"The last ten years have been hard for everyone. I know we haven't done enough."
Those are the first two lines uttered by Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai in a video released yesterday, 28 August, in conjunction with our national day.
The video titled 'Citizens' is produced by award-winning filmmakers Pete Teo and Liew Seng Tat, in which Malaysia's transport minister plays two roles: a politician, and a frustrated citizen.
It's raw, compelling, and real. The beginnings of the video sums up how Malaysians have been feeling for the past decade or so.
A large number of Malaysians have expressed great disappointment over the state of the nation - rampant corruption, political instability, and a crippling economy. These are just some of the problems we're facing currently and the video addresses the sentiments well.
Liow the politician comes face-to-face with Citizen Liow, who angrily asks him, "What do you want?" to which Liow replies, "I know, you think I'm irrelevant, nothing I do is good enough. Of course I'm hurt by that, but now is not the time to discuss that".
That is when the main message of the video appears.
"I'm only here to ask you to not give up on this country."
The one-liner sparks anger in Citizen Liow, who questions the politician if Malaysia is truly his country.
"It's easy for you to say. They don't ask you to balik Tongsan," he adds, pointedly.
As politician Liow tries to calm him down, Citizen Liow gets angry and responds with perhaps one of the most common statements made to politicians - "All you politicians do is talk!".
His anger and questions are not new to Malaysians. Racial issues and hearing statements like, "Balik Cina" and "Balik India lah" when minority groups speak up about equality, have unfortunately, become a norm in this country.
Citizen Liow even loses his temper and hurls a bunch of sweets at the politician.
Liow the politician sighs and calmly admits that things could have been done better.
"Running a country isn't easy. But the starting point of any solution is to never give up hope."
They both take a minute to quietly reflect on the dreams they had for Malaysia and how it has dwindled over time.
Perhaps the video is partly a reflection, an apology of sorts for past mistakes, but it also sounds like a plea to Malaysians to keep on believing in the Malaysian dream - the vision of a united, strong, and successful nation.
The video ends with a powerful message and reminder.
"Despite our differences, as long as we work together, we will achieve our ideal Malaysia. The dream of Malaysia is beautiful and worthy of our perseverance."
"I believe every citizen and leader wish for a better Malaysia. Provided you follow your conscience, I don't mind which party you support. I earnestly urge you to, once again, believe in Malaysia," says Liow the politician in the end.
The video ends with Citizen Liow putting up the Jalur Gemilang on his balcony with his real-life wife, Datin Seri Lee Sun Loo.
Pete Teo released a message on Facebook informing the release of the video and explaining the importance of the message in it last Friday, 25 August
"First, let me tell you what sort of Merdeka film we didn’t want to make. We didn’t want to make one that can be confused for a tourism video where no truth is served bar the most mundane whitewash.
"Rather, we'd like our film to reflect the mood of the country at the moment - and as Chinese Malaysian filmmakers, we were compelled to portray the fears of the Chinese community. It would therefore have to contain anger, helplessness and conflict. Yet it must contain hope - for we are even now not without hope - and so the film should also unite us in hope across the political spectrum," explained the statement on Citizen's official Facebook page.
In terms of the casting Liow Tiong Lai in the video, Teo stressed that it was an act of courage on the seasoned politician's part to act in the video as he's not exactly popular among the locals, especially the Chinese community.
"In retrospect, our concerns were not all justified - there is truth in his eyes and his performance shames many professional actors," he added, thanking Liow Tiong Lai and his wife Lee Sun Loo for working on the project with them.
Things may not always be peachy, but it is important to remember that Malaysia is worth believing in. It is home, after all. Happy 60th Independence Day, Malaysia.