Malaysia is undergoing one of its lowest-ever points with Covid cases still raging, unending political turmoil, and climate-related disasters such as flooding. Through it all, everyday residents have been struggling to make ends meet as economic opportunities remain thin. One sector that has taken a particularly big hit is the arts, where vendors such as photographers have struggled to find gigs.
Such is the case of Fahmee, the protagonist in Oppo’s new ad for Malaysia Day, created with Ensemble Worldwide. As he is forced to sell his photography equipment while surviving on instant noodles, his story is one that is surely familiar to many. The film becomes more hopeful when his neighbours ask for his help to take photos for them using his Oppo phone—whether to promote online piano lessons or to film a cooking guide.
This is where the story takes on a slightly unconvincing turn. Despite perfecting odd jobs for his neighbours, Fahmee isn’t offered any money for his work. One incident even shows a woman who is disturbed by Fahmee’s audible hunger pangs, but proceeds to continue filming her cooking video. In Ad Nut’s world, this is the opposite of neighbourly spirit.
Sure, the film ends with Fahmee getting a bunch of ingredients from the neighbours he helped, but Ad Nut is confused about why it took so long for help to arrive in the first place.
As much as the #KitaJagaKita spirit in Malaysia is inspiring, a main issue that arises from this film is the lack of appreciation and value for artists and their services. A photographer is expected to perform multiple favours for free, despite recipients of the favours being aware about his harsh financial situation. Time and time again, this is the on-ground reality for artists—pandemic or otherwise.
Where Oppo could have chosen to both sell its phone's features and illuminate the hardships of artists in Malaysia, it instead shines a damagingly optimistic light on the very real plight of the urban poor.
|Ad Nut is a surprisingly literate woodland creature that for unknown reasons has an unhealthy obsession with advertising. Ad Nut gathers ads from all over Asia and the world for your viewing pleasure, because Ad Nut loves you. You can also check out Ad Nut's Advertising Hall of Fame, or read about Ad Nut's strange obsession with 'murderous beasts'.|