SELL OUT! Malaysia's First English Language Musical Comedy (Spelled With An Exclamation Mark)

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SELL OUT! Malaysia's First English Language Musical Comedy (Spelled With An Exclamation Mark)

Here's an exclusive first look at the official trailer for Malaysian musical comedy, Sell Out!.

I'll admit, I haven't seen this film, but from the trailer, the crazy synopsis and the reaction it's been getting, AND the fact that it's a MUSICAL COMEDY (with an exclamation mark), it would seem that Sell Out! (or $e11.0u7!) is like air freshener for the film scene here.

Make no mistake, I do love some of the good independent arthouse films in this country. But lately, it seems like Malaysian independent films are starting to fall into self-parody with their long takes, static cameras, morose characters, etc. Frankly, they're starting to get repetitive and boring. So you see, I'm not going to complain about a commercial comedy (with an exclamation mark) where characters suddenly break into song. In fact, I'm pretty excited about this.

Check out the trailer and synopsis, and more about the film, after the break.

Here's Sell Out!'s synopsis:

Her name is Rafflesia Pong (Rafflesia=largest flower in the world, which reeks of animal carcass; Pong=stink). She's a bottom-ranking arts show host who's disillusioned with "those over-rated underachievers we call artists." He's Eric Tan (Eric=Eric, Tan=typical Chinese surname), a product designer who's just about to learn that it doesn't pay to be creative. They both work for FONY, a multinational conglomerate whose mission statement, copied from a Taiwanese company, is to be original.

In the face of such pressure, will Eric and Rafflesia retain their artistic integrityor will they finally sell out to fame, fortune or some other nasty thing that also starts with "F"?

Sell Out! is essentially about the neverending battle between art and commerce. There's some bits that take the mickey out of "art films" (but it's all in good fun, of course), especially the scenes during Rafflesia's arts programme on TV. When her arts show isn't bringing in the ratings, she chances upon a novel idea for a reality show, one where she films people in the throes of death. But then she also finds it hard to get dying people for her new show. Somewhere across town, Eric builds an all-in-one miracle soybean machine, but all his bosses are interested in is how much money they can get out of the contraption. And somewhere along the way, things take a surreal turn, and Eric has some kind of an out-of-body experience.

I think anyone who's ever stepped out into the big, bad world would identify with the issue of creativity versus commercialism, especially so in filmmaking. Should we sell out and get rich? Or would we want to be piss-poor but with our integrity intact? But most of all, Sell Out! makes fun of everything Malaysian, from pretentious artsy films and our obsession with Eurasians to corporations with unoriginal names and Manglish (Malaysian English, or mangled English).

Sell Out! is written and directed by up-and-coming filmmaker Yeo Joon Han, who has previously won accolades for his short films, Adults Only and GIrl In A Soap Bubble. Adults Only got a Special Mention in Venice, and Sell Out! won the Alternative Vision award in the Critics Week section in Venice and critics at the festival also awarded it Best Film. It also recently took the Netpac award at the Taipei Golden Horse Festival. It's still travelling the festival circuit, and next month, it will be screening in competition at the Singapore International Film Festival (April 21, get your tickets now!).

Singapore International Film Festival Director, Zhang Wenjie, calls Sell Out! an "amazing Malaysian film ... unlike any Malaysian film you've ever seen."

Indeed, it's the first English language musical comedy (with an exclamation mark) to come out of Malaysia. But if you tell Yeo his film is a musical, he'll tell you that it's not. "It has only four songs!" Yeah, right. Believe it or not, apart from writing, directing and producing, he also wrote all the songs himself (he's a big fan of musicals and Woody Allen).

Sell Out! has been getting good reviews and even better word-of-mouth. It was originally scheduled for general release in Malaysia this month, but looks like that won't happen, and the release is getting pushed to a later time.

Cast and crew: Director of Photography: Eric Yeong Sound: Ram @ Sean Chia (Tune Army) Production Designer: Jimmy Bong Location Manager: Adam Chong Hair & Make-up: Monica Lee Assistant Director: Kareem Koh Production Manager: Jackie Urban Poh Script Supervisor: James Wong Music: Joon Han, Bruno Brugnano, Jamorn Vathakanon Sound Mix: Boom Suvagondha Film Post-Production: The Post Bangkok Cast: Jerrica Lai, Peter Davis, Kee Thuan Chye, Lim Teik Leong, Wong Wai Hoong, Lee Szu Hung, Hannah Lo

Check out the official trailer:

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More from Around the Web

Sell Out! official site at Amok Films

Sell Out! Facebook group

Sell Out! at the Singapore International Film Festival

wisekwaiMarch 16, 2009 1:23 PM

"Sell Out!" played at last year's World Film Festival of Bangkok, and it is indeed a blast.

