In 2005, director Amir Muhammad made the documentary “The Last Communist” about the life of Chin Peng, the former leader of the Malaysian Communist Party. In “Village People Radio Show”, which follows on from this, he looks for veterans and ex-members of the same Communist Party, who live in exile in a small village in southern Thailand. The well-aged former members talk extensively about the glory years and their guerrilla struggle against the British colonists and Japanese oppressors during and before the Second World War. Their faith – they are all Muslim – and their attitude towards faith is also discussed regularly. It appears that during the war the faith was not always strictly observed. For example, the statement that a warrior had to be strong was a good excuse to be allowed to eat anything.
“Village People Radio Show” is the second in a row by Amir Muhammad, who has been banned by the local regime immediately after its release. When you consider this, you wonder why the documentary has been blacklisted. As an outsider, you can hardly imagine that the government’s objections weigh so heavily in making such a statement. It is only natural that opponents of the regime are not positive when asked for their opinion. It would be very naive to expect otherwise. Unfortunately, Amir Muhammad cuts his own fingers by not letting the other party speak. The documentary is therefore monotonous and loses power. Even though it is about an important period in Malaysian history, it is nothing more than the verbal muddling of a number of elderly people. In addition to the interviews, the viewer is presented with images of the village, the inhabitants and their daily worries. This results in a boring affair. The ex-fighters, who do not want to return to Malaysia, are extending their lives and amply admit this. The scenes are linked together with separate visual shots that represent radio waves. This trick gets boring quickly, especially because the length of these shots is often too long. From time to time Amir Muhammad succeeds in showing beautiful cinematographic pictures of the landscape.
What is also striking is the combination of images and interview texts. Apparently simple images are used to reinforce the statements. When Pak Kassim talks about pulling groups of warriors into the jungle, the viewer gets to see a shot of a group of ants. This is just one example of this approach. Throughout the film, a story is also told of two kings and a queen, who suggest that she is cheating on you. It is unclear what symbolism lies behind this story, which is performed as a radio play, which occasionally causes the viewer’s attention to wander. Village People Radio Show is one-sided and boring, but also informative. Despite the fact that the film has caused quite a bit of commotion in its own country, outside Malaysia it will mainly get radio silence.