Monday, July 28, 2008


Okay should have been - and the nominees are...I know...well, for those who want to know below is the list of the nominees of the upcoming Filem Festival Malaysia 2008.
The name of the directors are in brackets and the list is not in order of merit okay?:

1957: Hati Malaya (Shuhaimi Baba)
Impak Maksima (Ahmad Idham)
Kala Malam Bulan Mengambang (Mamat Khalid)
Kayangan (Raja Ahmad Alauddin)
Nana Tanjung 2 (A. Razak Mohaideen)
Otai (A. Razak Mohaideen)
Pensil (M. Subash)
Sepi (Khabir Bakhtiar)
Susuk (Amir Muhammad)
Wayang (Hatta Azad Khan)
I’m Not Single (Pierre Andre)
Evolusi KL Drift (Syamsul Yusoff)
Duyung (A. Razak Mohaideen)
9 September (Pierre Andre)
Akhirat (Syed Mohd)
Anak (Barney Lee)
Anak Halal (Osman Ali)
Apa Kata Hati (Saw Teong Hin)
Cinta U–Turn (A.Razak Mohaideen)
Congkak (Ahmad Idham)
CUCI (Hans Isaac)
Dunia Baru The Movie (Yeop Hitler)
Johnny Bikin Filem (Dr Annuar Nur Arai)

Now, A. Razak Mohaideen, who is now in his umpteenth year as an Associate Professor, has FOUR movies in the running!! It's like using a shotgun to hit a fly. Well, maybe this is his year to maybe win one award of merit - and that is for Duyung. I really don't think his three other movies - Nana Tanjung 2, Otai and Cinta U-Turn should or would be up for any top awards.
Next director to have multiple titles for awars are Ahmad Idham and Pierre Andre.
Idham would be hoping his action packed Impak Maksima or his scary Congkak can bring him some awards, whilst Pierre Andre could be a shoo in for Best New Director for either 9 September or I'm Not Single (but he would most probably be competing with Hans Isaac who is in with his debut feature CUCI).
Perrenial festival favourite, Shuhaimi Baba, hopes to have her hit movie (that means kena hit-and-run) 1957: Hati Malaya bag at least five top awards for film, director,actor, actress, screenwriting and cinematography. Oops that's six. Sorry flunked my maths in school lah.
Former award-winning 'talisman' Raja Ahmad Alauddin makes a comeback with his Kayangan - hoping to wipe bad memories of his 2006 box-office damper Qaisy & Laila. But like usual, he won't be giving up his day job yet lah.
The guy who directed Cinta but didn't win best director at last year's awards festival will once again vie for top awards - with his Sepi.
Former indie directors trying to break into mainstream cinema - Osman Ali and Amir Muhammad - are both in with a shout. Osman with his rather excellent Anak Halal and Amir with his yet to be seen, except maybe in London, movie Susuk.
It would also be interesting to see how Saw Teong Hin, who previously directed a RM10 million movie, fare with his RM1 million movie entitled Apa Kata Hati.
Now, a first for the festival would be the entry of two movies financed totally by higher institutes of learning. This would be Hatta Azad Khan's RM600,000 Wayang and Annuar Nur Arai's RM1.5 million (reportedly) and 12-year-old movie Johnny Bikin Filem.
How could a 12-year-old movie enter the festival? Well, because it hasn't been screened yet, that's why. So, we may actually see a man who has been dead for the past 5 years win Best Supporting Actor this time round (M. Amin).
Hmmm maybe Mansor Putih should have entered his masterpiece Seman (produced just before Johnny Bikin Filem) this time around. Or has it been entered in a previous awards festival yet? Who gives a shit.
Anyway, we really can't predict which is the best movie this time around because at least three movies in the running has not been screened yet - Wayang, Johnny Bikin Filem and Susuk.
I did hear good things about Wayang but as for JBF - I hear extremes - good and bad - plus some extremities too.
Surprisingly, movies that have been making waves for the country in renown festivals all over the world has not been entered - James Lee's Things We Do When We Fall In Love, Hua Yuhang's Rain Dogs (could someone confirm if this movie entered last year's fest), Woo Ming Jin's The Elephant and The Sea, Tan Chui Mui's Love Conquers All and Liew Seng Tat's Flower In The Pocket.
Maybe they didn't bother because the language used in their movies were Mandarin and not Malay. Strange isn't it? Yet, there are four movies whose titles are not in Malay or slang words - I'm Not Single, Otai, Cinta U-Turn and Dunia Baru The Movie.
Heck, they even did not bother participating in the Digital Feature Film category. Only Pensil by M. Subash can be considered an indie movie fighting its way to glory amongst the big guns.
I guess they know that either Sepi, Hati Malaya, Cuci, Congkak and Impak Maksima would be the front runners. But hey, Osman Ali and Amir Muhammad are in the mix. So all is not lost right?
So, there you have it. The best of 2007 Malaysian cinema. Jeez.


Congkak director Ahmad Idham (top celebrity golfer for that day) and
actor-dancer-producer Riezman doing stretches before the match start.
Yesterday (Sunday) morning, I took part in a mini golf tournament organised by Tayangan Unggul boss and Film Producers AssociationVP Dato' Tengku Annuar Musaddad. It was a small do, about ten industry players and ten representatives of the Censor Board led by their Chairman Dato' Hussein Shafie.
By the end of the day, the men with the scissors steamrolled the guys from the film industry. At the end of the day, the bottom half were packed with 'celebrities' (including yours truly).
Nevertheless, it was actually a great golf outing at the Palm Garden golf course in Putrajaya. Events like this allow players in the film industry to meet and exchange ideas and thoughts with the guys from the Home Affairs ministry, so it is much welcomed.
To put icing on the cake, everyone received a goodie bag (with souveniers from Tayangan Unggul pics) and a cute mini-Boston bag. Prizes and gifts were handed to all by the very amicable Ms. Gayathri, Tayangan Unggul's producer. So, thank you Tengku Annuar. Let's hope we can have more such sporting events with other parties (how about the cinema owners?).
(Our film industry is a little confused because we work under five ministries - for TV we work under the auspicious of the Information Ministry, for film we are put under the Ministry of Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage, for censorship we have to kowtow to the LPF people under the Home Affairs Ministry, for animation and other content we report to the MCMC folks under the Ministry of Science and Technology, and when we sell our DVDs we are under the Local Industry Minister.)

