Pat Coston Movie Reviews

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


If you are from the US you would be tempted to pronounce the title Kiplak but this is a movie made in Malaysia for Malaysians and yet its in English. They pronounce the title Cheeplah. In Bahasa Malay the letter C is pronounced "Ch". The letter i is pronounced "ee" and the letter k is silent.

I looked up Ciplak in the Malay-English dictionary and it says "copy, cheat during an exam, imitate".

The official movie description on Yahoo movies reads "In a country such as Malaysia, piracy isn't just common: it's indispensable. Everything from clothes and shoes to CD's and video games are available in bootleg form. Piracy has allowed the underprivileged to afford over-priced sneakers, exposed the ignorant to the wonders of non-top 40 music and increased the cinema vocabulary of an entire nation through pirated DVD's."

That read just like a documentary and I could not understand why anyone would pay to go see a documentary. So I decided to find out. Besides, I'm curious about why piracy flourishes in Malaysia even though there have been numerous efforts to stop it.

This movie was not listed in I did find some other movie named Ciplak made in 1991 though. I wonder why this film is not listed. Yahoo movies lists another movie named Ciplak made in 1993.

I discovered that this movie is only playing at two theaters in the entire world. One in Kuala Lumpur and one here in Penang. I have never before seen a movie playing at a multiplex that was made by a local and only playing at that theater. It would be as if Kevin Smith made Clerks then only played it at the Amboy cinema multiplex. But it makes sense because this movie is about piracy in Malaysia and not many people outside of Malaysia have any interest in that subject. In Malaysia piracy is a way of life and the government is trying to stop it but honestly I don't see them trying that hard.

At the local Prangin Mall there are about a dozen shops that sell pirated DVDs and VCDs. I've been there many times during raids. I was in a shop looking for a pirated version of Visual Studio.NET 2005 when suddenly the lights went out and we were asked to leave quickly. The sliding doors closed quickly and the place was locked up. About an hour later they were open again for business. Another time I saw them raid a shop. A huge crowd gathered and tensions were high. Police carried away boxes and boxes of DVDs. A week later that store was open again for business selling pirated DVDs.

There are weekly raids at Prangin Mall and yet nothing changes. The stores remain open. The owners of these shops keep the DVDs and VCDs in bags in the back room for a quick get away. When you want to buy something you take them the empty packaging then they go into the back to get the actual DVD or VCD. When there is news of a raid, news spreads fast and all the stores close and the inventories are hustled away to safety.

Maybe the solution is penalize the owners of the mall by giving them big fines for each day a pirate shop stays open. They are the ones that encourage and allow the pirates to setup shop.

But what would happen if piracy were suddenly wiped out in a third world country like Malaysia. I recently visited the new Queensbay Mall and stopped by the Borders bookstore and checked out prices of new DVDs and music CDs. A DVD Movie cost about RM 150 new. A music CD cost about RM 100 new. Compare that to paying RM 10 or RM 20 for a pirated DVD or CD and you can see why its so attractive. The cost of pirated goods is about 10% the original cost! Most people do not earn enough money to buy a new DVD or CD.

Because movie DVDs are so cheap you rarely see a movie rental shop here unlike the US where you see Blockbuster and Hollywood video everywhere. Why rent when buying pirated DVDs is roughly the same cost?

If piracy were wiped out then Malaysians would be cut off from having access to western movies except for the pay movie channels on TV. Movies on TV and in the cinema are censored but the DVDs are not censored so you get all of the violence, sex, drug use, obscenities, etc. that are actually in the movie.

Personally I think the Western influence over the East is a good thing since it syncs up the world in terms of attitudes and culture. The younger generation is becoming more liberal and open minded thanks to the exposure to Western movies. It opens people's minds and exposes them to new ideas. Until Malaysia's economy improves so that workers can afford to buy new stuff, piracy is actually a good thing as far as developing their culture.

