I wouldn't call it a mixed crowd. I saw many familiar faces, the core group of student activists who inevitably were at every event anyway. Here and there were friends of friends, significant others and the odd Australian who was roped in to watch somehow.
It was a premier, of sorts, a Melbourne premier, for Gadoh, a Malaysian film from 2009. It's difficult to not think of the movie as cliched, and it probably avoided even greater obscurity by it's frank communal dialogue.
The muhibbah-ist that I am, I found little amusement in the strong language used against each other by the opposing races. Melayu and Cina lah. Cina pendatang, Melayu bodoh, Cina pengotor, Melayu malas are all too familiar taunts from my growing up in Kuala Lumpur trying to fit in between groups of friends of different backgrounds that even when used in comic situations, I cannot laugh.
Of course, we Malaysians don't hate each other that much. We love our food irrespective of its origin.
So it was over Nasi Lemak, post-movie, that the conversation turned to hate. 'Is there really that much tension between the races?' asked the innocent. The answers varied: "Yes" "There were fights everyday in school." "Not to that extent." "Not everywhere." The answers were as diluted as the teh tariks.
Very little evidence exists to suggest that Malaysia is a frank and honest-speaking country. Maybe behind closed doors with fellow conspirators we share, but out in the open we live in a constant shade of bland; vague and dull.
So why do we continually put up with the increasing levels of ineptitude, injustices, and unhappiness?
Is the fact that our splintering society still works for us today enough for us to continue to say 'It's still alright.'?
Maybe we need films like 'Gadoh' to jolt us awake, no matter how rudely, and make us realise the dysfunctional relationship we've been sharing for so long. The realisation does not come with a solution, but it can be the start of a process towards a real solution. It can be the spark that makes us want to know the strangers who've been around us for so long, and start to understand them.
Then, maybe, we can actually live with one another under the same roof.