I was at the 10 year celebration of FACT yesterday. Wasn't invited but good old Mamat Khalid took me along anyway. FACT is the Faculty of Artistic and Creative Technology of the University Technology MARA. It is referred to by many (who prefer to use the BM acronym) as Fakulti TEKA (Teknologi Kreatif dan Artistik). No, I was not a student here. FACT is only ten years old lah...I graduated from the old INTEKMA (Class of 1981) from the School of Mass Communication (Journalism),
At the launch, the Dean, Prof Dr Hatta Azad Khan ( no relation to the more famous Datuk Sharukh Khan), gave a speech that made me smiled, though in a bemused way.
Within the first few words, he was already attacking the local film industry in general, as a place where, according to him, so many are incompetent and unskilled. He also stressed that FACT is a place for producing filmmakers who put art above anything else. He said:"If you want to make popular and commercial fare, this university is not for you. You don't have to come here."
Funny that he said that, because in his teaching staff is one Prof Madya Razak Maihidin, the man behind the movie Sifu and Tongga. (You can read Ajami's reaction to watching that movie here - review S&T). What other movies have Razak made? Anak Mami, Mistik, Duyong, Cinta Kolesterol etc etc. So are these movies the kind of 'art' that Hatta wants his students to emulate? Or does he want them to produce and make movies like Wayang - Hatta's own big box office blip released last year. OK, he said filmmakers shouldn't look to commercial success or money as their reason to make movies, well I'm sure he managed that with Wayang. And if he wants people to make good films, shouldn't this mean winning awards. Wayang, directed by Hatta, however, lost to Kala Malam Bulan Mengambang in both the Best Film and Best Directing awards. So maybe Mamat Khalid, should be the Dean of FACT, shouldn't he? Or maybe he should call Hans Isaac to teach screenwriting since Wayang lost the Best Screenwriting award to Hans Isaac who wrote Cuci ( which won). For those who don't remember, Hatta's only other movie was the comedy, Mat Som (made some twenty years ago).
But I shouldn't begrudge him, because he does have the titles Prof and Dr in front of his name and has been top dog (or somewhere near the top dog) in DBP and ASWARA. So he must have the knowledge and the right to shoot down us lowlifes in the film industry.
Now, I am however glad that he announced the University has approved to fund a full length feature movie to be made by the students. Maybe, this time round, the students can show the lecturers what movie making is all about.
However I do not support Universities or Institutes of Higher Learning that fund their Dean's or lecturers' pet film projects. Funds made available in Film schools should only be put aside for student films, not lecturer's films. See what happened to Dr Annuar Nur Arai's opus Johnny Bikin Filem (funded by a University he was teaching in) which after ten years is still waiting for cinematic and commercial release. See Wayang, funded by the University with additional funding from FINAS, directed and written by Hatta. These are public funds. Johnny Bikin Filem was reported to have cost north of RM2 million and Wayang just under RM1 million (figures are not confirmed). What did Wayang get at the box office? According to FINAS, as of January 28th 2009, Wayang's B.O. take was RM103,000 gross. Less tax and cinema chain costs, Wayang's portion is about RM50,000.00.
As far as I am concerned, any filmmaker who think that they have reached their zenith in their cinematic career, can and should think about teaching. It is a most honored profession. Very noble. But they should teach. Not make movies.
You still want to make movies? Stay out of academia. Be part of the industry where everyone suffers for their art (hahah).
If this practice keeps up, film directors who have the right paper credentials and yet cannot find funding from the usual channels, will think that by joining a University, sooner or later, they can persuade the University to fund their films (kononnya as part of teaching the students the art of making movies). If this is not checked, are we going to see funding made available for Dr Mahadi Murad, from UITM, for his next movie? I hope not. There's always funds available for award winners like Mahadi from FINAS (I assume). Only he should not work out of the university's safety zone.
In this instant I therefore applaud Prof Madya Razak Mahidin. He makes movies but he doesn't use the University's funds. We are just wondering where he finds the time to teach and to make movies at the same time (currently he is the most prolific filmmaker in town). To make a movie, you need at least 30 shooting days. He averages three movies a year. That means he is shooting 90 days. Is this unpaid leave or does FACT offer lecturers flexi working hours? I also hope he doesn't make his students work on his private projects and gives them academic marks for their participation in his movie. Not that I am saying this is happening. No. I am just saying that such a practice shouldn't be happening.
So, since Prof Dr Hatta has made his speech and therefore his stand, let us just hope that FACT will produce the writers and filmmakers of the foreseeable future. The problem is, the market is currently controlled by producers like me and others, whom he had just lambasted for making commercial crap.