Internationally, not many foreign language (non-English) films make it big outside their own borders. Chinese movies whilst they cater to a huge global market - the market is still the Chinese-speaking market and not the English speaking market who despises subtitled movies. In recent memory, only Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon managed to attract non-Chinese language markets - including the US.
Even when the Japanese film industry was at its peak, they too find it difficult to penetrate Western screens - their movies only available for viewing at selected cinemas that screen art house movies. Even Kurosawa's movies wasn't a global or commercial hit internationally. Their reach was achieved mostly through videos (firstly through Betamax and VHS, later Laserdiscs and now DVDs).
When a movie does attract Western interest like Ring-O, or Ju On, or My Sassy Girl, the Western producers would rather just buy the rights and remake the movie in English with commercial Hollywood artistes. Sometimes, the remakes are virtually scene-for-scene and shot-for-shot identical.
Indian movies? Again they are shown only through speciality cinemas. Slumdog Millionaire was not an Indian movie - it is an English movie.
So, these are movies from established markets and filmmakers. Kurosawa, Ang Lee, Tsai Ming Liang, Johnny To, Andrew Lau, Wong Kar Wai. Yet their movies cannot penetrate the global market like the way Hollywood movies do.
The thing is, today, FINAS launched the theme for our national film festival for 2009. And the theme is Malaysian Films Going International.
I'm not going to belittle our filmmakers. I believe there are filmmakers amongst us who are capable of making movies of a standard that we can be proud of and not ashamed of to screen at festivals around the world. But to think that Malaysian films can do better at the international market when films from Korea, Japan, China, Hongkong, India, Thailand, Indonesia are still struggling to make an impact on international commercial screens, I just don't know what to think lah.
We cannot even attract our own citizens to pay RM10 to support our local movies, what makes FINAS think we can get cinema owners and distributors overseas go gaga over our products?
Unless we pay Discovery Channel money to then agree to help produce documentaries and screen it on their channel, I doubt they would even think of distributing, buying or screening Malaysian produced documentaries. So maybe, our powers that be are thinking of financing Western producers and distributors to attract their attention to help produce Malaysian movies for the international market.
I don't know. What do you think? Can our movies do better than movies from other Asian countries who already have a great fan base from their own global foreign-language movie circuit.