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Short film explores 1986 Sabah riots

Writer: Elaine Ewe


Nadira Ilana's winning documentary is titled "Silent Riot", about the 1986 Sabah riots.

21 Feb – 25-year-old Nadira Ilana made Malaysia proud when she won the top prize in the Freedom Film Festival last year with her 30-minute documentary, "Silent Riot", which centres on the events that preceded the alleged citizenship-for-votes plot, according to The Malaysian Insider.

The budding Sabahan filmmaker, who was born a year after her Kota Kinabalu hometown in Sabah was paralysed by riots and fish bombs that followed the 1985 state elections, decided to produce the documentary after her father recounted his youth to her.

"I was asking my father what things were like when he was my age," said the young film-maker in the Singapore Straits Times. "I remember his words: 'I bet you never heard of the time Sabah had two chief ministers'."

She then ventured to seek out more information by talking to people who remembered, and after a month, the documentary came to be.


Nadira Ilana accepting the prize for her documentary "Silent Riot".

The controversial plot of Muslim immigrants being made citizens in exchange for their political support was termed "Project IC", and is said to be the cause of Muslim immigrants outnumbering the once-dominant Christian native population now.

As the story goes, then-opposition Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), which represents the Christian Kadazandusun community, and is now known as Barisan Nasional (BN), was not the only party with the most of the seats in the state assembly, resulting in two chief ministers being sworn in. It led to protests, followed by fish bombs and demonstrations.

"Very few of us knew about the riots," said Universiti Malaya law lecturer Dr Azmi Sharom, who was a judge in the film festival. "But it's important that we know. A lot of things that are happening in Malaysia, we tend to see out of context because we don't have a context. Or we have the context provided by one side only."

He added, "Malaysians are coming to realise they have an incomplete view of their own history, leading many to fill the gaps through efforts such as "Silent Riot"."

In light of the coming elections, this issue was brought back up for debate after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak set up a royal commission of inquiry to probe the matter last year. Hearings are set to resume this week.

Cinema Online, 21 February 2013


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