Saturday, May 30, 2009
I read with mixed feelings the current debate about whether our government should allow Chin Peng, the former de facto leader of the infamous Bintang Tiga communist guerilla force, to return to Malaysia. I read with much sadness and trepidation that we should even consider feting him a hero's welcome.
I just got this to say: Let him come back to Malaysia, give him a trial and execute him.
Maybe those Malays who weren't affected by the Bintang Tiga's cruelty and rampage all over the nation just after the Second World War cannot fathom the seriousness of allowing this murderer to return to Malaysia and not receive retribution for his crimes.
This is the man who waged a war against our country and our citizens under the pretext of being freedom fighters. And in doing so, caused the deaths of thousands of innocent Malaysians.
Why you may ask I am so vocal about this? Well, let me put it this way. On the early morning of June 10th 1945, just two months before the war ended, the guerillas of Bintang Tiga went on a murderous spree in Parit Sulong and nearly wiped out my family.
On that day, they murdered my grandmother, Temun, my father's youngest brother Harun, my father's brother-in-law along with their 3-year old daughter and 5=year old son. Other relatives that were brutally killed included the family of Pak Anjang Mian who himself was shot but survived. Pak Anjang's niece died in that massacre.
My grandfather and my aunties managed to escape and hide from the Bintang Tiga madmen and survive.
Read this excerpt from my father's autobiography Warisan and Wawasan. He recounted the tragic incident in detail:
"At that same moment, a Chinese Bintang Tiga soldier saw Emak Temun (my mother) in the parit not far from Kakak Aminah (my sister). He bayonetted my mother who was shielding my younger brother in her arms. Before that, my sister Kak Aminah said she heard her mother begging to the Chinese soldier - "Tauke, don't kill my son, just kill me. Please Tauke." However, her pleadings fell on deaf ears. The terrorist speared her with the bayonet. The bayonet also went through my younger brother. Both my mother and brother fell lifeless in the parit. After that, the Chinese soldier took out a dagger and cut off my mother's finger to steal her gold wedding ring. Suddenly, the shrill of a whistle is heard followed by the sound of a bugle. The Bintang Tiga terrorists immediately ran off leaving our village."
It was only fate that my father and a friend of his had decided the night before to take a sampan to the town and catch a movie. When he returned to the village the next morning, his whole world had turned upside down. On the ground, he saw his mother and relatives laid out covered in cloth. All victims of the murderous Bintang Tiga.
His family home were destroyed. Burnt down. Nothing could be salvaged.
The only thing that he could be thankful for was that his sisters and his father survived the massacre.
You guys may know of the massacre of the police officers in Bukit Kepong which was not far from my grandfather's village of Parit Sulong. Those police officers and their families who died in that massacre are national heroes.
My family who were killed by these so-called independance fighters were not so lucky. Only our family remembers their fate and if not for my father's autobiography, their deaths would have been forgotten.
Now, I hold Chin Peng responsible for this. It was his soldiers that murdered my grandmother, her son and her relatives. For those who do not know, this was the way the so-called fighters of Malayan independance carried out his work. He and his people killed thousands of innocent citizens. So if we allow him to return, free him of all his sins and also call him a hero and one of the fighters of Malayan independance, it would truly insult the memory of my father's family members who died in that massacre. In fact, if Chin Peng is declared a hero, then logically my family members who died were traitors. And I cannot accept that. Never!
So, if any of the politicians or ministers read this blog, please heed my request. Let him in. Let him return this country that is the scene of his numerous crimes. Put him on trial. Find him guilty. AND KILL THE BASTARD!!
Friday, May 29, 2009
Seniman is currently an association made up of professional actors, actresses and others working in the film industry. It's been like that for years.
Then after that other associations started to sprout from nowhere - Persatuan Penerbit Filem Malaysia (PFM), Persatuan Pekerja-pekerja Filem Malaysia (PPFM), Persatuan Artis dan Penyanyi Tanahair (PAPITA), Persatuan Pengarah Filem Malaysia (FDAM), Persatuan Penulis Skrip Malaysia (SWAM), Persatuan Penerbit TV Malaysia (PPTV), Gabungan Persatuan Filem Malaysia (GAFIM), MAHKOTA, KARYAWAN and many more.
