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Tea Leaves

Malaysia highlights disconnect in approach to popular culture

Cinema release for 'Banglasia 2.0' challenges Southeast Asian cultural conservatism

Namewee acts as Hanguoren, a pro-Malaysia activist who wants to free his country from all immigrants, in a scene from the movie "Banglasia 2.0." (Courtesy of WebTVAsia)

One of the more curious outcomes of the 2018 shock defeat of Malaysia's Barisan Nasional (National Front) government, after six decades in power, is an unlikely new opportunity for Malaysians to laugh at themselves in cinemas.

Take the case of "Banglasia 2.0," a feature film that spent six years in the can due to its criticisms of the former government. The creation of Namewee, a controversial ethnic Chinese Malaysian rapper, actor and director, the film was finally released on Feb. 28, cleared -- albeit with cuts -- by the ruling Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) government led by 93-year-old Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

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