortality again, there were phone calls I wanted to make, people I wanted to talk to, voices I wanted to hear, but it was already past midnight, I sent a text message and noted my futility and stupidity. In the end I felt a strange sense of camaraderie with faceless names on my Facebook page, news started spreading about, the outpouring of grief expressed eloquently in the most simple of manners, there is also some comfort, tiny as it is, drawn from the Facebook and MSN conversations I'm having right now, quenching the sense of loneliness creeping upon me.

I guess that's death, often it makes you reflect upon your own life.

Rest in peace, Yasmin.