The Red Kebaya – a sentimental, contemporary Malaysian story

The Red Kebaya - poster

During Ramadhan, we were invited to dinner with the cast and crew of The Red Kebaya. Along with that came an invitation to the premiere at MidValley, for which I took the day off from my day job to attend.

Before the movie started, Sandra Sodhy (TRK’s PR and publicist) said a few words, with a few lines reminding viewers to switch their mobile phones to silent mode. Well obviously Malaysians are going deaf. No matter how many times we are reminded to put our phones on silent mode, or NOT to answer phone calls during the movie, or NOT to constantly kick the back of the seat in front of you, we NEVER listen. And this was a preview screening, by invitation only, with the producers, directors, actors in the cinema hall. But some dumb fucks just cannot show respect by NOT giving road directions to his geographically-challenged friend in the middle of the movie. Twice. Very smart. If this were my movie, I’d fucking tie you up and feed you to the Sarlacci.

/rant over

The Red Kebaya - Samantha Schubert, Suanie and poster
With Samantha Schubert:

And so the story begins…

The Red Kebaya - Production stills, set

Latiff (RAMLI HASSAN). Photographer. City dweller, successful fella. Orphaned. Blocked memories from childhood. Went ahead to take photos of abandoned buildings around Malaysia as part of his next project. Saw visions of two kids, one of them who was also…

Latiff (MOHD. AFIF), a little boy whose mother was…

Azizah (VANIDAH IMRAN), a hot divorced/widowed joget girl who encountered and fell in love with…

John (BOB MERCER), an English expat who loved everything about Malaysia (the food, the people, the culture, the heat etc) and of course, loved Azizah. John was unfortunately married to…

Davinia (SAMANTHA SCHUBERT), who hated everything John loved about Malaysia, including Azizah. When she found out about the her husband’s feelings for Azizah, ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ pretty much described Davinia.

The Red Kebaya - Production stills, people

Other notable names in the movie are: Patrick Teoh, Zahim Al Bakri, Elaine Daly, Paula Malai Ali, Sabera Shaik, Jo Kukuthas and Fauziah Nawi (who had a very short but most memorable role, that is if you could recognise her in the movie πŸ˜‰ ).

Because everyone likes lists, here’s one:

  • The Red Kebaya producers are Andre Berly and Ramli Hassan, and the director is Oliver Knott
  • The Red Kebaya was shot entirely in Malaysia. They did the dolby-dolby stuff and show prints in Australia. Post-production stuff were completed at ADDAudio, a Malaysian studio
  • Bob Mercer had just 3 weeks to learn all his lines in Bahasa Malaysia
  • Principal photography took 35 days
  • Initially the owners of the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion were reluctant to have their premise used for filming. But after a series of meetings and much persuasion that lead them to better understand the concept of the movie, they finally allowed it
  • Oliver Knott did not know what a ‘kebaya’ was prior to the movie
  • The budget for TRK is RM 1.5 million. RM1.5 million can buy you 202702 packs of fags, 150000 large Big Mac meals, 3000 sets of 21″ TVs.
  • RM 1,500,000 is also around USD$ 410,778. You need to top up that amount by 486 times to be able to make Spiderman 2.
  • I am guessing this is a privately-funded movie, as deliverance was mostly in English. But I didn’t ask for sure.
  • The producers/director set this movie around the 50s/60s, no specific time line, so they tried to create a suitable environment — visual and sound to suit that era. Was still pretty funny to see a bouncer in a black jacket outside a joget club though. Some things never change.
  • The nice folks at Rising Above will be hosting a dinner charity night on Monday night at BSC… hey, that’s tonight! Plus they will also get lots of underprivileged kids to go watch TRK on Wednesday, courtesy of kind people who donate to them, so yeah it’s nice of them to do that.

The Red Kebaya - Cast and Crew

My thoughts on TRK

Great poster. Excellent score/soundtrack. Beautiful cinematography. Beautiful use of locations. Some sound glitches but I understood that to be the cinema’s technical problem. Some performances were overly theatrical, don’t translate well to movies. Storyline is different from other local movies so far, which is a good thing. A couple scenes in the movie tak masuk akal; either continuity problem or just too plain odd to comprehend. Costumes were beautiful.

The Red Kebaya - Vanidah Imran with Suanie
Suanie: You should have worn the red kebaya lah..
Vanidah: Kenot, too sexy, later you all nosebleed.

