Zaiton: Ceritaku (Zaiton: My Life, Malaysia)

  • Not a concert movie, but more about the economic problems of a down-and-out singer
  • The film’s theme song should have been ‘She Works Hard For The Money’

MONEY problems are the theme  of the film Zaiton: Ceritaku, based on the life of singer Zaiton Sameon, who was involved in a vehicular accident that killed her son, 13, in 1990.

   Viewers expecting a concert movie, probably misled by the poster of the film, will be sorely disappointed as the film is  interested only in showing the singer’s attempt to make a comeback in the industry.

   She does, however, get to sing  her 1987  hit, Menaruh Harapan, to her heart’s content.

The film opens with her performing that song in a concert in 1990, and the camera, probably thinking of that opening shot in Boogie Nights, follows her from the stage to the dressing room in one uninterrupted shot.

  The actress who plays Zaiton is musical performer Nadia Aqilah, who is making her film debut. Nadia has Zaiton’s hairstyle down pat, but is less curvaceous than the latter.

  Zaiton remained in a coma for three months after the accident. When she wakes up, she is beset with problems, and having amnesia is the least of them.  

Zaiton will have to eventually sing for her durians.

   For one, her sister (Fazlina Ahmad Daud) and brother (Arush Mohamad) pester her to sell off house to pay for her medical bills.

   Director Esma Danial Mohd Isa’s favourite shot is to film a scene in a house through the windows looking in. There’s a nice shot as the camera moves from the argument upstairs to show Zaiton hearing it downstairs.

   Her two siblings are portrayed as being more interested in money than in her recovery. After selling off Zaiton’s house, both of them share in the profits.

   The singer’s road to recovery is not smooth and there are bumps along the way, including her mother (Norlia Ghani) getting injured while bathing her.

   Her younger brother Shamsul (Karl Shafek Ibrahim) looks out for her and also encourages her to regain her footing in the world, so to speak.   

Please start walking, or I’m gonna start shouting at you.

 However, in the scene where he cajoles her to start walking, he comes across as a whiny kid who can’t get his way.

    Her inevitable breakdown comes in, of all places,  the middle of a busy road. No one comes to her rescue until a friend  Rahim (Shahronizam) takes her back  home. The mum, of course, doesn’t like this living arrangement.

Zaiton hits the lowest point when she has to sing for her durians by the roadside. 

 She also gatecrashes a wedding to sing, and then hopes for a donation from the organiser.

Her attempt to get a record deal falls through when the producer says her pitching and tempo are off.    

A rainy day and a busy street, all the elements you need for a breakdown to happen.

A flashback shows her  mum encouraging her to give money to her two siblings. Zaiton reaches for something  and a fountain of 50 ringgit notes cover the room.

  Meanwhile, two business people (Siti Rokhaida Khalil and Riezman Khuzaimi) spot a chance to make money off her.

 They  tell her that they can get others to invest in her comeback but their hopes are dashed when the investors say she doesn’t have it in her anymore.

   Viewers who aren’t familiar with Zaiton’s story will wonder if this film is about a down-and-out woman rather or the life of a former top singer.

   There’s no background story or the fact that she won a 1987 contest on the back of Menaruh Harapan. When Zaiton performs in the film, she mainly sings that song.

  In fact, this film is more about the economic troubles of a rejected female singer.  Zaiton should have sung She Works Hard For The Money.

1 1/2 out of 5

What do you think? Please share your thoughts.


Note: Zaiton now lives with her foster daughter Ika Ismail in Kuala Lumpur and sings at festive occasions.  She has a new album titled Terimalah Aku, which has nine songs.
In 2003, she recorded a song, Menadah Impian, which was included in a compilation album of the same name (source: New Straits Times).

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About jeff

Malaysia is my home, Writing is my background, Photography is my hobby, Movies are my passion, And Man Utd is my life. I cover movies made in Malaysia and Singapore fervently. This is probably the only blog in Malaysia that regularly reviews English, Malay, Chinese and Indian films.
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2 Responses to Zaiton: Ceritaku (Zaiton: My Life, Malaysia)

  1. Miss Blissful Wishes says:

    I agree that the movie needs more background stories of her glory days before the accident. I think the producer was hoping on only the old fans to flock to see it. They ignored the fact that moviegoers are mainly young people and it is important to “introduce” who Zaiton was to them if they want these youngsters to appreciate it. They made the accident as the kickstart point of the movie instead. Yes, those who don’t know her would not feel that she was once one of the top successful singers in Malaysia from watching this movie.

    It would be more effective if they potrayed her climb to the top first setting off the second part of her life as the fallen singer. She was known for her sexy image, her single hot mama status, her flashy clothes, big hair and most of all her powerful vocals. Even our conservative old folks looked past her image because they liked her vocals a lot more. Too bad the movie producer did not show those except a few old clips at the end. As for me, I was disappointed that her real singing vocals were not used at all.

  2. ell says:

    didnt watch it but i’ve read most people said this movie was bad.. plus they also request the original version which is Mislina as Zaiton.. (this version was banned and directed by Fauziah Nawi.)

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