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Ooooohh I haven't been posting for the past four days. That's a long time.
Can't help it. Been having a big time writer's block - for my blog and also for the scripts and proposals that I have to complete.
My movie scripts are coming on veeerrryyyy slowwlyyyy - if you now what I mean. Am averaging about three scenes a day!!! Arghhhh!!!
And you know the saying it never rains, it pours? Yup yup...suddenly, work comes pouring in and over this weekend, I have to produce three Public Service Ad scripts and a business proposal.
I have also been given the greenlight to do another favourite pastime of time - cultural research. Yessss....hopefully, I will be able to do research of the Bugis and the Toraja community in Makassar, Southern Sulawesi.
This is great! I have been wanting to return to Sulawesi ever since I set foot on Manado more than ten years ago. I haven't been to the Southern part, and have been wanting to since I've watched National Geographic documentaries about the unique Torajan funeral rites. But first, I have to do a 'kertas cadangan penyelidekan dan dokumentasi'.
And then, RTM returned a few episodes of my Bilik No 13 yesterday for some re-edits - adoiiiii.
Tomorrow I have golf pulak. and my right finders are still sore.
Too many things happening lah....may even have to cancel my Jakarta trip next week.....Damn.
Anyway, this is just a short posting...hopefully I've got some interesting stuff to write about next time.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


