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Yasmin Ahmad Dies At 51

Yasmin AhmadMalaysian film director Yasmin Ahmad, who won accolades for her deeply felt depictions of everyday struggles with racial prejudice and social barriers, has died of complications from a stroke. She was 51.

Yasmin’s close friend, Fatimah Abu Bakar, confirmed her death late Saturday at a news conference in a Kuala Lumpur hospital. Relatives earlier said Yasmin underwent brain surgery to remove a blood clot Friday after she suffered a stroke.

Tributes poured in Sunday from politicians, entertainers and movie-goers who hailed her films and television commercials for inspiring people to strive for racial understanding in this multiethnic, Muslim-majority country.

“By bridging religious and racial differences through the unifying dimension of art, Yasmin was in a class of her own,” opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said in a statement. “Her films … were never short of social critiques that opened the public’s eyes to the importance of unity and understanding.”

Yasmin began her career as a copywriter before becoming an advertising company’s creative director in the 1990s, when she drew attention for sentimental TV commercials that focused on family ties and how religious celebrations could bring together people from the ethnic Malay Muslim majority with the ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.

She later embarked on Malay-language film work, reaping critical and commercial success with her second movie, “Sepet,” a Malay word for slant-eyed. The 2004 drama, which portrayed a romance between an ethnic Malay teenage girl and a Chinese boy, won awards at film festivals in Malaysia, Japan and France.

Yasmin, a Malay who married an ethnic Chinese convert to Islam, directed six movies between 2003 and 2008, delving into issues such as religious faith, parental abandonment, AIDS and sexual discrimination _ always against a backdrop that reflected the country’s ethnic diversity.

Although her movies were well-received by most Malaysians, they faced criticism by conservatives who often accused her work of tarnishing Malay culture. In 2007, Islamic clerics slammed her movie “Muallaf” because its lead actress shaved her head for the role of a runaway girl, an act they said violated Muslim tenets by making a woman look like a man.

“I didn’t expect this uproar,” Yasmin told The Associated Press about the “Muallaf” controversy. “But come to think of it, it’s a Yasmin Ahmad film … Overseas it’s always been good news. But here I get a lot of trouble.”

Government censors sometimes excised scenes from her movies that seemed too risque, including ones of an elderly couple bathing together and of a Muslim character seen in a Chinese restaurant that served non-halal food.

Yasmin is survived by her husband and two siblings.

Source : Associated Press

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