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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Karim Raslan's docu 'Ceritalah Indonesia' gives voices to the people on the ground

Posted: 26 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

The Star columnist Karim Raslan explores Indonesia from the ground up in his new documentary Ceritalah Indonesia, and says he felt a personal connection with the people.

"All the stories I tell must have a personal connection. Without that, I would rather not write about it," declares Karim Raslan.

The well-travelled, prolific writer and Southeast Asia commentator has certainly told a lot of stories. In fact, he continues to do so through Ceritalah, his weekly Tuesday column in The Star, as well as his other writings published in Singapore and Indonesia. He has authored five books, and appeared as a commentator on Southeast Asia on the BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera and Bloomberg.

Karim has added another feather in his cap with the launch of Ceritalah Indonesia, a four-part documentary on the country's past, present and future, from the perspective of ordinary citizens. Directed by Tony Trimarsanto and produced by Mariza Hamid, the series is based on Karim's writings and have been translated into "visual essays".

"It's a great opportunity that all started from the writing of the columns. It tells the story of how Indonesia has changed over the past few years, especially from 1998, when it was a nation under threat, with a lot of challenges in terms of security, politically and financially, and how it has transformed itself," said Karim during a press conference after the launch of the series.

"Ceritalah Indonesia are stories from the ground up, stories told with Pak Tony, my director. Without him, they would have made no sense," he said. "I've been writing about Indonesia for nearly 20 years, and in the past 10 years, I've been spending a lot of time down there. Then I told Mariza that I wanted to do something more visual, and she said, 'Why don't we try this?'"

The first episode, which aired on Astro Awani on March 21, took viewers to Solo and focused Sumartono, a 59-year-old social activist whom Karim says has gotten affiliated and involved in more NGO movements in Solo than anyone he knows.

"Pak Sumartono was actually one of the victims of the riots in 1998. After that, he doubled his contributions to the community. He is truly and extraordinary man," said Karim.

In tomorrow's episode, Karim heads to Aceh, which was devastated by the 2004 tsunami. There, he meets becak driver Pak David and local media practitioner Bulqaini, who take him through the city's rebuilding efforts.

"Pak Bulqaini helped me to understand what happened in Aceh, especially after the tsunami," Karim said. "It was amazing to see Aceh now. It had so much trouble with the tsunami and violence, and now people are going there as tourists. I tell everyone, go visit Aceh, it's amazing."

Subesequently, Karim will bring the show to Ambon, part of the Maluku chain of islands that was the scene of a bloody slaughter caused by religious tensions from 1999 to 2002. The series will then end in Surabaya, where he meets another influential individual, Ustad Khoiron and his wife Raudhatul, have been working to transform their neighbourhood, located right smack in the red light district of Surabaya.

"I like to tell stories about people I know very well, and I've known Pak Ustad for more than 12 years now," said Karim. "(The show) all started from the writing, and all the writing is about these individuals. The amazing thing is the stories (of these individuals), and it's just a small slice of 240 million people."

Karim added that Indonesia has undergone a very exciting transformation and he was honoured to have been able to observe and write about it.

"This is my perspective of Indonesia," he said. "And in a way, for Malaysians, I always feel so much of our heritage comes from there and we should acknowledge that. For Malaysians, there are a lot of interesting parallels for us."

After Ceritalah Indonesia, Karim's next project will be Ceritalah Heroes in 2015, which will explore the lives and leadership lessons of prominent Southeast Asian leaders such as Indonesia's President Sukarno, Corazon Aquino of the Philippines, and Malaysia's former PM Tun Abdul Razak.

"Ceritalah Indonesia" airs on Astro Awani (Astro Ch 501) on March 28, April 4 and 11 at 9:30pm. Condensed versions of the episodes are also available for viewing at The Star Online until April 16.

Class in session: Things you learn from the telly

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Learn a thing or two from your favourite TV shows.

WHO says watching television is a waste of time? Apart from its entertainment value, there are so many lessons we can take away from the various series on TV. From comedies to dramas to ... OK, not reality television perhaps, we learn a lot consciously or not. This week, we have guest Spud Mumtaj – another self-confessed TV addict – to share in the fun.