In the beginning, there's nothing but the word. Everything begins with the word. Including movies. Being a writer, I believe that there is much truth in this.
I consider myself a screenwriter first, a film director second. Without a good script - be it a teleplay or screenplay - movies will never become good cinema.
Friends and foe alike, always ask me why I never buy scripts from other people or even direct scripts from others - it's not like I haven't. I have. It's a pitifully painful process. I just feel like, the scripts and screenplays that I have received, are usually still works in progress. The structure isn't right, the conflicts in it are sparse and not thought out properly, the character designs weak, its plot and sub-plots either non-existent or confusing.
In the end, I end up re-writing the script so much that I wonder why I pay good money for these scripts. I expand good money and time. So why should I stress myself - might as well just polish up my own screenplays (not that my screenplays are perfect - hehehe).
Most of the scripts that I come across are usually excellent for radio dramas. full of dialogue and nothing else. These un-trained writers are just churning out scripts from their homes without much if any research - just re-hashing old storylines from dramas and movies that they have seen. That is why our Malay dramas on TV seem never to have improved over the last two decades. 
The stories are the same, the plots, the conflicts - blah blah blah. Most of these writers don't even understand that TV and film are a visual medium - and they torture us with dialogue that goes on and on without pushing or helping the story move forward. They don't know or even heard about story archs - which is why their stories seem dead and lifeless.
Their written direction or screenplay hardly exists, which doesn't help the director understand what the writer wants from the story. 
A good screenplay actually helps the director visualise and plan his shots - no, not words like CLOSE UP, ZOOM IN, TRACK SHOT etc.....A good screenplay is a good read (without the camera angles and shots cluttering the script). A script well written can be good literature - where every mood, every bit of emotion is there in the words in between the dialogues.
Many also must have read and re-read Syd Field countless times and nothing else matters. Haha. I know of a so-called filmmaker who used to praise Syd Field and even quote him verbatim. It seems (to him) nothing else or no one else should be read if you want to be a screenwriter. His students and those who believe in him, followed suit.
When I teach, I tell my students the various school of thoughts, allow them to understand the various approaches and techniques of writing that is available out there. Of course I point out my personal preference. I prefer to teach and stress the importance of story and plot points and therefore I usually refer to or refresh myself with Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey
Anyway, I used to teach at this small institution but left after not agreeing with the management on various matters pertaining to the running of the institution. When I gave up I left my notes on screenwriting and story development for the students to refer to. 
This guy came in after I left, having managed to sell himself to the institute's clueless management. I pity him because not many other institutions would give him a job and also many producers who wouldn't even buy a script from him. 
He must have read the notes I left behind, because suddenly, in his postings on the net, he is suddenly a proponent of Joseph Campbell....hahha..what happened to Syd Field? Nevermind, at least I managed to open up a previously clogged and blurry mind.
In terms of screenwriting software (which helps writers format their scripts and nothing much else) I know of a few friends who use Final Draft. I never did. I instead began using an on-line screenwriting software called Scriptbuddy at It was friendly and it formatted my screenplays - which was fine. You can subscribe to it for free but it only allows you to work on two screenplays at any one time. If you are a paid subscriber, you can write as many scripts as you want. You can post it. You can sell it. A few writers on Scriptbuddy has actually sold or had their scripts optioned for movies.
Then, I found Celtx (, available for download on both mac and PC users. It is a powerful tool, it is free and it is wonderful. It not only helps me in my writing, but also in my production work - preparing breakdowns and production schedules. It also has a storyboarding page and writing treatments. It offers writers different formats - teleplays, stageplays and even commercials. I have been promoting it to all and sundry. Try it.
As for story development, I bought an online software called Storyist ( It's about RM200 I think. It helps me develop stories and it also uses Campbell's Hero's Journey as a guide.
Anyway, the aspiring writer might want to check the above and maybe, better quality scripts will be floating around, and maybe, just maybe, I will find a script out there that is worth my time to produce and direct.
Writing takes a lot out of a person. If I don't have to write, it will help me manage my time better. I would just concentrate on producing and directing. So, write better stuff guys. I am waiting for great screenplays or teleplays. If it is anything like the stuff I see mostly on RTM1 or Tv3, forget it. If it is new, fresh, dynamic and interesting, then I am interested.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Once a year, us filmmakers brace ourselves for our so called Oscars ( local film association actually call their own awards the Oscars...haha) - the National Film Awards night.
This is the night where most of us - angkat bakul sendiri dan naik lift - praise our films to high heaven - as if most of our films are world class - well, one thing's for sure - our films are in a class of their own.
Anyway, come 9th August, the Malaysian Film Festival begins - where the two major awards are the Film and Director of the Year. Of course, the screenwriters are also waiting with baited breath to see if their own screenplays would win - but it is not as 'big' of the two major awards given out that night.
I have never known what it is like to be nominated for such awards - my first film Tuah, at my own request, was pulled out of the awards ceremony in 1989, in a show of disgust at the previous year's awards ceremony where A.R.Badul won the best director award for Oh Fatimah! Bet you can't remember that. And my next two directorial efforts - Ah Loke Cafe and Budak Lapok weren't really award materials. 
Anyway, that's all history now.
Who would be the winner this year? The funny thing is, I don't think most of cinemagoing public gives a shit. The festival really is created by the industry and for the industry. The movie going public usually just looks on - never in awe. Who cares? Do you remember the best film award recipients for the last three festivals? Do you remember who won the best director award last year? Or the year before?
In fact did any of you out there actually see any Malaysian movies last year? Hah!
In fact, if not for the full page ad that appeared in yesterday's papers, not many would realise that the festival is only two weeks away.
I also checked the Ministry of Culture's webpage at and as of today, the festival isn't even mentioned yet in their activities calendar. Strange. It is of course mentioned in passing, in the National Film Development Corporation's webpage (Finas at
As for me, I am trying my best to view either on DVD, VCD or the cinemas, the current crop of notable feature films that may or may not win anything this year. The list isn't long.
But surprisingly and strangely, many films that have NOT been screened will be in the fray this year. So, this compounds the 'what the f..' effect of observers - I mean how can you create suspense for a movie you haven't seen being nominated for any award?
For example, I heard that Dr Annuar Nur Arai. has submitted his film Johnny Bikin Filem (if I am not wrong - the movie is 12 years old and never got released) for consideration. Strange.
Dr Hatta Azad Khan's college financed movie, Wayang, which is also looking for distributors and haven't got any idea when the film will be released, is also in the running.
I won't be surprised too if movies like Antoo Fighter, Histeria, Susuk and many other movies still in the Finas screening queue, going up for awards. This really means that no film critic or you for that matter is in a position to even predict winners based on merit.
What I can do is just tell you which local movies, that I have seen on the screen or DVD, which have been submitted to the festival, should be considered. I can't say anything about the movies that have not been screened nor released.
Now, I can bet you my bottom dollar that the best Malaysian movie produced last year, that I have seen, will not win the best film award. Simply because it was shot in Mandarin.
The movie? Liew Seng Tat's Flower In The Pocket. No other Malaysian movie - this includes Sepi, Akhirat, Anak, Pensil, Apa Kata Hati, Cuci, Cinta Yang Satu, Congkak and Duyung, comes close to achieving Pocket's cinematic excellence.
And why will Flower In The Pocket not win? Well, the jury will say that since it was shot digitally, it cannot garner the main award. And also because it is in Mandarin, that too will probably kill its chances as a potential Best Film winner.
Hohum...such is the state of our Malaysian film mentality.
Anyway, I shall be writing more about the upcoming festival regularly including why I think the Best Screenplay award is wrongly judged every year since the inception of the festival.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


I've posted this new 40-second promo on, but just in case you guys don't click onto that link, here is the video already on Youtube.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


