May 25, 1977, George Lucas, created for the world, a story. 37 years have passed, and his story continues to live.
“Star Wars” changed us; it provoked our minds and broke down the walls of normalcy.
George Lucas was a revolutionist. His manipulation of special effects established what the future might or can be and gave new meaning to the word “epic”. But how “Star Wars” ultimately changed the way in which reality was seen, was beyond the comprehension of the human mind.
Like the unpredictability of a volcano, “Star Wars” erupted the creation of a new language, so much so that in 1983, President Ronald Reagan referred to the Soviet Union as the “The Evil Empire”. He spoke about the US Strategic Defence initiative that used space-based lasers and missiles to protect US from any nuclear attacks. Reagan was a Jedi Master of his own accord.
Between 1978 and 1986, approximately 250 million Star Wars figurines were sold. That meant, almost every child in the world wanted to own one. Then again, come to think of it, those numbers could have included adults like you and I. Fast forward to 2011, the Volkswagen Passat commercial depicted a young boy dressed as Darth Vader attempting to use the ‘force’ to start the car. His reaction was priceless. One can easily tell; the ‘force’ was strong in that one. In fact, Gamin took this craze one step further by installing a Darth Vader voice option in their GPS devices to guide us to our destination. Let’s just hope that it isn’t the “Dark Side” that he will be taking us to.
But, the question is – Why “Star Wars”?
Strip off technology, special effects, lasers, space shuttle, machines and odd looking creatures – George Lucas brought us a story of humanity. The core of our existence. And that’s why the strong affiliation with “Star Wars”. It was a story about us, our battle against evil.
Did you know 50,000 years ago, we Homo Sapiens (that’s what we’re called scientifically) trashed our other relatives – Homo Erectus, Homo Floresiensis, Neanderthals and Denisovans in the evolution of life – making us the sole survivors of our kind? Scientists speculated that the reason for this is our ability to collaborate, care, forgive, create and connect with each other. These reasons are deep wired in us from our ancestors. Mr Lucas brilliantly used this as a basis of his story, masking it with technology and eccentricity.
He was a genius because he didn’t follow the ways of Isaac Asimov or H.G Wells whose work revolved around hard science fiction, technology, robots and futuristic elements.
Now, think about the ‘Force’. Obi-Wan consistently reminded Luke to ‘use the Force’. Most of us can relate the ‘Force’ to religious beliefs be it – Islam, Christianity, Jewish or Buddhism. Even Atheists believe the way to salvation lies within. We were taught to use the ‘force’ as a guide in our lives, and that once found, can make us heroes.
When Obi-Wan said, “You are going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view” – did your light bulb lit up? Think about it, for someone who suffers from Osteoporosis taking the escalator one floor up is a life saver but to others can be perceived as laziness. Was Luke Skywalker a hero or terrorist? All of these depend on which side of the Death Star you were on when he blew it to pieces. We can apply these possibilities to many aspects in our lives, in religious beliefs, political party alliances, race divisions and societal constructions.
We were reminded that fear and anger leads to the dark side. Yoda warned Luke that he was not ready to fight in the ‘Empire Strikes Back’; but Luke was young, naïve, angry and impatient. He failed but only later realised that Yoda was not only correct, but the Dark Side was a relative. This we relate to, because the concepts of good over evil, patience, redemption are so hardwired in us.
Yoda tells us to believe in ourselves when he said, “Do or do not. There is no try”. And we live to remember this after so many years. It’s hilarious that the voice of Frank Oz who played Yoda who also was the voice of Miss Piggy in The Muppets can have such an everlasting impact on us.
And finally …..
Luke Skywalker we easily resonate with because he was just a plain boy, who grew up in a farm with his aunt and uncle, hoping, dreaming that someday he can make a difference. Who doesn’t love a story of underdogs who become heroes? It worked with tales of ‘Hang Tuah’, Oliver Twist and Harry Potter among others. Humanity is in our veins, we are driven by tales of triumph and tribulations. And hence the strong bond with “Star Wars”.
A local television translated Vader’s, ‘You will now pay for your lack of vision’ to “Sekarang awak akan menjadi buta “. Some were so offended that if they could, they would probably stage a protest at the station’s premise with their lightsabers !
May 25, 1977 was 37 years ago, but in 37 years to come, “Star Wars” I believe, will continue to live. And yes, the Force is strong in this one. May the Force be with you, too.
