RUMI shirts by Arash Norouzi

Yasmin Ahmad's Remarkable Insights
Award-winning Malay Filmmaker on Rumi, the 1953 Coup

by Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | August 12, 2009

Yasmin Ahmad Malaysian filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad (1958-2009) made films about ordinary subjects that touched people in extraordinary ways. The family oriented, multicultural films she wrote and directed won her critical acclaim and awards worldwide; yet she was almost equally known for her beaming smile, humor and warm, generous nature.

In 2006, she attended the Fajr International Film Festival in Tehran, where she met Iranian directors Abbas Kiarostami, Majid Majidi, and Bahman Ghobadi (whom she became close friends with).

Her movies gained a strong following in Singapore, where she also directed a series of government sponsored commercials promoting community and family values. In fact, her full time job was as creative director for an advertising agency.

During a business meeting on July 23, 2009, Ahmad suddenly had a stroke caused by a blood clot. Rushed to the hospital, doctors attempted brain surgery to stop the swelling. Sadly, on July 25th, she passed away. She is survived by her husband, Abdullah Tan Yew Leong.

"I am optimistic and sentimental to the point of being annoying", she wrote of herself on her blog, "especially to people who think that being cynical and cold is cool. Everyday, I thank Allah for everyday things like the ability to breathe, the ability to love, the ability to laugh, and the ability to eat and drink."

Yasmin Ahmad on Rumi, Iran

In December 2007, Yasmin Ahmad wrote a guest book review for leading Malaysian newspaper The Star. The book, Rumi: Bridge to the Soul, translated by Coleman Barks, has an introduction by Barks which reviews in some detail the 1953 coup that toppled Mossadegh. Quoting from this section, Ahmad then asks,

What would Rumi or Shams have to say about this blatant act of terrorism?

“Come out here where the roses have opened. Let soul and world meet. The sun has drawn a fine-tempered blade of light. We may as well surrender. Laugh at the ugly arrogance you see. Weep for those separated from the friend. The city seethes with rumour. Some madman has escaped the prison. Or is a revolution beginning? What day is it? Is this when all we have done and been will be publicly known? With no thinking and no emotion, with no ideas about the soul, and no language, these drums are saying how empty we are.”

Would Churchill and Eisenhower have paused to reconsider their actions had they heard such a call? Or would business have gone ahead as planned?

Interviews with Yasmin Ahmad

Interviews and retrospectives...

Commercials in Singapore

Yasmin Ahmad's 2009 commercials for Singapore's Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS).

Yasmin Ahmad Filmography

Rabun [My Failing Eyesight] (2003)
Sepet [Slit Eye] (2004)
Gubra [Anxiety] (2006)
Mukhsin (2007)
Muallaf [The Convert] (2008)
Talentime (2009)

Related links:

NO! IRAN WAR t-shirts

Marjane Satrapi's Autobiographical Film, Persepolis

Interview with Iranian-American Filmmaker Justin Mashouf

Poet Allen Ginsberg on the 1953 Coup

MOSSADEGH t-shirts

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