Vanidah Imran was damn hot. Samantha Schubert was rather good as someone you would love to hate. Bob Mercer’s character was a bit of useless lembik bugger, he did it rather well. Sometimes you just want to shout at him, BE A MAN! Patrick Teoh’s role was nice, one that you would not really appreciate until the end of the movie. Some scenes just broke my heart. Some scenes weren’t supposed to be funny, but the audience laughed anyway. Some parts a bit too corny, slow and long. Some parts scared the shit out of me. Well, I am easily freaked out what…

OVERALL, The Red Kebaya unashamedly tags itself as a love story, and it is really rather different from other Malaysian movies — the concept, the execution, the delivery and so on till the end of Kudat. I quite enjoyed myself, it was a day off well-spent, and I urge you movie-goers to go catch this movie and make up your own minds on it so we could have a discussion (before the cinemas take them off the screens much earlier, as they often do with local movies). It’s a struggle for me not wanting to reveal more of the plot as not to spoil it for those who will watch it, but so dying to talk about the content!

I posed a question during the press conference, something about why did they choose the ending they chose instead of another version, which I’d thought would be much better for closure. Oliver Knott (the director) and Ramli Hassan (co-producer and lead actor) replied that they went through several endings, but decided that the closure that I thought was good would be too predictable. Besides that angle had been played to death in other movies (literally). I guess it was a nice decision to end the movie in hope and gladness.

The Red Kebaya - Samantha Schubert with Suanie
Samantha: Are we done with the fake dialogue yet?
Suanie: Why? Do they suck so bad? πŸ™

So if you want to know what the heck I’m talking about, go watch The Red Kebaya when it opens in Malaysian cinemas (GSC) on 23 November 2006. Be sure to catch it early, for reasons I have stated above.

Kate James (film editor and post-production supervisor) helped me to ask Andre Berly (co-producer) for permission to upload a couple of song clips from the soundtrack onto my blog. He said yes (thanks Andre and Kate!) and here they are, two songs that I really love. Very P-Ramlee Malaysian.

Joget Selendang Sayang – 0.55 mins
Mengharap Sinar Kasih – 0.34 mins

Music by S. Atan, lyrics by Nurul Asyikin, vocals by Sheila Abdul and Arifin Tioh.

If you would check out TRK’s site, you’ll hear a nice piano tune in the background. I absolutely love the melancholy composition, and sometimes I just leave the window open so I could listen to the tune while doing other stuff.

So, The Red Kebaya23 November 2006… GSC… go watch!

Other reviews (aka people who make more sense than me): Reta (and awaiting!!!)

So after the preview screening/ press conference/ excellent lunch, I was chilling at Starbucks to get something from J, and some of the cast and crew of TRK walked in, including Ramli Hassan. Our eyes met and he exclaimed, “I think I know this person!” and he came over and we hugged. We talked a little, then J helped us to take this shot.

The Red Kebaya - Ramli Hassan with Suanie
Ramli: How much you wanna pay me for the photo?
Suanie: How much are you worth?
Ramli: For you, free lah, as long as you write about TRK!
Suanie: Wah, you so cheap!!!
Ramli: Yah I memang cheap what!
Suanie: It’s ok lah, I also cheap one.

Didn’t have to fake that one πŸ™‚

Other reviews: Sultan Muzaffar




    Suanie: what seems to be the problem?

  2. Suan, eh, I fully support local production too. How to get freebies like that ah? You lucky you…

    Suanie: go buy the ticket lah πŸ™‚

  3. Dean:
    Did you not say “SUPPORT”?

  4. Remember the time when everything kebaya was in vogue from Chow kit road to TV3 because everyone wanted to bodek a VVIP\\\’s who wife was the patron of the kebaya culture?

    Is it coincidence or is this a bodek movie. Let\\\’s see if there will be special a screening for special people….

    Suanie: So if someone popularises the kebaya, it is a sell-out to have it in any other movie, is it? I thought I mentioned that they didn\\\’t get FINAS funding so no reason to bodek anyone.

    There is, however a reason for the existance of the red kebaya, the clothing item itself. The significance is within the movie. But I don\\\’t want to spoil the plot too much.

    Aku hairan la at some people…

  5. panjangnye review….

    hot chicks in Kebayas rock.

    Suanie: mostly photos la

  6. Of course lar cannot be seen to take gahmen money, after people suspect this is bodek movie then how? Summore the release to coincide with the timing of ARMNO\’s big pow wow or shall I say, bodek session el supremo. Gasp, what will people say πŸ™‚

    Come lah to Mongolia my country, can shoot another bodek movie on the real poor misunderstood victims of society, the mek rempits… hee hee

    Suanie suanie….so defensive…. lighten up lah you poor dahling. This is joking only.

    Suanie: I didn\’t think it was a v. good joke, but then it\’s Monday πŸ™‚

  7. haha.. Pulp Fiction is that good huh?

