Oscar Wilde opined that “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life”. But in PASKAL: The Movie, art imitates life, and imitates it pretty closely.
Minor spoilers ahead if you haven't seen the movie.
Leftenan Commander Anuar Bin Hj Alias' experience in Angola in 1998 inspired that one scene in the movie PASKAL and we managed to sit down with the war hero and get his side of the story.
For some context, he had served in the military since 1981 and at the time of the incident, he held the rank of Major.
In the movie, the main characters are put on a UN Military Observer Mission. They are not given weapons. They witness a conflict between civilians carrying supplies and rebels raiding the supply truck.
In the movie, the conflict escalates into a firefight involving an RPG.
Let’s separate the FACTS from FICTION:
FACT: Lt Cdr. Anuar scared away the rebels with only a shout
He was assigned on a peacekeeping mission to Angola under the UN (UNIVEM II). As a peacekeeper, his mission was only to observe.
He was assigned two Namibian soldiers who were armed but were not allowed to fire, only to protect Anuar. If the rebels targeted Anuar, only then would the Namibian soldiers be allowed to fire back.
Like in the movie, the rebels gun down the driver of the supply truck and attacked the women and children on board. Anuar sees this exchange, exits his vehicle and shouts at the armed rebels. The rebels flee into the bushes nearby and Anuar rescues the passengers on board.
FICTION: Quick reaction force did not come to assist in the battle
In the movie, a gunfight ensues and the QRF arrive on the scene. In real-life, Anuar was alone when he inspected the supply truck while his Namibian escort stood guard outside.
He saved four people that day, women and children, all with the power of his words.
FACT: He actually shouted the words “Hey, you!”
In the movie, Hairul Azreen, who plays the lead character, shouts the exact same words before heading over to save the civilians.
We don’t recommend you try it in real life to scare away thieves though. We don’t know if you have the gravitas of First Admiral Anuar to scare away the bad guys.
FICTION: Sadly, no RPGs were fired
The RPG featured heavily in the trailer and promotional videos for PASKAL, but luckily for Anuar, no real RPGs were fired.
FACT: Picking up a gun and firing warrants a court-martial
By law, soldiers on UN Observer Missions were not allowed to carry guns nor fire guns. We asked him about this.
“Senjata kami, adalah mulut kami, (Our weapon is our mouth)” Anuar told us. “You negotiate, you mediate, and you coordinate.”
“We come for peace so we don’t want to escalate the situation. We should try anyhow, anyway, to approach people without force,” he says.
As they say, the truth is stranger than fiction, and in the life of Lt Cdr. Anuar, the truth is in many ways more and less dramatic than what actually happened on film.
The film is killing it at the box office and is on track to becoming one of the highest-grossing Malaysian films this year.
Have you seen PASKAL: The Movie yet?