When are directors at their peak? When they are in their 20s or in their 30s? Or are they washed out once they reach 40? Not even worth a sen above 50? Well, in Malaysia, directors shelf life ends around mid 30s.
Don’t believe me? Ask my father, ask Rahim Razali, ask Mahadi Murat, ask Othman Hafsham, ask Uwei. Heck, ask Jins Shamsuddin.
Malaysian financiers and producers, I believe, think that the creative juices of directors end once they hit 40, ends. When was Rahim Razali, who doesn’t need to offer his resume to tell anyone he can direct, last offered to go back into the directors’ chair? I can’t remember.
I mean, if FINAS or the Ministry of Culture and Arts already know that there are quite a few directors in the 40s and 50s who can make quality movies, why aren’t they sitting down with these people to make good movies? Movies that we can proudly exhibit around the world. Rahim’s movies have travelled, so has my father’s, not to mention mine. Yet, they receive no phone calls to even ask for their expertise or opinions about the state of the movie industry. Sometimes, when they (FINAS etc) remember, they do invite them to attend local festivals and launches. That’s all.
In Hollywood and the rest of the world, directors are at their creative zenith when they are well over their 50s – check out Steven Spielberg (63 years old), Clint Eastwood (79 years old), Zhang Yimou (58 years old), John Woo (63 years old), Martin Scorsese (67 years old), Chen Kaige (57 years old), Woody Allen (74 years old), James Cameron (55 years old), Wim Wenders (64 years old), Barry Levinson (67 years old) and Johnnie To (53 years old).
Are these directors well past their prime? I doubt it. Eastwood just directed Gran Torino and The Changeling, Speilberg is just starting his latest movie TIntin, Cameron is shooting Avatar and Levinson just completed What Just Happened? Chen Kaige gave us another peek into the world of Chinese Opera with his sumptuous Forever Enthralled whilst Woody Allen’s Vicky Christina Barcelona is up for this year’s Academy Awards. And Woo just gave us his second installment of Red Cliff.
Not a bad bunch of old guys don’t you think so? Yet, over here in Malaysia, there’re hardly any opportunities or work for any director over fifty. They either become part-time lecturers or disappear from sight altogether.
This is quite sad because I believe these guys, the local directors who have turned fifty or more, still have a lot to give and create. Finas especially should finance movies directed by these filmmakers. Giving them datukships is not helping them. They rather direct movies than getting awards that does nothing to sate their thirst for creating movies.
When the Ministry of Culture and Arts announce that they have funds for making historical movies, I thought of this bunch. When are they going to be able to get a chance to finally show their visions with the kind of funds available today? What about the grants available from MOSTI for effects heavy movies? Do you think we 50-year olds cannot handle effects laden movies? That’s such a sad assumption.
I hope its not too late for the powers that be, including FINAS, to do some soul searching and recall these filmmakers and offer them their ‘golden handshakes’ in the movie world, and maybe, just maybe, the younger generation will give them their due respect.