Once a year, us filmmakers brace ourselves for our so called Oscars (huh...one 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 heritage.gov.my 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 finas.gov.my).
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.