The Malaysian film industry must have somehow (and without me knowing it) become big league film makers. Really! I mean how can you explain the building of a RM30 million Dolby approved sound studio in Malaysia! Yes! I mean this is what the industry REALLY needs! (Pause) NOTTT!!!
Hey, who did the research on this? Why on Earth has FINAS spent RM30 million on taxpayers money to build this facility?
There are many other aspects in the industry that needs immediate attention (and funding).
Fine - if they (FINAS) really think producers can afford the rental or technology well and good, but do they (the producers) really need it? Hey, they could have asked their Chairman the highly hyphenated Yang Berhormat Tan Sri Dato Dr Senator Jins Shamsudin whose own sound studio in Hulu Kelang closed down years ago for lack of business. Or even that Sarawakian businessman who opened a multi-million dollar digital sound studio in Petaling Jaya who in the end had to sell it off as it couldn't recoup its investment.
Nevertheless, let's first see it from a simple business point of view.
There are currently an average of 24 movies spending approximately RM1.5 each making a full length theatrical release locally. As far as I know only a handful of local movies actually went the Dolby way (officially).
Currently, most local films have gone digital surround but most do not pay the rights nor the license fee to actually carry the logo of Dolby or SDD or THX (because the fees are quite astronomical). (Note: the cost of mixing the film digitally with surround technology does not include the cost of carrying the logos of Dolby or THX or any such companies. The first local film to have paid the licence fee to carry the logo would be Tan Sri Kamarul Ariffin's Jasmine - if I'm not mistaken).
The local producers, instead, would go to friends, who have either legal or illegal copies of audio post software like ProTools who would digitally mix their movies for them in the comfort of their small office or even at home using a RM50,000 PC or Mac set-up. They are cheap and (for our current requirements) technically acceptable.
How much would a producer spend of audio post per movie? Let's say they spend RM20,000 per picture. Now, if this is the same amount that the new facility in FINAS is going to charge - then it will take 1,500 movies for FINAS to earn back their investment (actually their investment is going to be more because of operating costs but let's just look at their initial outlay).
Now even if Malaysia now produces 50 films a year, and then, every producer uses the facility, it will take FINAS 30 years to recoup their finances! Wow!!!! Now, I may not be a fantastic business man lah, but if I take a business plan to investors or even bankers, and show the ROI (return of investment) only kicks in after 30 years - I would be chased out of the presentation room.
Look, currently, even in FINAS's feature film funding scheme, we have to pay back our loans within 3 years. Who in their right mind gives funds to projects whose returns can only be paid baik in 30 years lah???!!!
Now, what could they have used that RM30 million for? Well, I won't suggest funding mainstream movies as the mechanism for such is already in place - the RM50 million fund which is dished out to no-name producers and 'friendly parties' who failed miserably at the box office and have yet to settle their loans (but that's another posting for another day).
FINAS could have used this RM30 million windfall from don't-know-where in setting up at least 6 high quality digital cinemas (since the current cinema operators are dragging their feet in setting up such halls). We Malaysian producers are currently at the mercy of these cinema operators. They take 50 percent of our box office revenue and they don't even help share A&P costs.
So, imagine if FINAS sets up a cinema chain of their own - a national cinema chain - that is digital (allowing us film makers to shoot cheaply on the digital medium without having to spend money of kinetransfers and expensive 35mm screening copies) - it would open up a huge new business sector in the film industry.
For a start, three digital cinemas in KL and Penang each would be ideal.
This is what we need. With a national film chain, owned and managed by FINAS (if they are allowed to), filmmakers who dread making commercial and mainstream movies, can now try and produce movies that they have been wanting to do for ages - movies that are serious, personal and hopefully with more aesthetic values than Anak Mami or Duyong.
Once the digital cinemas are successful (and I'm sure with proper management it would), a franchise could be created whereby groups of producers and entrepreneurs can pool resources to repeat the model but on a smaller but wider scale - creating a chain of mini-digital cinemas around the nation in the numerous malls that we have.
Do also remember that revenue for cinemas are not only derived from ticket sales. A big percentage is from concessionaire sales (selling popcorn, drinks and snacks). A cafe attached to the mini-cinema can also bring in extra cash. Don't you think this is a much better investment for the taxpayers' money than the RM30 million sound studio?
Nevertheless, one does really hope and pray that the RM30 million sound studio will not become a white elephant. It would be disastrous for FINAS (who is already having an image problem of non being able to develop the local film industry to the max) if the studio fails to perform.
Hey, who knows? Maybe the operators of the facility is expecting to attract foreign feature film producers to use their facilities and hopefully kick in the much needed revenue. Maybe they have someone special in the MDeC (Multimedia Development Corporation) who can sweet talk Lucas or Spielberg or Scorses to come use the facility. Yeah yeah...I'm not going to bring up the Cyberjaya E-Village fiasco again - that's already history swept under the carpet.
But if that is their plan, then marketing a facility internationally means having to compete with the likes of Siamlab, Oriental Post and Adlab in Thailand and the many other labs in India and Hongkong. I wish them all the luck. They need it.
Let's not allow the state-of-the-art facility become state-of-the-fart studio.


Well, I made it. One full year of blogging. Hurrah! When I first started this blog exactly one year ago today, I never really thought that I'd be posting stuff on a regular basis.
It was a slow start nevertheless - week after week, wondering what to post and blog.
I wasn't going to be like my former colleagues in the New Straits Times like Rocky or Nuraina, nor my former bosses like Kadir Jasin and Ahmad Talib.
I never thought of even emulating Yasmin's The Storyteller or Patrick's hilarious blog Niamah!
To be another political blog would be redundant - especially like the blogs who just repeat or rehash what other blogs have said. Anyway, politics kinda depresses me.
So, I decide to write whatever comes to mind - it could be a movie review, it could be me reminiscing about my childhood days, it could also be me plugging my latest TV series.
I also post links of interesting videos I find all over the net including some old black and white classics that I think people in the film industry or even laypersons should watch - if they truly love cinema.
I also use this blog to include my travel journals and photos, and I hope to be able to do more of this is the short term.
I might also post my stupid poetry once in awhile or scan a sketch or drawing of mine that I think may decorate my somewhat bland and dreary blog layout.
Many wonder why not many people post comments on my blog. Well, most of my friends who do drop by regularly actually call me or text me about my postings directly. I guess that's more personal and I welcome such comments, but feel free to post a comment.
However, I will (in my second year), at a friend's suggestion and behest, to now maybe impart some of my knowledge to budding filmmakers. Sure, they may have gone to University to study film and get a degree or Masters, but being in the real world is totally different. Theory and practice are two different animals.
In college you don't learn about the maze that is called RTM. In University, you are blissfully unaware of the strange creature called the Malay film or TV producer. It's like that famous book - What They Did Not Teach You At Harvard.
So, I thought, why not? I will through time - post suggestions and advice to the budding writer, director, actor and producer. This advice is about the real world - the cut-throat world of Malaysian films. Anyway, I won't be the first one to do that. My friend Syed Azidi, better known as Kickdefella, and who directed the film Persona Non Grata,  has already done that, and kudos to him.
However, I will be imparting stuff that I personally have come across and feel that it would pertinent for wannabe filmmakers to know - so that their confidence can be lifted and to tell those with talent out there that through hard work and some luck, one can actually make a decent living in this industry.
So, let's do it. Bring it on, Year 2!