Some of these persatuans have been battlegrounds from artists or filmmakers with political ambitions. Some of these persatuans have also been a vehicle for certain parties to enrich themselves through begging and bugging TV stations for projects (supposedly meant to help their members' welfare).
However, has any of these persatuans ever had an agenda to help improve the livelihood and the quality of life in the industry? I doubt it. In fact, I have this sickening feeling that the main activity of these persatuans is to achieve photo opportunity sessions of them giving a few hundred dollars to sick and ailing members in hospital.
Of course they also organise some workshops, but those are too few and too far in between to matter. I mean they needed to be seen as professional societies or associations because FINAS gives them an annual grant to run these associations. I think the amount is RM30,000 each. FINAS also gives some of these 'poverty stricken' associations a container to run their persatuans from.
I do, however, have to plead guilty, for I too had been one of the founder members of the Persatuan Pengarah Filem Malaysia or FDAM (which is an acronym for their English name Film Directors' Association of Malaysia).
I was also president for that association from 1999-2001.
However, I have not been active with the association that I help start since the past few years. This is because it has, in my opinion, diverted from its original vision and mission.
I even hardly use the acronym at the end of my name in any of my productions anymore.
One of the most disgusting activities that most of these persatuans do, that I totally am against and despise, is that most of them demand 'hours' from RTM. It's like that, that is their only credo for existence - the need to get hours from RTM so that they can continue to exist and make money.
There are so many conflicts of interest in this scenario that it makes setting up a persatuan to look into the problems, welfare and education of the industry practitioners and their members a complete sham.
These associations have specific agendas. If it is an association for writers, they should look into writer specific matters. If it is FDAM, the association should concentrate on improving the local film directors' lot including welfare, education and work opportunities.
Now, if they and every 0ther persatuan demand hours from RTM, they become producers. Producers have their own associations - PPTV and PFM. So it is a conflict of interest in my opinion.
Now, in most of the persatuan's constitution, the persatuans are NOT profit making NGOs. Yet, most of the associations seem to pursue commercial ventures to make money.
Fine, I know that one needs funds to run a persatuan professionally but what is the RM30,000 grant from FINAS being used for?
Even if the persatuan gets hours or projects from RTM, who in persatuan gets the direct benefits of the 'conceession'? Is the president of the association going to give away the hours to himself and his cronies or does he have a formula that fairly distributes the earnings to ALL members and not just a selected few?
Personally, I think all persatuans should step back and take a look at themselves. Are they a persatuan or a sdn bhd. If they are a persatuan then they have departed from their original values and agenda.
Persatuans too need to be apolitical and no office bearer should use the persatuan as a platform for their political ambitions.
Now, I just hope that history does not repeat itself. One of the reasons for the demise of the Malay film industry was the mismanagement of the Union that existed then. Imposing wrong strategies against the Shaw management allowed the employers to find reasons to close the studio. In the end MFP close down and Jalan Ampas became no more. I won't divulge here who the president of the Union was at that moment in time. But he is now a very well know veteran filmmaker and celebrity who has received many accolades and decorations.
I also hope that the ex officios of these persatuans are honest professionals. I hope the members will create their own check and balance and select the leaders befitting of their professions. However, I do plead and recommend to members of ALL persatuans that currently exist in the industry to check with the Registrar of Societies the current status of their persatuans as legal entities.
Why? I believe many of the associations have not submitted PROPER and AUDITED accounts of their associations yearly. Members have a right to check the accounts of the associations because they pay their dues as members. So, do not be afraid. Save you associations and check the accounts. You should know where and how the associations' funds are being utilised. And only an independantly audited accounts will give you a clear picture of the association's financial activities.
I am not saying here that all persatuans I mentioned above are not being managed properly. No. I mean it is about time the members do a check and balance and realise that thousands of ringgit has been channeled through these persatuans - by virtue of grants, donations, commercial activities and projects from RTM. As a member, it is your right to know where these monies went to.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Mendoza’s victory was a vindication for the Filipino film director after Chicago-Sun Times critic Roger Ebert called “Kinatay” the “worst film in the history of Cannes.”
An obviously surprised Mendoza became the only Filipino to bring home an award in this year’s Cannes.