1. Lessons in politics

Presidents, like girls, just wanna have fun. In Scandal, President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) may be the leader of the free world but he acts like a frat boy. He seems to have a whole lot of time on his hands to cavort around the many rooms of the White House with his mistress Oliver "the fixer" Pope (Kerry Washington).

President or a frat boy? Come on, Mr President... romancing your fixer doesn't fix anything.

Don't get into politics unless you are willing to wheel, deal, steal and maybe kill a couple of people who get in your way. In wildy popular drama House Of Cards, Vice President Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and his wife Claire (Robin Wright) have taught us that for politicians, serving the people comes only after self service!

2. Lessons in love

If you have to date someone you work with, keep it on the down-low. Don't tell a soul because the moment it becomes public knowledge, things go south ... fast. The latest casualties? Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) and Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) from crime drama Castle. The show has gone from charming and funny to just plain boring.

The two love birds have ceased to be stand alone characters; they are now just one big pile of mush.

And for some reason, beloved supporting characters like Martha Rodgers (Susan Sullivan), Javier Esposito (Jon Huertas) and Kevin Ryan (Seamus Dever) hardly have any screen time.

Gag! Gag! .. Oliver and Laurel look pained to be in close proximity with each other ... imagine our pain watching them. Gag!

Other shows with this problem include House (Dr House and Dr Cuddy should never have been boyfriend-girlfriend) and Arrow (OK, Oliver and Laurel hooked up for all of ONE episode .... but it scarred us badly. Shudder.)

The only way around this curse is if you live in Nashville — even when relationships don't work out, there will be a great country song in the making.

3. Lessons about teenagers

Innocent? Hah! As we found out from Pretty Little Liars, teenage girls can perpetuate a lie for years.

The series is into its fourth season, and we're still not sure what these girls are trying to cover up (sometimes you wonder if they know what they're covering up). Adults be warned: be wary of anything teenagers say to you.

But not all teenagers are bratty. Some have substance. Take Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) from Game Of Thrones – she can manipulate even the oldest and more experienced people in her house. The ratty Prince Joffrey has no idea what's up his future queen's sleeve! (Serves him right.)

4. Lessons on who to trust

Don't be rude to your psychiatrist. Or reveal too much information about yourself. Psychiatrists are never who they seem. Like Hannibal – who is a serial killer first, chef second and psychiatrist third.

Also, be careful if you see a cute, doughnut-bearing blood splatter analyst in your local police department – remember Dexter? He looked like a geek for God's sake. What a great human suit!

Trust no one: Do you really want to pour out your secrets and desires to your psychiatrist? Think twice ...

As for the harmless-looking new-boy-in-town who looks lost and needs a friend (or a hug)? RUN! He's probably a Psycho. Geddit? (Norman Bates, in case you didn't.) Boys don't need friends when they have a tablet or smartphone!

5. Lessons on surviving the supernatural

If you encounter zombies, you have to watch out for a guy in a Sheriff's hat or the fella holding a crossbow. The chances of you surviving is better with these two around – we know because we watch The Walking Dead.

Now in the case of ghosts, shape shifters, vampires, angels, demons and the creepy guy next door, it would be ideal if you could turn to the deliciously cute Winchester brothers who make (the) Supernatural look so cool.

But this is real life, so the best you can do is arm yourself with a revolver (something like the "Colt" made by paranormal hunter Samuel Colt) which can kill any creature you can imagine. Also, you might need to learn how to make money fast because chasing supernatural beings may take up all your time which means you won't be able to work.

Stick close to these two — with or without zombies around — life is so much better that way.

The Winchester brothers lived on credit card fraud, winnings from poker and hustling pool games. Now, we're not saying break the law, necessarily – just get creative.

And lastly, you have to have a cool ride. A 1967 Chevrolet Impala like the one Dean Winchester drives will cost you an arm and a leg so maybe something less expensive but just as cool ... like a Suzuki Swift?

> The other half of the original Spudnik team, Ann Marie Chandy, is busy jumping on a trampoline (a newfound hobby) to watch TV.


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