Film & TV

Orang Itu: The dark side of KL houses homelessness (REVIEW)

A film for a good cause to raise awareness in providing easy healthcare access for street communities.

The Jade Ribbon Campaign launched by Hepatitis Free Malaysia and WOMEN: girls is an effort to bring attention to the marginalised and street communities who are in dire need for better access to healthcare especially for hepatitis testing and accompanying the fundraising is the screening of the film directed by Low Ngai Yuen, Orang Itu as a fictional window into the lives of those below the poverty line yet also acts as a mirror of the real world. At the center of the story is Mawar (the iconic Sofia Jane), an old and homeless woman who seems cheery and child-like but only on the surface because what lies beneath the controlled facial expression is desperation and loss.

In her pursuit of finding a job for a more comfortable life, she faced hardship from being rushed off the premise of a restaurant owned by Teck (KK Wong) and his wife (Carmen Soo) to being imposed with a nightly fee by a street gangster (Namron) for taking shelter at some benches in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. When attempting to address a societal issue especially one that is closely integrated in the working class and those under them, films tend to romanticise the conflict by guaranteeing a happy-ending for the characters; this isn’t the aim of Orang Itu as each character developed to be better although, not all storms end with rainbows.

Sofia Jane and Carmen Soo from a still of ‘Orang Itu’.

Kuala Lumpur has become its own character that is gritty and almost nightmarish yet this is balanced by the light storyline in which Mawar found a place in the arms of Teck’s family even though there are moments of hesitance. Sofia Jane, stripped away from the gloss and glamour of an actress, is a woman avoided and ignored by our community and she gave a faultless performance of a main role whom we care and emphatise while the chemistry between the gratifying Carmen Soo and the refreshing talent of KK Wong as spouses added realism to the struggles of marriage as well as learning to solve problems as partners.

The young Sawyer Leong who plays the son of Teck’s, Dee gave a momentous performance and will undoubtedly have a promising career in the industry as he plays a child grasping his surroundings and mature selflessly. The use of empty spaces, silence and long dolly camera movement enhance the cinematography and story-telling of the movie and further breaks down the fear of letting the camera speak for itself and letting the audience have a moment to feel before moving to the next scene. Orang Itu, is a diamond in the rough and a movie that should be seen at least once because of the discussion that may come after it and how it paints the city in a much humane way even though the concrete jungle gives back so little.

Although the film itself is made as a feature film, its tone and storytelling fits that of a teledrama. Even though that is neither here nor there, there is definite depth in simplicity.

Rating: 4.5/5

Featured Image source: Orang Itu Official Poster. 



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