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Co-E-Sion is a two piece band or group. Husband and wife team. Their names - Sigrid and Lee. And they are good. Based in Sydney, the have made quite a name for themselves on the net. In fact, they have been listed as amongst Australia's most prolific Youtube personalities.
You guys should check them out...They have about more than 60 video clips on their Youtube site. Their performance is simple - the husband - a very capable guitarist is in the background, doing his stuff accompanying his beautiful wife who sings in the foreground - we only get to see her head.
What is great however are their performances and the covers of popular songs. Below I have embedded five of my favourites. Go visit them on Youtube for their other stuff. Enjoy.



So, any hotels out there who want them to perform in the lobby?

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Today is Saturday. Time to relax. Time for contemplation. Not a time for anger. Not a time to be depressed. But if you were, what would be the medicine? For me, the cure is the same with boredom. I draw, paint or write. I was still seething inside after I wrote the poem. What else is there to do. I don't usually write my scripts or short stories in the day time. That I leave it for the night. So, I took out my little painting kit which I haven't used in ages and did a quick painting. Just to let out the pain and aches in my head.
Guess it sort of got transferred into the painting. Without much thought, the subject I chose was a character in a Balinese performance - the Rangda or to us locals the Penanggalan. It is one of the most colorful and scariest characters in a Balinese dance performance. The painting was done in an hour - not good. When you want to do something in acrylic or oil, you need patience. You can't rush. Details will be left out and the ultimate result will be half baked. Nevertheless, the action of painting and the time it took to complete it is quite therapeutic.


In three days' time, this blog will be one year old. Not bad, considering I am never good in keeping diaries and writing down my thoughts. So, I will pen something interesting on that day. Meanwhile, take in this little ditty.

The first sweet bitter taste of durian
after not having it for years,
The exquisite first sip of a Dom Perignon
after months of draft beers,
The cry of your first born
many months after saying I do,
The touch of your sweetheart’s lips
after many times saying no.
Moments that bring tears of happiness
that are etched forever in lives.
Moments that are taken for granted.
Moments that can be fleeting.
Moments that are just moments.
Moments that in time become nothing.
Just mere moments.
Faded memories.
Soon, gone.
Where did happiness go?
When did it disappear?
When will it happen again?
Where do we find it?
Hidden in pages of a book?
Sandwiched in between prayers?
Within the four walls we call home?
Or in the smiles of your loved ones?
Or maybe in a fat bank account?
Where is it?
Gone when you need it.
Missing when you want it.
Could it be found in the furthest edges of the world?
In a small town in Scotland?
Or a hut in Africa or a beach in Bali?
Or on an island somewhere in Sulawesi.
We need not look that far.
Happiness is always there.
Just beyond one’s sight.
Like the one light.
It is there.
Waiting for a light.



In the 60s and early 70s, the Malay film industry was not pressured to produce Malaysian films. They produced what they felt the public wanted and what the directors and writers came out with. There were hits and misses, but what came out of it was a pool of classic Malay movies - a pool of very Melayu film.
Yet, the Malay-ness of these films are what made them unique and endearing. P. Ramlee movies were loved by non-Malays and so were the other classics. When we see this movie, we don't think them as bad clones of other movies - they were uniquely Melayu.
Then of course, there was an erosion of self confidence. 
When Hongkong and Indonesian movies became box office hits, there seem to be a need to copy-cat the formula.
It was the beginning of the death of the Malay films. 
The silat in movies, for example, became a mish mash of bad kungfu. The stories too were xeroxed from old Hongkong movies remade with a kampung background. Even P. Ramlee fell into a rut and made bad copies of Hongkong and Japanese movies like his atrocious Enam Jahanam.
Shaw, through the Merdeka Film outfit in Hulu Kelang, then came out with movies like Loceng Maut and other bad black-and-white movies (when imported movies are in full color) that hardly made any impact in the box office. So when this happen, moviegoers  prefer the original Hongkong movies and not badly made copies in black-and-white.
Now, the monopoly held by Shaw Brothers and Cathay has ended - at least in the production side (They still own the most theater chains together).
Ever since Sabah Films became one of the first independant film producers to appear after the closure of Merdeka Studios, it's been a love hate relationship between Malay movie producers and the Malay movie going public.
Movies that were big hits are actually those that manage to identify with the public. Bad as the movie may be in terms of aesthetics and overall quality, movies like Anak Mamee do attract moviegoers in droves - and one of the main reason is because of its localised and very Melayu 
/or Mamak content or canvas.
Even the mega hit Jangan Pandang Belakang works because it brings back the stories one hears during childhood as told by grandparents, uncles, brothers and cousins. 
In fact, apart from the art direction and language in the Thailand hit Nang Nak, that movie was very Melayu in heart. I found most of the local fears and practices in regards to ghosts and vampires, very similar to us Malays - and it took the Thais to actually do it properly instead of our local filmmakers.
Most local movies (except maybe for Cicakman which was an aberration of sorts) are 'plastic' and non-Malay. It touches on issues that locals could not fathom nor identify. If the Malays cannot identify with their own movies, how could the rest of the world? In our misguided pursuit to produce Malaysian movies (thinking that Malaysian movies would attract universal audience), we miss out of Malay values that would attract audiences.
Don't they realise that Satyajit Ray became famous and loved not because he tried to emulate Western themes, but instead because it was true to his soul as a Bengali or Southern Indian filmmaker - his films lifted itself from being ordinary Indian films to the level of 'pure cinema'.
Even here in Malaysia, we can see the influx of new and creative independant film makers who are not interested in producing Malaysian movies but in pursuit of 'pure cinema'. They are producing movies close to their heart - the Chinese community in Malaysia and therefore they are not Malaysian movies. There are Chinese movies - but Malaysian Chinese movies. And because they are true to heart, simple yet complex, the festival circuits adore them. 
It (the movies) is something they do not see anywhere else - they are not clones of Hongkong or mainland China movies, and they are vastly different from movie coming out of Singapore - they are instead new Malaysian Chinese-centric movies. 
As Malaysian we should be proud of the achievements by these filmmakers. However, as a Malay filmmaker I am a little envious but also I am more disappointed with my fellow Malay professionals for not being able to produce movies of similar quality.
After all these years, I have yet to see someone producing the quintessential contemporary Malay movie that would take the industry by storm and the global festival by surprise. Personally (and I hope I am wrong), I don't think Yasmin Ahmad would be the one to do it. Eventhough she loves cinema and we should already thank her for her success in making some strides into the international arena, her movies are still somewhat estranged from the Malay psyche.
Meanwhile, we hope that amongst these bodies -Finas, Filem Negara and even RTM (of course TV3 and Astro too) - someone can play their part in finding this elusive treasure that we call the Malay movie.
Developing Malay movies is not just merely setting up a RM30 million dolby audio post facility( which the local film industry cannot afford nor have use for) in Hulu Kelang. One need to first address the quality of practitioners in the industry - you need to identify the few directors whom you think are exceptional and help nurture their careers. These creative directors are there - but they do not have the proper backers nor channels nor knowhow - to accomplish their goals. They need to study how the non-Malay independant filmmakers manage to break into the international circuits and festivals - they need to go back to basics and produce filmmakers whose love for the cinema are sound and true.
And then maybe, one day, we will see a Malay filmmaker, walk up the rostrum in Cannes one day to receive the Palme d'Or (and not just participating in the Un certain Regard category).