  8. most welcomeeeee =)

  9. suanie, are u chinese?

    not that its a problem of who u are but i’m impress. πŸ˜‰

  10. Aiya, of course I’d buy the tickets la. What I meant was “free” invitations like that to see the cast and team behind the production…

    Good to read the review here as sometimes, I may missed it on the news…

  11. spiller: but of course!

    aidid5: ya, iΓƒβ€šΓ’β‚¬β„’m cina

    Dean: hahahha dono, people ajak, i go lah.

    if u drive around kl, esp the bkt bintang area, u can see large posters of TRK all over the monorail … erm.. tiangs πŸ˜› but the last time i was in kl was a couple weeks ago lah, so donΓƒβ€šΓ’β‚¬β„’t know if the posters are still there

  12. Wondering whether they are gonna show it in Singapore or not? ;P

  13. derek: i think got. but dono when. u check lah ur local cinema listings

  14. those are huge.

  15. miss Suanie…u’ve said it all πŸ™‚

    i watched it yesterday with some friends who have been so dead annoying all throughout the movie!!! laughing n commenting, mostly on the Bob Mercer’s funny accent speaking Malay. haiyya…he was in character lah, how else should he sound? i’m so serious with my movies, i wld’ve had them kicked out of the cinema!
    but then again, i was there on their invitation. so i got to another seat – a better one. i had like other 100 empty seats to choose from. so much for “supporting” the local movies.

    oh ya really great score n soundtrack…best i’ve ever heard in a local movie so far…or maybe i haven’t watched enough? heheh..

    but there was a glitch which to me is a huge factor for the eye-comfort of the audiences – the hair. i find it quite annoying to see John Reynold’s hair all stiff and funny. he seemed to can’t even touch it too much either. i’m assuming it’s a wig..? n Davinia’s hair is so obviously bleached, cldn’t they recolour? but at certain angles it looks quite nice tho – vintage πŸ˜›


  17. I’m currently phobic when it comes to watching local movies. Just saw Remp-It and recently, Bilut. Both frustrated me. Today I went the cinema again.. thinking about watching a good movie. Red Kebaya came across my mind but slipped away just like that because I got scared if its also gonna turn out a disaster and that I’m gonna waste another 11 bucks. So i watched another movie instead. maybe I should’ve read your review first on Red Kebaya…

  18. Update: watched this movie today. Good movie! At least its something different. But a bit frustrated to know that its not directed by local director πŸ™

  19. hmmm…. a really really great movie to turn up to. really like ur comment on it. after long exhausting n not so fun world of my work, i found this movie really artistic n enjoyable… the red kebaya was marvellous piece. really wanna grab one later ;p

    hmmm… also like the changes in malaysia movie… like watching international one…

    gud – rating 10/10

  20. Paul: Indeed.

    tiNtin: haha Bob Mercer speaking Malay was funny, but .. erm… thatΓƒβ€šΓ’β‚¬β„’s how it goes what? IΓƒβ€šΓ’β‚¬β„’m sure we sound funny if we speak in a foreign language. You are right on the score and soundtrack. The last good sountrack for a local movie I heard was for Gol and Gincu. I still love the songs from the movie even till today πŸ˜€ But that one and this one different type lah, that one more happening, this one more nolstagic.

    I asked Samantha Schubert if she wore a wig (cos there was a Γƒβ€šΓ’β‚¬Λœthank youΓƒβ€šΓ’β‚¬β„’ to a wig store thing in the credits) but she said no. I forgot what else she said, but something along the lines of discomfort hehe.

    deena: hope you enjoy it πŸ™‚

    ZeMMs: Haha Remp-it. How was it? The next movie we want to watch is CICAKMAN. Yes I take back everything I said about CICAKMAN. I WANT TO WATCH CICAKMAN!!!!!!!!! the trailer was awesome πŸ˜€

    Foreign director doing a local movie. Not bad what. Hopefully can spur local directors/producers to come up with great stories.

    zatil: yeap, i keep telling my friends it is going to be a slow movie, i thoroughly enjoyed it the second time i watched it.

  21. My goodness, Sam looks wonderful! I have not seen her since the late 80\’s and she\’s shining like a star I knew she\’d always be.
    Please pass my love on to her.


  22. Adrock Sheffielddean says:

    I happened to watch The Red Kebaya on 30th Aug 2008 on tv2. A brilliant film I should say. I especially love Samantha’s role as that devil woman Davinia.She’s stunning too in blonde. But what gets me is the ending as I really wanted to watch how John, Azizah and Latiff get over Davinia and live happily together thereafter. Really, too much melancholy in a beautiful film kills the romantic mood. Anyways, cheers to the cast and crew for a unique film such as this. The Red Kebaya rules.

  23. dipak ( mr. mahesh sigdel ) says:

    hi boss , how are you ? i am dipak . your old security guard.


  1. As Suanie Sees It - the red kebaya… again! says:

    […] Craps, just wrote the longest thesis on The Red Kebaya for Monsterblog. Can’t feel my fingers now. […]

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