At the recent congress in Johor Bharu, there was some time spent on trying to define what a Malaysian movie was. As usual there was a spirited debate which spilled even after the congress ended.
I guess, most of the 'arus perdana' filmmakers will not and will never accept the fact that a Malaysian movie or film is any film made in Malaysia or with Malaysian money and hopefully with Malaysian talents.
But no, to them, a Malaysian film MUST be one that uses Bahasa Malaysia as its lingua franca. Any other movie that uses any other language in the movie does not constitute a Malaysian film.
Look, I can be as chauvinistic as the next Malay, but to me film is film. If a Mandarin language film succeeds in drawing attention overseas to Malaysian film scene than it should be deemed a true Malaysian movie. If it's a tamil language movie - so be it.
The problem that I see is that there's no Malay movie that wants to be called a Malaysian movie. Wait a minute...there's no Malay movie to talk about - only pseudo Malay movies.
Then I saw the problem. What the question should have been was not how to define Malaysian movies, but instead we need to define what a Malay movie is or should be.
Is Impak Maksima a Malay movie? Is Gubra? Or is Wayang or Congkak a Malay movie? Or are they foreign movies disguised as a Malay movie because the language used is Bahasa Malaysia?
I don't really know. Each time I watched a so-called movie in Bahasa Malaysia it looks like a bad Hindi movie or a Hongkong movie wannabe. A Malay movie? I think Man Laksa was the best Malay movie ever made in the last few years. It is like something I haven't seen that have come out in other countries. It has very Melayu ideas and scenes and atmosphere.
So, too, is Anak Mami and all its offsprings. Sure, as a piece of filmmaking it is crap, but as a Malay movie it is honest. It is the only local film in Malay that utilise a regional dialect. like Uwei did with his Jogho.
Does using a dialect confirms a movie as pure filem Melayu? No it doesn't. A Malay movie is one that upon watching it defines a culture and a race. You know it is not a movie that could have come out from another country - be it Indonesia or Singapore.
So language does not define the origin nor nationality of a film.
Case in point, all the Indian-themed movies coming out of Britain. These movies are not Indian movies eventhough most of the dialog is in Tamil or Hindi. These are British movies - about British Indians and their own stories.
But unfortunately, most of our contemporary commercial filmmakers in Malaysia are not filmgoers. Apart from a handful (I can name a few - Uwei and Mamat), most of these filmmakers or those in Finas's board do not enjoy nor make it a point to watch foreign movies.
I bet if I sat down with the Finas board and ask them questions about Takashi Miike or Bekbametov or Bergman or Fellini or Tsai Ming Liang (who was a Malaysian) or Kitano or Kaige or Makmalbaf or Ozu or Kieslowski or Lynch or Godard or Polanksi or Luc Besson or Ray or Malick or Coen Brothers or Miyazaki or Almodovar or my personal favourite Von Trier, they would not be able to contribute anything to the conversation.
I'm sure that the board members know no more than one or two of these directors that I have mentioned. Even if they do, I am confident that they haven't even seen their works, and again if they had, I am sure they would have found the work inaccessible or acceptable as a work of art. Hahaha, I bet if they read my blog, they would google these names to find out who they are (but then again I don't know if they know what google is).
But if you ask them if they have seen Spielberg or Tarantino or Ang Lee or Lucas or Scott or de Palma - most probably they would have. They would think awhile to remember which movies these directors made but they would have actually seen them and rave about it. Because these are the kind of movies they watch and enjoy and hope Malaysian filmmakers would make.
These board members are also the people who would volunteer to attend and book their tickets to international film festivals. Yet they are so blur as to what world cinema is about. I dread the day when an international respected cinema journalist or critic interviews Dato' Mustafa Maarof or the outgoing chairman Tan Sri Jins Shamsuddin or even the current Finas KP Mahyuddin for their thoughts about the current state of world cinema or a simple question like "what do you think about Lars Von Trier?". What if they were asked if they had seen Von Trier's Dancer in the Dark or Dogville? Jeez, I bet they don't even know what country Von Trier is from. Hmmm Von? Is he German?
And the best thing is that (and this is true because I have heard previous board members say it and I assume their mentality is the same) they see no need for Malaysian filmmakers to watch these movies. Some would even consider them pornographic (one local award winning filmmaker said this of Oshima's Ballad of Narayama). So no need lah. We should instead emulate filmmakers like Vinod Chopra, Mani Ratnam, Stanley Tong andRakesh Rohan because they make filmmakers that they think Malaysians want to see.
And it is these people that hold the reins of our industry. These 'experts'.
No, I'm not saying that we should be making movies like Von Trier - no, that's not the answer to our ills.
What I'm saying is that there is a world of cinema that we can learn from and that these so-called guardians of Malaysian film should know of. Film is not about the summer blockbusters that come out of Hollywood nor the stylishly violent triad movies that come out of Hongkong nor the neevr ending dance and song movies of Bollywood.
Film is everything. Film is the world.
And we should be part of it. As an original member. Surely not as a lousy wannabe.
But on the other hand, if someone comes out to me and gave me a million to make a horror movie, I'd grab it without a second thought. Hahhahah.