ZAHIR BATIN EPISODE I
There is a place…
Situated 15 kilometres away from the district of Kuala Selangor, Tanjong Karang is the fishing and paddy-growing heart of Selangor. A long canal starts from this town and ends in Sabak Bernam. It was first built during the colonial era and was known to the locals as ‘Bangkenal’. The canal was a source of livelihood to the community as it is used for freshwater fish farming, growing paddy and for agricultural activities. But what is divinely special about Tanjong Karang is the serenity that engulfs you when you look at the landscape of what’s in front of you, the greenery of the paddy fields that goes as far as the eyes can see. It is magical how an unobstructed view of greens and fishing boats coupled with fresh air can fill your heart with peace and calmness.
There is a man…
When he spoke about his hometown, the first words he used to describe the place were ‘peace’ and ‘safe’. He grew up spending his time unpretentiously; kite flying, fishing, playing marbles and sandal wars – yes, a glamorous name for our local sport – ‘baling selipar’. That was his life. When asked, what will bring the world to Tanjong Karang, he responded by saying “It’s a peaceful place with beautiful scenery but please don’t come, let it remain that way”. It was Tanjong Karang, his safe haven that he was talking about after all.
This man was able to identify with Luke Skywalker naturally as he understood what it meant to grow up being surrounded by greenery. Whilst the rest of us allowed the force to intervene with our feelings and emotions, he allowed the force to wander around his imagination, slowly visualising the landing of Star Wars in his special land, Tanjong Karang.
It wasn’t difficult to bring his thoughts to live. All he needed was a second hand camera that he could afford to capture his imagination. The selection was a Canon EOS 1000D. “The first photo I took was of the former owner of the camera”, he quipped proudly. As the Rebels celebrate the end of the Empire, he rekindled the story again with nature, chickens, the paddy field, the river and of course with Star Wars figurines. This storyteller, he is called Zahir Batin.
There are photographs…
Zahir Batin’s work is simply special because he tells a tale through his production. They say a picture paints a thousand words and so does his. It may come as a surprise that Zahir has never had any formal education in photography. He is fortunately armed with creativity, imagination and humility. It wasn’t fame that he was looking for when he captured these photos, all he really wanted was to tell the story of Star Wars in a local setting.
Want to see what happened after the Storm Troopers & Gang “balik kampong”? You would find the answers here:
Zahir Batin Episode 1.
written by Sarah Hidayah Mubarak
Zahir Batin’s photographs are made by basic ingredients, simple steps and pure passion. Shooting during the weekends and having to manage time, he applies these basic steps to create various epic scenes:
Whenever an idea comes across his mind, he draws them and creates a story board. This is a must process, so he knows where he should place each figurine in each shot.
Props aka side actors
These props can consists of twigs, wires, fishing rod, strings, match sticks, chickens, ducks, little houses, a tiny boat, anything that he can get his hands on around his home in Tanjong Karang. He is after all, very imaginative.
Quality of the light
Since Zahir depends on natural light, it is important for him to plan the time of day at which he shoots his photos. He chooses to work early morning or mid-afternoon, as this will mean that he gets sufficient light to work with and it won’t be too strong. There are times when he has to wait for the right amount of clouds , just to get the light he desires.
Zahir considers his subjects carefully before deciding the right viewpoint as it has a massive impact on the composition of his photographs. He takes several shots from various view point – high above, down at ground level, from the side, from the back and so on. ‘Photography is always a surprise’, he says.’ Sometimes the best photo can come from a surprising viewpoint’.
He spends between 1 to 2 hours to shoot each photo. Just so you know why that is; apparently chickens have emotions. When creating ‘Little Farm’, he has to wait for the right moment when the chickens calm down and have a better expression on their look. No kidding!
Adobe Photoshop helps Zahir to easily edit, retouch and restore his photos in a non-destructive manner. He uses commands found in the Image Adjustments option such as curves, colour balance and levels. He also uses multiple layering technique and noise reduction to get a sharper look. Particularly since these photos are shot at close up range, he has to ensure that the subject gets the viewer’s undivided attention and the story he intends to tell passes through.
Zahir basically starts with having sweeping imagination and visualising a story in his head. Once he is drawn upon an image, he captures it. Then he simply let the magic happen…