'My Father Sazali' by Sazali Bin Masraji - SIFF

I had a soft spot for this slightly soapy father-son drama set in a barbershop. First, it's personal both for the director and also, I have deeply-affecting father-son issues myself. Secondly, the sense of irony is so strong and yet natural that drama speaks for itself without too much alternative treatment.


A dashing young man aspires to become what his father wants to prevent him from doing precisely - to become a hairdresser. And the irony of it is that his father's failing business spurs his son even further to pursue this business as a act to make his father proud. The dilemma transcends races really (in fact on the same day, there was another film called 'Dream' about a aspiring swimmer and his father, an ex-swimmer). I can imagine even more heartbreak in a Chinese context.

While I was not too impressed with the theatrics of the mother figure right at the beginning, it subsequent scenes in the film made watching it quite a poignant experience. In an age of metrosexual vanity where men visit the salon as often as women, the barbershop stands like an anachronism and interestingly, it is the foreground to sun-scorched exterior of passing traffic, as if to symbolise how the world is passing it by. And there were many things that helped humanise the barbershop to make it seem quite a sanctuary in the film. There were comforting presence of regular customers, the stubborn presence of old-fashioned decor, the very personal scrapbook Sazali made and finally, the tenderness of the affectionate moments between father and son. Perhaps, if it was less soapy, it would have stood a better chance at the being among the finalists.

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