Another Filipino actor Piolo Pascual was nominated for Best Actor in the prestigious international film festival for his performance in the movie “Manila.”
Below is the complete list of winners from the Associated Press:
- Palme d’Or (Golden Palm): “The White Ribbon,” by Michael Haneke (Austria)
- Grand Prize: “A Prophet,” by Jacques Audiard (France)
- Jury Prize: “Fish Tank,” by Andrea Arnold (Britain) and “Thirst,” By Park Chan-wook (South Korea)
- Special Prize: Alain Resnais
- Best Director: Brillante Mendoza, “Kinatay” (The Philippines)
- Best Actor: Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds” (United States)
- Best Actress: Charlotte Gainsbourg, “Antichrist” (Denmark)
- Best Screenplay: Feng Mei, “Spring Fever” (China)
- Camera d’Or (first-time director): “Samson and Delilah,” by Warwick Thornton (Australia)
- Best short film: “Arena,” by Joao Salaviza (Portugal)
Saturday, May 23, 2009
But a couple of nights ago, I received an SMS from an old friend. And I was quite surprised to say the least about what he sent. It was in response to this posting I made.
He is Lim Beng Teck or LBT, owner of Vision Plus and Double Vision. If you are in the TV industry, you would know who he is and what his company does. When Double Vision started at the beginning of the 90s, I was part of it. I left in 94.
Now, I replied to his text that I will be posting his message to me on my blog, and since he did not insist otherwise, this is his SMS to me verbatim:
"Read yr blog...I only hv 2 commnts 2 make: 1) Its sad dat evn aft almost 30yrs in d biz, U still feel u hv 2 rely on using d racial card 2 get ahead: n 2) Pls get ur facts right. Fyi we (as both Vision Plus n Double Vision) hv nt had a deal w RTM 4 well ovr 2yrs now. Do u see us screaming discriminatn..or is dat only a Bumi privilege? N wat non-Malay dominance r us talking abt when ppl getting '000s of hrs w RTM r all Malay-owned companies..or r u implying dat all d Gemma;s n Nafalia's n Tas' r Chinese controlled? Come on D...I wd like 2 believe dat u r much better den dat...u don't nid 2 rely on pref policies 2 get ahead. By all means, do crusade against corruptn. But lets stop all dis cryng racial shit or we cn nvr move on as a 'one' nation,"
I am really not sure what LBT was ranting about, but you can read the original posting and then compare it to his message to me. Anyway, most of my friends know that I sometimes prefer to look at things in a light-hearted way, so maybe because I still consider LBT a friend, I should approach his comments as such.
So, he begins, with "I hv only 2 comments 2 make...hmmm seemed more than that BT. I counted at least 5." :)
Now let me look at the excerpt in my post that mentioned Vision Plus.
"Currently, the biggest distribution companies in the country are Juita Viden and Vision Plus (both non-Malay controlled companies). With the current hours awarded to them, the lucky three new companies, are trying to outsell these two giants.
Vision Plus basically has given up the ‘battle’ to sell their best programmes to RTM because of the ‘difficulty’. They have built a better relationship with TV3, they sell their best titles to that station.
Vision Plus is also a regional player selling programmes to Indonesia, Thailand, Hongkong, Japan and Singapore.
Vision Plus represents some of the top TV principals or producers from the West. There is also a likelihood that these ‘approved’ companies by RTM are actually buying stuff from these two giants and resell the packages to RTM at a hefty price hike."
Did I get my facts wrong? In fact, I said VP has given up the battle to sell their programmes to RTM. I never said VP or DV had any hours from RTM. Maybe you didn't understand the first paragraph when I said: "With the current hours awarded to them, the lucky three new companies, are trying to outsell these two new companies." Them in this sentence does not refer to you. It refers to the three new companies that are hogging the hours in RTM, and you know who they are. Am not sure why you mentioned Nafalia because I didn't.
And you say you haven't had any business with RTM for over two years. LBT, because you said this, then I have to say "I beg to differ", and if you say why, let me just mention one word "Creation". So let's not go down that road.
And you asked me if I am insinuating that Gemma and TAS are controlled by the Chinese? Did I say that at all? Did I even mention who the three lucky companies are who received the thousands of hours on RTM? You seem to assume that these are two (Nafalia is of course not one of them) of the three companies I meant. Interesting isn't it?
