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SIFF Review: Road to Mecca, by Harman Hussin

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With biographies and autobiograhies crowding the bookshelves and movie screens these days, documented works are not rare.

Road to Mecca is as much a personal achievement as a philosophical notion of the islamic faith. No real hard hitting issues were explicitly tackled here, but nevertheless a filmmaking effort to be commended.

rtm1.jpgAs the filmmaker’s maiden film, we can scarcely think of the amount of solitary hardwork put into it. The film’s lone cameraman, sound person, director, producer and scriptwriter, it is a laudable attempt considering he had to constuct a logical story arch, at the same time handle the camera (walk and talk that is!), engage the interviewee, take note of any lurking danger and ponder upon the very premise of the film.

rtm2.jpgThe opening titles and some sequences were a little reminiscent of “Road to Guantanamo” but the use of subtitles as the filmmaker’s voice was a refreshing change to the usual Michael Moore-style documentary-reality show narration. Though halfway through, the viewer may be a little lost when the narrative subtitles was interspersed by a few poems, which were nice, but perhaps a little too much too often to fully soak all in within that short duration. It can be a little distracting reading the subtitles, meditate on the meaning between, behind and beyond the text, subtext and nontext, and also try to digest plethora or wonderful images at the same time.

Whilst you may not take away a whole load of philosophical afterthoughts,  this documentary would be quite an enjoyable journey from the familiar sights of KL and Bangkok to the less familiar and more exotic territories of India and Pakistan; one can almost see a television series spin-off featuring the different ways each country observes the Haji period.

rtm3.jpgHarman’s arts and design training certainly shone in aspects of camera framing and the charming sound design which provided the film with moments of humourous relief and well-timed pauses.  The choice of contemporary and fairly non-traditional music was quite astute, giving the film a current outlook which was youthful enough to digest.

All in all, the flow is pleasant and straightforward enough to leave the audience with space to comtemplate. And that is perhaps the most surprising part about this documentary.

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