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Many cultural observers have said more than once that Malay movies of the 50s and 60s were so popular not because they were excellent cinema (some were) but because there was little competition - no other form of entertainment came close to matching the popular local cinema.
Television has not yet made an impact, and even when it did, its content and accessibility to the public will take a few more years to become popular.
Radio was great - it also had its heyday with families sitting down around the radio listening to variety shows, comedy, live music, drama and news, but listening to the radio isn't half as fun as watching the three stooges hammer each other on the big screen or watching Johnny Weismuller swing from one vine to the other and yelling his famous Tarzan yell.
So, when cinemas were packed, Malay movies too were consistently popular. The competition the Malay movies had were actually movies from other countries - mainly Hongkong, Indonesia and the US.
So to say the Malay movies were popular and lived the Golden Age because they had no competition was wrong. They were popular because they were unique and they were Malay movies - plain and simple.
For those who enjoyed costume epics, they were offered movies like Si Tanggang, Lancang Kuning, Semerah Padi, Megat Terawis, Laksamana Bentan and Raja Bersiong.
If they wanted to laugh, movies like P Ramlee's Bujang Lapok, Madu Tiga, Labu dan Labi plus the slapstick comedies of Mat Sentul's Mat Bond and Mat Gelap, kept one in stitches - eventhough some were rubbish.
Horror? They could either laugh and be scared to death watching Pontianak, Hantu Jembalang, Harimau Jadian, Si Tora, Orang Minyak and many other titles.
Drama? Phew, there are just too many to list.
So, the Malay movies (its hits and misses) were always there for the masses (well, mostly Malay masses).
Furthermore, the era had a great publicity engine - regular roadshows and appearances by the then top stars, great movie magazines with great photos and quaint but effective advertising and publicity gimmicks.
But unlike today, the movies of yesteryear and of the so-called Golden Age, were mostly produced by two studios - Malay Film Productions (MFP), which was owned by Shaw Brothers and Cathay Keris studios - a subsidiary of movie house chain Cathay Organisation owned by Ho Ah Loke and later Loke Wan Tho.
They produced it and they screened it - it was a kind of monopoly. No independent studios could compete with them (they tried but died trying).
Talent and casting also differed in those days. Most of the top stars are studio 'owned' and under contract. This is also true with the top directors of the day like P. Ramlee, Sudarmaji, Jamil Sulong and S. Kadarisman. The word freelance hasn't been heard of yet.
Most directors began as assistant directors or script assistants to Indian directors and later earned their directorial stripes by the end of the 50s.
The best part was that the Malays supported the industry - they came in droves to watch the movies (blissfully unaware that non-Malays are minting millions).
Today, the Malays do not really support Malaysian movies in Bahasa Malaysia language. Yes, that's what I call them now. They are not Malay movies. They are pseudo-Malaysian movies trying to outdo Thai, Hongkong, Japanese, Indian movies. They do not have a Malay soul like the old movies had.
Maybe that what's wrong with today's movies. There aren't any true Malay movies.
(To be continued)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


When I really get bored, I take out my drawing board and my pens and pencils and doodle a little bit. Below are two of my latest doodles or sketches....not bad eh?

Monday, July 7, 2008


Most friends know me and my obsession with horror movies and TV series. I love them. I even wish Malaysians celebrate Halloween so that during that weekend in October, we'd have a flurry of horror movie marathons in the cinemas and on TV.
I also used to host Halloween parties at home during the early 90s with friends who would dress themselves up as monsters and ghosts.
I was truly thrilled to be involved in the National Museum's exhibition on ghosts and monsters in the late 90s. I even staged a play entitled Hantu-Hantu Yang Saya Kenali which I am happy to report scared quite a few people off their seats. For two weeks, the play performed to standing room only audiences.
Maybe it was because of some of the horror movies that I saw when I was a kid that instilled this fascination for everything fantastic.
In my earlier blogs, I mentioned my first encounter with Christopher Lee's Dracula in the movie The Blood of Dracula which I vividly remember watching. The Hammer movies of the 70s were my staple - how not to like gorgeous and bosomy female vampires with white fangs.
And til today, no one, not even Bela Lugosi, can hold a candle to Christopher Lee's portrayal of the Count.
But there were few other horror movies that really affected me - scared me and made me want to scare others the same way (as a filmmaker).
Amongst these films include two classic Japanese horror movies - Kaneto Shindo's Onibaba and Kobayashi's Kwaidan. For those who have not had the pleasure of watching Kwaidan (which very much influenced my Bilik No 13 series) I link below the movie in all its colorful grandeur. Kwaidan is a beautiful yet horrifying cinematic masterpiece.

