What does ‘M’ in ‘M for Malaysia’ mean? Director explains

‘M for Malaysia’ directors Ineza Roussille (left) and Datin Dian Lee are pictured during the documentary’s premiere at GSC Pavilion, Kuala Lumpur September 10, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara
‘M for Malaysia’ directors Ineza Roussille (left) and Datin Dian Lee are pictured during the documentary’s premiere at GSC Pavilion, Kuala Lumpur September 10, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 16 — Director Datin Dian Lee has revealed her interpretation of what the letter “M” in the documentary M for Malaysia means.

Lee, who is also producer and executive producer for the documentary, spoke about the title of the film that documents the 14th general elections on May 9, 2018.

“M for Malaysia // When we decided on the title of the film, Ruby our creative producer was against it. She said it was a bad idea to have the name of a country in the title. But Ineza and I were pretty firm about it despite going against the norm,” she wrote on Twitter yesterday evening, referring to the documentary’s Oscar-winning creative producer Ruby Yang and director Ineza Roussille.

“In the past couple of years, Malaysia had made international headlines and not in any way that we could be proud of. We decided that what happened on May 9th shouldn’t just be known to all Malaysians but also to the world.

“Ineza and I had an opportunity to showcase Malaysia in a different light in film festivals around the world and we wanted everyone to view Malaysia as a beacon of hope for democracy,” Lee added.

In the same Twitter thread, Lee revealed that she thinks of dignity when it comes to what “M” in M for Malaysia might mean.

“People ask what M stands for? Mahathir for Malaysia? Malaysian for Malaysia? There can be multiple meaning but what stands out for me is Maruah (Dignity) for Malaysia.”

“Happy Malaysia Day my fellow Malaysians, we have so many reasons to be a proud Malaysian, look at how far we’ve come. There are so much more that needs to be done, but we did take a baby step forward,” she said.

Both Lee and Roussille had previously said the documentary was not produced for the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition or for any political party, with Roussille also said the production team were clear about not making a propaganda film.

Lee is the daughter of real estate tycoon Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew, who is known for his close ties to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Roussille is the granddaughter of Dr Mahathir.

Both Lee and Roussille had written in their directors’ notes that they did not share the same political views as Dr Mahathir, but wanted to document the 14th general elections.

Dr Mahathir had himself said the documentary is factual and not one-sided as it also includes criticisms against him.

The 93-minute-long M for Malaysia premiered locally on September 12 and will be showing in selected local cinemas until September 18.

Besides touching on the government crackdown in October 1987 known as Ops Lalang, the documentary also features interviews with various key figures such as Dr Mahathir, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng and former Bersih chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah.

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