In What City Does It Live?


Pak Awang is retired, but he hasn’t lost his zest for life. He and his wife, Zaitun, live in the Malaysian village where they were born and raised. The village, its people, and their house are what they call home. It is a Muslim village populated by children and old people. The generation in between has migrated to Kuala Lumpur and other big cities to seek better job opportunities, including Pak Awang’s daughter (and only child.) During his visit to the city, she announces to her father that she will marry her boyfriend, about whom Pak Awang is highly dubious.

In another part of Kuala Lumpur, Solomon, a Nigerian immigrant, works illegally as a street peddler and tries very hard to adjust to life in the city. Refusing to participate in shady cons and money laundering like some of his countrymen, he opts to run a small business of his own. Caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, Solomon runs into trouble with the police and has to run away. He jumps onto the back of a moving truck and lands in Pak Awang’s village.

Meanwhile, Pak Awang returns home and decides to give his daughter a house as a wedding gift. Unable to afford a new one, he decides to relocate and restore an abandoned house near his village. Dispelling rumors that the house is haunted, he convinces his neighbors to move the house by physically carrying it to the village on their backs. The mood is high as the villagers also prepare a heroic Malay play in time for an upcoming Islamic holiday.

As the villagers rehearse, Solomon makes his way through the jungle on the outskirts of town. Dirty and hungry, he is starting to lose his grip on reality. In his delirious wandering, Solomon stumbles upon the house that Pak Awang has chosen for his daughter, and decides to hide out there. That same evening, a villager is passing by the house when he notices a black shadow inside. Alarmed, he returns to the village to tell everyone of the mysterious sighting. Nobody actually sees Solomon in person, stirring rumors that the relocation of the house has disturbed some spirits.

Spooked by the idea, the villagers refuse to help move the haunted house. Pak Awang tries in vain to dissuade them of this and argue against their superstition, but it only alienates him from his neighbors. Oblivious to the commotion, Solomon is happy with his newfound home and settles in—but for how long?

As the tension heightens, irony, superstition, racism and humor emerge from the seemingly cohesive spirit of the village community. The characters’ entangled fates expose the realities and challenges of modern multiculturalism, revealing what happens when our preconceived notions prevent us from seeing past appearances.


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