LikeTelevision Embed Movies and TV Shows

Its pace maybe be slow to some but it was on purpose - building a fearful sense of dread. It was exquisite cinema.
I am now looking for copies of Onibaba on the net. Hopefully someone has digitised and posted it somewhere. But below is the trailer for the 1964 horror classic from Japan.

Surprisingly, the pontianak movies of old never scared me or influenced me in any way. I guess I found them too funny or fantastic, or their narrative too ridiculous to have any impact on my psyche.
As for American horror I have a few favourites - Tobe Hooper's Chainsaw Massacre, George Romero's original Night of the Living Dead and its first two sequels, John Carpenter's Halloween and The Thing and Universal studio's classic horror films - Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy and Werewolf (the good ones directed by James Whale and Todd Browning).
I am also a real fan of Dario Argento whose Suspiria both shocked and intrigued me. I have since then seen his Tenebrae, Bird with a Crystal Plumage, Phenomena (sometimes called Creepers) (see the movie below) and Inferno.

LikeTelevision Embed Movies and TV Shows

I also nearly freaked out watching Don Coscarelli's low budget horror pic Phantasm. That movie was a real blast. Watch the trailer below.

These are all classics, true masters of horror who influenced a slew of copycats and other filmmakers who today depend more on gore than on fear.
Not many films of today can instill a feeling of dread and fear on its audience - sure they have cheap shocks and scares, but that's about it. Not many contemporary horror movies can match the true classic horrors of yesteryear.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Once in awhile, I come across some interesting videos for cinephiles or cineastes. I've posted music videos and movie trailers and film clips. This will be the first full movie I've posted and why? Well, read the information on this movie I copied from Wikipedia:
Song at Midnight (simplified Chinese: 夜半歌声; traditional Chinese: 夜半歌聲; pinyin: Yè bàn gē shēng) (also known as Singing at Midnight or literally Voice of Midnight) is a 1937 film directed by Ma-Xu Weibang. Often referred to as the first Chinese horror film, Song at Midnight is a remake/adaptation of Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera, though the film injects a significant political subplot involving the leftist revolutionary movement to the original story.
The film stars Gu Menghe, Zhou Wenzhu, and Jin Shan as the disfigured anti-hero Song Danping. Ma-Xu made one sequel to Song at Midnight in 1941 during the war. Both films resurfaced in the West at the Udine Far East Film Festival in 1998.[1] Since then, the film has been shown at various film festivals around the world, notably at the 62nd Venice International Film Festival's "Secret History of Chinese Cinema" retrospective.
Check it out - it is quite an interesting movie and even though produced in 1937, it can still weave its magic over you. Enjoy. (Sorry no English subtitles for the time being).


Every year, Hollywood churns out blockbusters during this summer holiday period. Usual fare include sequels to big box office hits, movie versions of top comic heroes, remakes and slam-bang-thank-you-ma'am action movies.
So far, this year, the movies have been making lotsa moolahs. Until the 4th of July weekend, the box office have been setting records.
Amongst this year's summer blockbusters include the umpteenth remake of The Incredible Hulk, Angelina Jolie's Wanted, the movie take on Mel Brook's creation Get Smart, Spielberg's fourth Indiana Jones, Will Smith's superhero movie Hancock, non-Pixar animation movie Kung Fu Panda, N. Night Shyamalan's The Happening and Mike Myer's comedy The Love Guru.
Of course the heavyweights really performed. Indiana Jones raking in plenty of greenbacks making it the most successful Indiana Jones outing for Harison Ford. Will Smith is once again doing his Independance Day victory shuffle with Hancock, eventhough the movie was universally panned.
My favourite summer movie so far is the 'screw physics' movie Wanted directed by Russian visionary director Timur Bekmambetov who gave us Nightwatch and Daywatch. Eventhough Angelina Jlie was in it, the movie was kinda cool to watch.
Meanwhile, animated action comedy Kungfu Panda was a hit movie with a simple singular plot and kid friendly. Nothing great but okay lah.
Crap is also in abundance during summer period and surprisingly, Shyamalan's The Happening was one such crap. I got a feeling that he will soon become the contemporary version of John Carpenter.
Mike Myer's star is also on the wane as he keeps on producing one crappy movie after the other and The Love Guru, which bombed at the box office, keeps his downhill track record going. I am sure his financiers are begging for him to start his next Austin Powers - something Steve Carell did well with his version of Get Smart.
The summer season is far from over. More blockbusters are set to make their bows - this include Gulliermo del Toro's Hellboy 2
, Pixar's Wall.E, Eddie Murphy's Meet Dave,Brendan Fraser's double - Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D and The Mummy 3.
and the new X Files movies (I really miss Scully, not Mulder).

And of course the summer's biggie - The Dark Knight - which is also Heath Ledger's last movie.

