Selubung is a Malay film made in 1992. The movie is directed by Datuk Paduka Shuhaimi Baba, a female director. The story is revolving a group of Malaysian students who study oversea in Perth as they choose different paths of their lives after they see the video of Palestian war. Mastura decides returning to Malaysia to work in RESCAID, an international charity organization. EJ, Mastura’s best friend decides to drop out of collage and married to an Islamic leader. Another two of her friends, Halim and Wn Ng decides to join international medical team in Middle East to aid the refugees. Mastura is gaining success with her charity campaign while developing a romantic relationship with a divorced man named Kamal. One day, tragedy happens in their office but Mastura survives from it.
The film has a solid plotline to connect all actors in various locations like Lebanon, Perth, Kuala Lumpur and Terengganu. Story itself has a lot of educational lessons as it highlights the negative consequences of war. The move has a lot of distinctive different characters like Mastura and EJ. Mastura represents modernism while EJ represents traditional Islam faith from the way they live their lives. There is no fine line between modernism and tradition as it is a grey zone that people constantly walk around from back to fort. The movie explores the theme of feminism and identity of Malay people in modern society.
Color is an important aspect in the film. Director constantly uses the blue tint on actors and environment. The color blue conveys the feeling of depression, sadness and remorse. It is showed on scene in warzone Lebanon when a female soldier is holding gun to protect her child. It also used in hospital room when Mastura is hurt badly by the bomb explosion. Blue color emphasizes the emotion of sadness as war torture human for the rest of their lives. Secondly, blue color screen also suggests location shift and flashback. It is used as a signal to imply time distortion as the first few frames add in the blue tint before switch the location and actors. It suggests that people lives in different places, yet they are connecting with each other as the memory they share would bring them together in the future. It forms a connection to bond between two characters as an establishment of love and friendship.
The movie starts with Malay musician are playing music with traditional music instrument, a drum named rebana. Also, it is played again when Mastura visits her father back in Terengganu. Music plays a big part in racial identification as it creates a common platform to share similar value and interest in a community. However, there are mostly old people in the musician group. The music performance sends the message of people should protect and promote their music to younger generation as it is a heritage would soon go extinct if nobody practices anymore. The existence of traditional music also threatens by the wave of western culture. Mastura’s friend who plays guitar is a Malay male who has long wavy hair and idolize the America rock band The Doors. He tries to copy their hairstyle and inspires to be a performer in music industry with rock and roll. This makes a contrast comparison as both musics give a different meaning to the identity of Malay people. Old people in Terengganu are playing music to preserve their heritage while Mastura’s friend eho plays guitar is trying to pursue his dream as a musician in music industry.
There are various strong female characters in the film as the director highlights the role of feminity in Malay society. Mastura is the heroin in the film as she is an officer who works for RESCAID, a charity organization. She spotted with a ponytail hairstyle and business wears to give herself the image of professional employee with high education for a woman. She doesn’t cover herself with headscarf on daily basis as she has a modern approach to her identity. Her fashionable taste in dressing can be seen in the scene she is getting ready to a date. She is wearing black dress with accessories to meet with Kamal. The shows the power of knowledge empowers the role of woman in modern society as it gives woman more opportunities in career department. A woman should have the authority to choose what to wear regardless of religion and race.
EJ, friend of Mastura and they both study in the same school. They are contrasting with each other as EJ is playing a submissive role in society. She is shy, soft-spoken and feminine during interaction with her friends and counselor in school. She is wearing headscarf to cover herself as she rediscovers traditional value in Islamic faith. She admires the leader of Islamic group, Brother Musa and married to him to become his second wife. Her marriage interferes to her study as she constantly skipped class to be with Brother Musa. EJ represents the traditional woman who follows strict Islamic rules with the influences from Brother Musa. The idea of balance in society with Islamic fate and modernism becomes a challenge to the Malay people.
Dr. Sandar, a female profession who works in RESCAID. She is playing a sword and jokingly says she would go to war if she is a man. She shows the combination of masculinity and felinity as Dr. Sandar is a strong independent woman with a sense of humor to tackle her daily task in the organization. It is important to be strong in the society as softness could weaken the woman authority. She also gives opinion and argues with Mastura on the issue of money usage for charity campaign. It shows women who speak for themselves in order to defend their ideas. This symbolizes the challenge of being a female employee in a male dominant environment.
Both Mastura and EJ are strong female characters in the movie. Mastura continues to organize the charity concert even though two of her friends, Halim and Wn Ng killed in the Middle East for humanity work. She also stands on her ground while she argues with Kamal, her boyfriend after she sees him with another woman. Mastura shows resilience and strong will as she determines to continue her job even though difficulty is ahead.
For EJ, she suffers domestic abuse from her sister wife, Hani. Hani is a woman who suffers mental illness as she experiences racism violence in the mosque vandalism. EJ is asking for a glass of water after she gives birth to a baby but Hani refuses to help. An unforgettable tragedy happens as Hani kills the baby while EJ and Brother Musa are away. This breaks EJ’s heart and decides to leave Brother Musa to start a new life back in Malaysia. It shows woman’s strength in mentality as EJ tries to live her life by join in the organization. Woman doesn’t need to submit the idea of being a household woman as woman could happy and fine by her own self.
The movie is an eyes opener film as it narrates a lot of social issue. It has a lot of heart-touching moment so girls don’t put on the mascara as it would ruins your makeup.
Sabrina (2011, November 14). Selubung. Retrieved from