As for me playing the racial card..I think I am not wrong in trying to safeguard whatever rights I have accorded to me under the constitution. Claiming my rights as a Bumiputra and as a Malay does not make me a racist. But this so-called privilege does not guarantee any Malay economic or financial security and does not make them better than anyone else in the country. Poverty amongst the Malays is still high even with the so-called privileges you guys seem so determined to eradicate. And you of all people should know that I am far from being a racist BT. My business partners are non-Malays, amongst (if not most of ) my close friends are non-Malays. My staffing is also equally balanced. So, let me ask you this, how many Malays are working in VP? or DV compared to non-Malays? How many of them hold executive positions? Now you tell me who is more of a racist? So lets not play fire with fire because I abhor racism.
In all my proposals to RTM, TV3 or Astro, I believe no one from this three stations, look at me as a Malay or as a Bumiputra producer. They only look at my proposals. However, if it is part of RTM's policy that I have to declare that my company is a Bumiputra-owned company, does that make me a racist? At the end of the day, it is the quality of the proposal and the finished product that is accepted by RTM. In fact, a Malaysian non-Malay producer is accorded the same opportunities that we have. i dare say that it can also be considered that non-Malay producers have a bigger advantage. Why? We Malay producers are hardly considered or called upon to pitch or produce Mandarin or Tamil programmes. It goes without saying that these ethnic programmes are usually if not always given to non-Malay companies. It does seem that Malay companies are totally incapable of producing non-Malay programmes for TV. Yet, when it comes to Malay languaged programmes, everyone can pitch or tender for it. Don't you think this is a wonderful country?
For your information, whenever anyone asks me about the current 'racial tension' that we have and what's my thoughts about 'Malaysia for Malaysians' or the creation of a Malaysian race...all I say is this: " Do you recognise Bahasa Malaysia as the lingua franca and the official language of the country. Do you respect that? If they do, and if all Chinese and Indians and other races, use Bahasa Malaysia as their first language fluently like the Indonesians of all races do in Indonesia, then I will support the creation of a Malaysian race. If you claim to be Malaysian, and cannot carry out a simple conversation with me in the national language, who are you to demand for a Malaysian' Malaysia? And furthermore, please read our beloved Prime Minister's blog about One Malaysia before you expound to others what One Malaysia means.
I wholeheartedly support the One Malaysia concept and hope to help the government educate the rakyat on this subject. I especially like his take on 'tolerance and acceptance'. However, on that particular note, I do applaud you for supporting the concept. But do read it, understand it. Don't use it blindly and misunderstand the concept.
Now that being done, I am happy that people of your stature in the industry is reading my blog and responding to it. I need more top echelon representatives of the industry to come out and speak their mind. BT, you have been a market leader for more than 20 years and you should act that way. We need to know what you are thinking and what your plans are to improve the quality of local content internationally. I know instead of pumping your money in Malay movies you have instead made and co-financed movies directed by Jack Neoh in Singapore. Isn't it about time that you put your money where your mouth is and produce a Malaysian movie and not a pseudo Malaysian-Singapore movie. I don't care if it is not a Malay movie, just make it a Malaysian movie - Cantonese, Hokkien, Tamil, Portugese or whatever - as long as it is truly Malaysian - from subject, to funding, to creation to artistes. Unless of course you don't think there is no Malaysian you can trust to direct your movies except a Singaporean by the name of Jack Neoh.
I know you have the means, the networking and financial clout and the balls to do it. We need producers with vision like you, and not like those who produced Kinta 1881 and say that this is a damn good movie and proud to call it Malaysian. Come on BT, you know you can do it. I know you can produce a Malaysian movie better than Kinta 1881. Even our early dramas like Lembah Maut was better than Kinta 1881.
Having said all this, I still hope you consider me a friend. We have been in this industry donkey's years. You have made your millions many times over, and me, I have made a living and brought up a beautiful family with the career I have chosen. We do not need to bicker, we need instead to work together to give back what we have received from this great country we call Malaysia. And bro, I don't mean paying taxes okay?