It parodies those morose Malaysian indie films, but in a self-deprecating way. After all, Yeo Joon Han and crew are Malaysian indie filmmakers as well. It also takes a potshot at film festivals (especially niche festivals) and the pretension that their awards actually matter. Which is ironic, because this movie is winning awards at those very festivals.

"Sell Out!" cuts a wider swath as it takes on modern Malaysian culture and how people are ranked by how much Chinese, Indian, European, Pan-Asian or Malay blood they have in them, and what languages they speak.

In that respect, I guess I can see why its Malaysian release keeps getting pushed back -- it may cut too close to the bone.

The broad appeal of "Sell Out!" is the way it critiques and satirizes the mass media and the venality of reality television.

Great songs, fantastic performances and hilarious characters, especially the pair of pointy-head bosses at Fony Corp.

As Rafflesia, Jerrica Lai nails it on her show-stopper, "Bad, Bad, Bad". "Sell Out!" is a must see.

The VisitorMarch 16, 2009 1:40 PM

Sell Out!'s release date issue isn't because of censorship or anything like that. it's just the timing and getting into the queue of local releases.

as far as what Joon Han has told me, his film isn't political in any way. it's more a satirical look at Malaysian life in general.

kekkozMarch 16, 2009 3:41 PM

They screened it at the Venice Film Festival last year and, yes, it is a VERY good movie indeed.

TheDougMarch 16, 2009 5:21 PM

This film looks like a 'hoot'! Down the road, I'll be looking forward to seeing this on dvd someday...

KizzthizzMarch 17, 2009 6:32 AM

Did anyone see the same trailer I did? This looks horrible! I'm not saying the movie itself is bad, I haven't seen it, but the trailer doesn't make it even watchable. Why make a movie in English if you still have to subtitle it? Note to ALL foreign filmmakers: You don't need to make a film in English for English apeaking people to enjoy it. In comedy timing is everything and if you don't have that timing the words come out sounding like Rainman. So if your actors are ESL then they won't have the timing correct to make the lines funny. I'm sorry if I'm coming across angey but I am! What would probably be a quite charmoing film if it was presented in it's own language, is now looking like a joke.

The VisitorMarch 17, 2009 8:49 AM


English is spoken very widely in Malaysia. whether at work or at home. most foreigners who come here are very surprised that we speak English almost all the time and we have TV shows and advertisements in English. what you hear in the trailer (and in the film) is how we speak English here, which is usually jokingly called Manglish (i've explained what it is above, if you've cared to read). if Malaysians were to speak "proper" English with an American or British accent, they would actually sound fake and unnatural to Malaysian ears, because that's not how we speak the language. like in Hong Kong, they also usually have a different "style" of speaking English, with a unique accent.

the subtitles are for the benefit of those who may not "get" our accent, because we have a lot of syllable emphases and different intonations.

you're expecting the entire world to be the same, for people to be the same everywhere. i'm sorry but that's just not the way things are. some people appreciate the uniqueness and variety that every part of the world offers. obviously you don't.

FONYMarch 20, 2009 5:16 PM

Excerpts from the Karlovy-Vary International Film Festival news page:

March 17, 2009 – Three exceptional movies from the Venice film festival will screen in Czech theaters for the first time at the 44th Karlovy Vary IFF: the winning film The Wrestler; 35 Shots of Rum by the most highly-regarded French female director working today, and Sell Out! - considered as the most entertaining film at Venice. ...

A satiric, romantic, anti-globalization, musical comedy. Malaysia’s Sell Out! is all this and more: many considered it the most entertaining film at Venice last year. First-time helmer Joon-han Yeo is trying to settle accounts with conventional Asian filmmaking, in which all too often “the director conceives a shot, sets the camera rolling, and then takes a lunch break.” Originally trained as an attorney, Yeo wrote, directed, and edited the film, and even contributed the words and music for the musical numbers.