There will always be a fine line between legality and morals and this was made even more so in the case of the demolishing of the Ampang Park mall beginning May this year for the construction of an MRT extension line. Embark on a journey through the words of the former tenants of Ampang Park documented by Sunway University students behind, Borrowed Time (filmmaker, Joyce Soo Wai–Xin and producer, Fahmi Sani) as they battled against the land acquisition by MRT corp and how the fight had impacted their businesses and lives.
We ask producer, Fahmi Sani on the significance of Ampang Park, how history is vital and whether there was an infringement of rights in the case of the acquired Ampang Park mall.
1) Why the focus on the demolition of the Ampang Park mall?
We started this documentary as part of our assignment for the Documentary subject during our 3rd university semester and the mandatory theme given was “place and memory”. Ampang Park was the first thing to come to mind as there is none other place quite like it in terms of its historical and nostalgic values. It’s one of those feelings you can only get if you have been to the mall personally. Additionally, I was also inspired by my father who used to work at the mall as a part-timer to earn some extra pocket money during his college days. So getting his first-hand perspective on how it was to work there also helped in our cause.
2) How did the title of the documentary come about?
During pre-production, we had a lot of ideas for our documentary title, such as ‘Next Station: Ampang Park’ or ‘Bittersweet Ending’, but none of them really speaks for the film. So to come up with the best title, we needed something that really resonates with the case of what the tenants of the mall were facing. Prior to shooting the documentary, we found out the tenants already lost the battle in preserving their mall, and there would be a time when they would eventually have to face the reality and leave their “home”. Hence, ‘Borrowed Time’.
3) What can we expect in the telling of the tenants’ stories from Borrowed Time?
Raw and authentic. As a documentarian, our purpose is to show the audience the untold life stories of the tenants regardless if it’s directly related to Ampang Park or not. In favour of variety and avoiding any bias, we also wanted to show different takes coming from different tenants, so each one would have their own perspective towards the case and how they would handle it once the inevitable happens.
4) The issue of the land acquisition is mainly on replacing the old with the new; the mall is to be demolished for the use of an MRT extension line but should the past be erased to make way for easing the future?
I always believe that everything happens for a reason and sacrifice has to be made for a better future. Every decision bears its own pros and cons. However, as the documentary has clearly spoken for the tenants – it was a great loss to the historical value of Kuala Lumpur and the act of injustice to the tenants who calls Ampang Park their home. But maybe the future holds something more valuable that we aren’t able to foresee just yet.
5) Borrowed Time will be featured in this year’s FreedomFilmFest (among documentaries like Five Tigers focusing on the history of Malaysia’s working class women) which is an international human rights documentary film festival; why do you (and the crew behind Borrowed Time) consider the demolishing of the Ampang Park mall an act against human rights?
It is not within our complete right to call it an act against human rights, because coming off with an outsider’s perspective, we didn’t have the entire story within our access to leave a final judgment as default. We do however believe the government (or any in-charge parties involved) should have handled it better by not keeping the tenants and the public in the dark regarding the case throughout its progress.
6) What do you hope for the audience after seeing, Borrowed Time?
Acquiring more knowledge towards the case and appreciate the aesthetic of something old before it becomes history. Aside from being a visual reminder of something that is no longer there, we hope the audience will now see Ampang Park itself was also a character that needs to be cherished, not just the tenants. The tenants and the building goes hand-in-hand in terms of displaying their attribution, reminding us how there are always different sides to every story.
The documentary is being featured in this year’s FreedomFilmFest (FFF) from 29th September to 6th October and tickets are available on the FFF website.
Images are excerpts from the documentary, ‘Borrowed Time’.