Juang – an ode to the frontliners at the height of the pandemic

Juang – an ode to the frontliners at the height of the pandemic

At turns sobering and melodramatic, this look at recent history is predictable and all too relatable

WE all experienced the Covid-19 pandemic – in fact, most of us are still experiencing it – and we all have our stories. We know what it was like when things flipped seemingly overnight, consigned to our homes, only coming out for supplies when absolutely necessary.

Plenty of us also got increasingly frustrated with the draconian measures put into place by the government that were enforced by the frontliners like the police and medical community, that were aimed to stem the flow of the virus.

Juang, directed by (takes a breath) Aziz M. Osman, Yusry Abd Halim, Matt Lai, Kabir Bhatia, and Osman Ali, takes place during the height of the pandemic, and features a cast of recognisable actors – Zizan Razak, Zul Ariffin, Janna Nick, Izzue Islam, Vanidah Imran, Jack Lim, Sangeeta, and many more.

The character types are personalities we’re all familiar with: the put upon police officers, overstretched medical workers, and overstressed delivery-riders. The fourth storyline involves an AirAsia mercy flight to Wuhan to extract Malaysian citizens trapped in the beleaguered city.

The storylines in Juang don’t really intersect – at least until towards the end where there’s a fairly subtle connection between two of the stories – but for the most part they are separate, intercutting when there is some thematic or emotional connection.

The way the disparate plots are interwoven isn’t really anything that complex, for example, when things are at their low point, it’s the low point of all the characters, even though the scenes are most definitely not taking place at the same time.

Some storylines seemingly take place over weeks, while the Wuhan sections featuring Jack Lim are happening in a day.

It’s a bit reminiscent of the editing for Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, which similarly features multiple perspectives of a specific event, but it doesn’t seem like an intentional homage, just a funny coincidence.

The individual stories themselves are melodramatic and are fairly predictable, with a heavy emphasis on the self-sacrifice of the frontliners in the face of both Covid and a sometimes apathetic general public. It falls victim to a lot of common tropes of Malaysian dramas (pendidikan moral lessons are super obvious), but the plotlines are inspired by true events so it is a little forgivable.

Also the obvious placement of products from Dutch Lady and Cuckoo, two major sponsors of the movie, was a bit distracting at points.

It’s also interesting to make a fairly big budgeted pandemic drama so soon after it took place (the lockdowns, to be clear), it’s still fresh in the minds of many – especially as this week’s loosening of face mask rules reignited debates on whether Covid-19 is truly behind us.

Not enough can be said of the difference that frontliners had on all our lives, but is there not an opportunity for more complex storytelling in such a dramatically wrought situation? But that’s a question for another time, as Juang is a movie about celebrating heroes and coming together as a community to tackle problems that are bigger than us.

The screening, which took place on August 30, was attended by frontliners and their families, with the movie prefaced by a music video from Datuk Sheila Majid herself. The pandemic forever changed this country and Juang wants to pay respects to that.

source – The Vibes


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