Harun and I go back a long way. His late father, the very talented actor Salim Bachik, was a family friend and acted in my father's movie Gerak Kilat and alongside my mother in the RTM classic drama "Loceng" - drama based on a famous Chinese story.
Harun was also from the same school as i was - La Salle Secondary school in PJ - but he was one year my junior. If I was not mistaken, our first ever work together in entertainment was in a comedic Frankenstein sketch during a school concert. He was Dr Frankenstein. Even then he sh0wed a tremendous flair for comedy and acting.
After we left school, he worked with a bank and later but surely, he became a big TV star.
I joined the New Straits Times and later TV3 but our paths hardly crossed. It was when I created Gado Gado that we both become very good friends.
Today, Harun is one of the most sought after character actors in town, and is totally busy. As a director, he has also done quite a few dramas on TV and has recently made his feature film debut.
I wish Harun all the best in his career and hope his directorial debut will be met with much support and appreciation of the public.
Meanwhile, I am in the midst of shooting a corporate video for the Securities Commission. To us in my company Manjafilms, this contract is really a big deal. For an institution like the SC to choose us over other companies is truly a feather in our cap, and we hope to deliver a finished product that they will be more than proud of.
However, I am still awaiting the greenlight for my feature film projects and TV drama proposals for RTM.
Under the new minister, Dato' Seri Dr Rais Yatim, I hope things will be for the better and that he considers merit as sacrosanct.
Anyway, I am also sad to announce to my Bilik No. 13 fans that the series will not be renewed by RTM. It seems the station is back to its all policy of not commissioning any more horror themed series.
Nevertheless, I am in discussion with a few parties to release the two seasons of Bilik No 13 on VCD and DVD, and also develop a feature film based on the series.
Meanwhile, I am also considering developing a straight to video Gado Gado special. Trying to get the original cast back into the reunion. This may or may not happen but we shall see.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
The Malay film industry in Singapore was left in tatters and subsequently died.
Years have passed. Decades. And now we see a new generation of filmmakers from Singapore that are making headlines around the world = they include Jack Neo and Eric Khoo. But these filmmakers have no link to Jalan Ampas.
Now, a group of youngsters - all short filmmakers - and all of them Malays - are trying to make their presence known in Singapore. Not only amongst the Malay population of the island Republic, but also regionally and internationally through festivals.
They have grouped together and called themselves SMFS - Singapore Malay Film Society.
They are young, talented and dedicated to their craft.
I met them a couple of days ago, trying to understand their mission, vision and their aspirations. Being a filmmaker in Singapore is not a fantastic career to pursue, more so if you are Malay.
Jobs are few and far between - and mostly from Suria channel and with some funding assistance from MDA. So most of them still keep their day jobs, whilst pursuing their dream as filmmakers.
As for Singapore Malay feature films, it doesn't yet exist. However, I was informed by the society's founding president, Isnor Dzulkarnain, that there are two Malay feature films in development with Malays at the helm - one a commercial endeavour whilst the other one a brave attempt at full feature film meant for festivals overseas.
Founding members of the fledgling SMFSDo visit their website at www.smfs.sg.
The website is professionally maintained as is the management of the society - unlike many of the associations that blanket our own film industry.
After talking with them, and understanding their goals, I believe that these young Malay filmmakers are the legitimate heirs to the Jalan Ampas legacy. They are pursuing a very focused and idealistic goal - to create a a voice for Malay filmmakers in Singapore - the birthplace of Malay films.
This is a voice I have been waiting for a long time. And the content that they create is vastly different from that being produced over here.
To tell you the truth, I enjoyed my conversation with them - they are intelligent, respectful and very independent-minded. What came out of their mouths make more sense than many of the Drs and Associate Professors and the many so called film intellectuals in our film industry.
I hope to bring them to Kuala Lumpur, to allow them to exchange ideas and share their experiences with us in Malaysia. If it happens, I will definitely mention it in my blog.
Right now they are planning an event that will seal their legitimate claim to be Jalan Ampas's true heirs. I will detail the event if and when it happens.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
I will write a longer post about the meeting. Been quite busy to be able to post something of significance. Many things happening in the industry too.
Nevertheless, I will try and update my blog on Sunday (tomorrow). Need to upload some pics too.
So bear with me everyone.