Review: Ola Bola

Ola Bola: A tour de force of nostalgia

Ola Bola: A tour de force of nostalgia

Ola Bola review (no spoilers in your comments please): Just watched Ola Bola, laughed and bawled my eyes out from the rubber-tapping scene onwards. Contrived, clich├ęd, predictable in parts — but what a tour de force of nostalgia.

It reminded me of football — playing it and watching it with the family on the black and white TV and cheering for Selangor and Malaysia, and Leeds United on Sundays. I remember the Tango ball of 1978 and how we diehard World Cup fans of Form 2 in St John’s, saved our allowances and all pitched-in to buy it. We then stayed back after school to rumble on the field, soiling our shirts and muddying our pristine white Bata shoes. I remember on one occasion breaking my collarbone, for which I received an angry reprimand from mum, after a visit to GH. I remember Christopher Lim Lean Chai was our own ‘taukeh’ playmaker/defender. He didn’t join the school team, despite his talent, because his parents refused to let him.

I remember Soh Chin Aun, Santokh Singh, M Arumugam, M Chandran, Shukor Salleh, Isa Bakar, Khalid Ali, James Wong and Mokhtar Dahari as clearly as the 1975 Hockey Team, or the All England or Thomas Cup badminton players of the 70s and 80s. They were our childhood idols and we as a nation gravitated to them as we did to Ali or Elvis or Bruce Lee. They were all our heroes once.

The movie captures the fact that commonfolk among us could rise above their dire circumstances and become extraordinary — for just one day.

Today we look to Nicol, Chong Wei, Pandelela and Azizulhasni to remind us that there are still those bearing the torch for us on the international stage, who make us proud, even as our political leaders shame us everyday with their false patriotism, corrupted commitment and warped sense of integrity.

I cried for all the humanity we lost as a nation in that era. And for our chidren who now live in times of unlimited access, who look to violent, wise-cracking superheroes as their mentors and idols and who believe the game of life can be played over and over again with no repercussions to those you hurt with your attitude, rage, extremism and intentional meanness.

Ola Bola, for all its flaws in the acting department, racial stereotyping and manipulative storytelling, still holds a mirror up to what we left behind. It holds a flickering candle up while others try to darken our history and negate our place in this country. Drenched in patriotic fervour with fellow Malaysians in that cold theatre, it warmed my heart. And I’m sure, if you were a child of the 70s, it will warm yours too.

Mad as hell

The most memorable scene from the movie Network, 1976, when reporter Howard Beale played superbly by Peter Finch in an Oscar-winning, but sadly, final performance, still resonates especially in these troubled times:

Take it away, Howard Beale: “I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it.

“We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had 15 homicides and 63 violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

“We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’

“Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone! I want you to get mad! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot – I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad.

“You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, Goddamnit! My life has VALUE!’

“So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell,’I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’

“I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad! You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: “I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”

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