Yasmin Ahmad Passes Away

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Yasmin Ahmad, the celebrated filmmaker and executive creative director of Leo Burnett Kuala Lumpur, passed away this weekend at the age of 51. Ahmad had died from a cerebral hemorrhage on July 25, after suffering from a stroke two days earlier during a media presentation at local broadcaster TV3 in Kuala Lumpur.

Ahmad was born on July 1, 1958 in the Malaysian town of Muar. After graduating from Newcastle University in England, she went on to work brief stints in banking and at IBM before beginning her advertising career as a copywriter at Ogilvy & Mather. She joined Leo Burnett Malaysia in 1993 as joint creative director and eventually moved up to become the agency's executive creative director.

Simultaneously, Ahmad enjoyed a critically acclaimed career as a film director and screenwriter and was known for tackling touchy subjects like interracial and intercultural relations, put into stark relief against the diverse ethnic and Muslim backdrop of Malaysia. She directed and wrote six films, including 2004's Sepet, a romance between a Malaysian girl and a Chinese boy, which earned awards in France, Malaysia and Tokyo, including the prize for Best Asian Film at the Tokyo International Film Festival in 2005. Her latest feature was the 2009 Talentime, about a talent competition and love story between an Indian boy and Malay girl, and before her death she was working on two new films, Japanese production Wasurenagusa (Forget Me Not) and the Singapore-based Go Thaddeus!, the tale of a 17-year-old triathlete who died after completing a trial for the Southeast Asian Games.

In the ad community, Ahmad is perhaps best known for her charming commercials for Malaysian oil company Petronas, including the "Tan Hon Ming in Love" spot, about a young Chinese boy who professes his love for his Malay girlfriend, which earned the country's first Cannes Gold Lion in 2008.

Ahmad was also an active blogger and regularly posted her musings about life and news about her work until near the time of her death.

She is survived by her husband, Abdullah Tan Yew Leong.
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