Lotsa movies for us to look forward to every Thursday right up until August.
At least, these popcorn fares will take our minds off things like politics and increasing living expenses and fuel prices.
Meanwhile, I'm just counting the days to Star Wars - The Clone Wars which will be screened end of August just before the start of Puasa month.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


Okay...this posting is basically for guys lah. Yeah yeah yeah..guys only because we're gonna talk about beautiful athletes - gorgeous top athletes of the world.
You know, I still remember in the 60s and 70s the myth played up by Americans that Russian women were ugly. Whenever, a Russian woman is characterised in a comic skit, she would have a moustache and full of male hormones. The joke was similar to that making fun of Irish intelligence.
How wrong were they? Now we know that the world's most gorgeous women comes from that part of the world (including those that ends with -stan like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan etc).
So, what got to me writing this post was that the two Williams sisters are playing in the Wimbledon tennis finals - arggghh...and the Americans got the cheek to say Russian women are ugly.
I stopped watching this year's finals when Sharapova and Ivanovic crashed out. These two glamour girls are like magnets (to men who previously don't watch women's tennis). In fact, I have a couple of friends who got into hot water when their wives queried their sudden interest in women's tennis and golf.
I can't blame them, and other guys, who ogle these athletic beauties. I too would rather watch Paula Creamer swinging a driver than watching Colin Montgomerie take a tee shot.
So, let's get to the bottom of things...who are the most beautiful and sexiest female athletes in the world. Actually since we don't really get to see most sports on TV, we don't really get to see gorgeous athletes from other sports but let's just try okay?

My list of gorgeous sportswomen:

Ana Ivanovic - girl next door kinda beauty

Maria Sharapova - leaves Kournikova in her wake, including her mega orgasmic grunts on court
Sania Mirza - included because she's kinda cute. Chappati anyone?

Tanith Belbin - one wonder's how she doesn't melt the ice she skates on
Paula Creamer - pretty in pink and for that matter any damn color
Nathalie Gulbis - not that pretty but helluva sexy. Imagine a foursome with her.
Laila Ali - why? You try to look that pretty after boxing a few years.

So you guys out there, any suggestions who else to be included in this selection?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


To all TV viewers, I on behalf of most Malaysian producers, would like to take this opportunity to apologise for future dramas that we will produce on TV. Why apologise? Well, the petrol fuel hike will have an impact on how we produce dramas. Since we will definitely not be paid more by the TV stations, even after many requests over the past few years, we will have to re-think our production budgets.
Productions will now only be shot in Klang Valley. So I am sorry that you viewers will only get to see the already too familiar Klang Valley landscape over and over again. You will see the twin towers and the KL tower again and again. You will also see the usual KL monorail train shot in the background and you will definitely see more romantic scenes being shot at Taman Titiwangsa with the empty KL Eye ferries wheel in the background. Sorry no more beach scenes.
Most dramas will have the Eye in the background
Due to the fuel increase there will also be more day scenes. Night scenes will be rare as the hiring of generators and paying for the fuel will become too expensive for production. Unless of course there's an electric plug nearby. What I am afraid of is that there will be more accidents occurring when production electricians try to tap free electricity from nearby lampposts and power boxes.
Visually, there will be fewer car scenes too. Hiring cars and paying for petrol for on screen cars will soon become too expensive. So most scenes will have the artistes either walking or jogging together. Even if we need to use cars in the scene, it will be cars that don't guzzle petrol. So even if the character in the scene is a multimillionaire, you will see him driving around in a Kancil.
The choice of millionaire characters on TV - bye bye Ferrari, and helloooo Kancil

You will definitely see more bicycle riding scenes too. The mat rempit scenes will change visually and aesthetically as the notorious mat rempits will hardly look menacing racing in their bicycles.
A typical yet exciting mat rempit chase scene in a future episode of Gerak Khas
We also apologise that in time to come, due to budget constraints, we will only feed our artistes once a day. Catering will become too expensive and we will demand artiste tapau their own food from home. And as such, we believe that by next year, most actresses and actors will be skinny.
Future look - before and after for Malaysian TV artistes
If fuel prices, water prices and electricity prices soar, and the price everything else in the country goes North (meaning increase in price), then most one hour dramas will have ten minute opening graphic and ten minute closing credit titles.
This is of course due to the lesser days of shooting and lesser footage shot. So with ten minute opening graphics and ten minute closing end credits, we only offer viewers ten minute of drama (for a half hour slot).
And because it is so expensive to shoot elsewhere, most scenes will only be shot in the producer's house - his bedroom, his living room, his kitchen, his garage, his front lawn, his TV room.
Furthermore, we can only afford three artistes for any drama. Either they will have to play multiple roles, or the story revolves only around three characters. Really interesting and gripping stuff. In fact, because producers are resorting to cost savings, the script will be written like a radio drama - with verbal exposition happening every scene (i.e. we tell you what is happening off screen). Below is a sample dialogue script of the foreseeable future:


Mariana dan Idham sekali lagi bertemu di ruang tamu rumah mereka.

Abang pergi mana tadi Bang?

Oh abang pergi pejabat tadi jumpa Encik Rahman,
Encik Suhaimi dan Encik Lim. Mereka semua pakai
kot yang amat sesuai untuk perbincangan korporat.

Abang buat apa dengan mereka?

Oh kita berbincang tentang projek berjuta
juta juta kami yang di Dubai itu.


Biasa lah...sedang kami berbincang keliling meja besar
kami yang di impot dari Indonesia dan kerusi kami dari Ikea,
pembantu pejabat kami datang masuk bilek mesyuarat hantar
kopi dan kueh mueh jadi kami pun makanlah. Sedap juga.

Bilik mesyuarat abang besar ke?

Oh cukup busar. Pejabat abang di tingkat 20 dan tingkap bilik
mesyuarat itu boleh nampak seluruh Kuala Lumpur termasuk
Eye on KL yang selalu sepi tu.

(And this scene goes on and on and on)

In fact, we believe if the petrol price crosses the RM3 per litre level, than you will actually only see an actress sitting on a chair on camera and reading you the full script and acting out all the parts herself.
An actress reading and telling you the whole story on TV
Now this will be the future of TV. Be prepared and we apologise for it. Amen.