I found a synopsis on which says "Ciplak was made for less than RM10,000, shot on a single Canon XM2 miniDV camera and edited on a home PC using Sonic Foundry Vegas Video 3.0 software. The script was originally entitled 'VCD' and written in 2001/02 before the director pulled the script out of his archives and decided to rewrite it to suit the current climate. The movie was shot on weekends between October and December 2005. Everybody working on the movie did so free of charge." RM10,000 is about USD2,500.

The movie does have its own web site and I did find trailers on YouTube.

Trailer 1

Trailer 2

I saw 3 movies the day I saw Ciplak. I had already seen Casino Royale for my second time followed by Deja Vu at Prangin Mall. I then took a taxi to Gurney Plaza for the 7 pm showing of Ciplak. I got to the theater at exactly 7 pm and they said the movie has been canceled due to lack of interest. I signed and dropped then said "I took a taxi all the way to Gurney just to see this movie". The ticket people spoke among themselves for a while then returned to say OK you can see it as long as you don't mind watching alone.

Watching a movie alone? I love that actually ... having the whole place to myself! I don't have to turn off my cell phone (hand phone for those of you in Asia) and in fact and received and read several sms' from Kelly during the movie but did not reply because I was too into the movie.

The fact that nobody was coming to see this movie made me wonder why. I had not seen it advertised on TV but then again I don't see most of the movies advertised on TV. On the day I saw Ciplak, I could have seen movies in 9 different languages. The description makes this movie sound like a documentary that lectures you on the evils of DVD piracy and who wants a lecture about what is part of your lifestyle and something you don't intend to change.

The movie does point out that there are some positive results to piracy. It has allowed the poor to have access to western movies which has influenced their society. In other words, like the Internet, it's opening their eyes to other ways of thinking. Piracy helps make the world a smaller place.

Ciplak is written, directed, produced, edited and stars Khairil M. Bahar shown here. He sort of reminds me of my friend Cedrick. Not only because they are both Chinese and look somewhat alike but because they are also both movie geeks.

Not only is this film educational about a very interesting subject but it is also entertaining in a cheap low budget sort of way. Don't expect great acting, high quality film, great editing, special effects. This is all low budget as I mentioned before. But they did pretty good.

The main character likes to break the forth wall and speak directly to the audience. One of my favorite parts is when he is explaining the different qualities you can get on DVD or VCD. As he is speaking he switches that that level of quality so you can see for your own eyes what it looks like. Some movies are filmed off the screen by someone sitting in the audience the picture and sound are horrible and you can hear people in the audience laughing or talking. He might also bump the camera or have to change the film so you lose part of the movie. It's also shot at an angle shooting up. If you watch this pirated movie on VCD you are watching the lowest of low but when its all you can afford, you don't care about quality. You just want to be entertained at a price you can afford.

And that's why piracy continues ... one word: Demand. As long as there is a demand for low cost entertainment, pirated DVD and VCD movies will still find a market. The only way I can see for the demand to disappear is for the economy to improve and people start to earn more money so they can afford the real thing.

This girl who played Diane played by Nazneen Halim was way too hot for this movie. One cool thing is that that you get a taste of Malaysian culture by watching this movie. I heard today from Kelly's uncle that Malay girls like to date Chinese guys. In this movie Malay girls are dating Chinese guys so the movie reflects what is really happening in Malaysia. They have a nice cross section of Chinese, Malay, Indian, British, Australian actors.

I had to laugh at the beginning when the main character Jo is talking to his friend in Britain who has a very strong British accent and Jo says "Even I can't understand you. You need English sub-titles" then English sub-titles appeared so we could understand his English.

This was Bahar's first full length movie. I look forward to move of his stuff and hopefully he will include Nazneen as well!

on a side-note, this is the first time I'm using the new blogger beta and the first time I'm embedded a YouTube video (which was super-easy btw) but I kept getting this error


Your HTML cannot be accepted: Tag is not closed: <embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" height="350" width="425">

It kept stripping out my </embed> tag! What a pain!


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