What started out as a little social experiment for a college assignment has rapidly turned into a viral video. In case you haven’t watched it, you really should check it out:
Esmond Lee (the director and producer of this video) and his team (Calvin Ng, the head of Logistics and Equipment; Hung Shiuh, the Floor Manager and Cameraman; Venessa Low and Dhanya. P, the crew members) were inspired by the ‘Are Malaysians Racist’ video that went viral last year and decided to produce something similar for their PSA assignment. Esmond had previously interned at the company who made the video and wanted to make something similar.
They set up a video camera in a local mamak and got an actor to play as an Indonesian migrant worker. The ‘migrant worker’ then asked people who sat next to him to translate an English Facebook message to him, which was actually a racist message. And of course, the hidden camera caught the reactions of unsuspecting strangers on film.
“We expected 1000 views the most but now it has gone viral with over a million views across many news platforms,” Calvin and Esmond said to me in a short interview over Facebook.
Calvin Ng and Esmond Lee said that they camped at the mamak for 8 hours and it was really hard to get people to sit at the table that they wanted; however, their efforts were not in vain because of those 8 hours, those who sat at that table all gave very positive responses to the ‘migrant worker’.
When asked if they were concerned that they might receive negative responses from the public and consequently prove that Malaysians are racist, they answered with conviction:
“We had full confidence in the people of Malaysia that they would rise above the misconception that most Malaysians are racist.”
Sure, the people included in the video all responded positively, but did the team get any negative responses which were not added in the video?
Esmond and Calvin mentioned that of the 8 hours spent at the mamak, all who sat at the table gave very positive responses to the ‘migrant worker’ — all but one old couple. “When asked if they could help translate the message, they showed like this face of distaste and just left the mamak. Just left without ordering or eating anything,” they said.
Other than that though, the team was satisfied and pleased with the responses of the people filmed and according to the team, they “kind of expected that sort of response”. They did not, however, expect one of them to go as far as to sugarcoat the racist message.
They were, of course, referring to this guy in blue:
This amazing guy did the sweetest thing ever and told the actor that the message sender said he is handsome, hardworking, and has a sweet smile. He added that the message sender also admires his work ethic, but advised the ‘migrant worker’ not to add him on Facebook because he’s a homosexual.
Calvin and Esmond were quick to clarify that he did not mean that to be an insult to anyone, but rather he wanted to explain that the person might be trying to take advantage of him, hinting that the contents of the message might have been sexually explicit so he should not add him on Facebook for his own safety.
Another guy even offered to pay for the actor’s meal!
After the filming, the team spoke to all the people who were filmed (to also get their permission to use their footage in the video and post it online) and got some interesting feedback from them about racism.
“The two Chinese guys said that racism is stopping our country’s growth and we are chasing away migrants who can actually contribute to our society. The man in blue who lied about the message said that migrants are really nice people once you get to know them and that he’s had the privilege of knowing a few,” Esmond and Calvin shared.
Finally, I had to ask this question that is without doubt on the minds of many of the viewers:
Were any of the people, other than the Indonesian migrant worker, actors?
They laughed and explained, “We get this a lot. Other than the actor who played the migrant, there are no other actors, except for a few people we called over to help make the mamak look full and force patrons who come in to sit at the table we wanted. Other than that, there are no other parties that affected the response of the video.”
There you have it, right from the horse’s mouth.
Malaysians, we still have hope yet.