Sunday, July 19, 2009


Surprise! Surprise! FINAS announced some information regarding the upcoming Malaysian Film Festival this August in Kota Kinabalu. It appeared in Berita Minggu. I doubt any of the English language papers carried the article or announcement today.
The FINAS Director-General Mahyidin Mustakim is over the moon saying that the event is the biggest in festival's history. According to him 193 works will be participating the festival. Wait..wait..of course not 193 feature films lah...that number includes 64 short films, 71 documentaries, 25 animated shorts, 6 digital films and 27 feature films.
Wow...we do really have a great and burgeoning film industry. In fact, if there are already 71 documentaries participating, don't you think there should be a Documentary Film Festival already existing? I mean, I am a fan of good documentaries and the Best Documentary award winner shouldn't be a second class citizen to the winner of the Best Film award winner. At least that's what I think.
Anyway, this posting is to inform you guys - those who were invited, those who were not but planning to go anyway, those who are in Sabah and wondering what the heck is going to happen next month.


6th-8th August Free film screenings at One Borneo cineplex.
3rd-7th August Video Production, Screenwriting and Acting workshops.
5th August Official Opening and Film Premiere at One Borneo.
6th August Film Symposium at Resitel Hall, UMS
6th August Film Appreciation: Deddy M. Borhan
6th August Gala Dinner at Magellan Resort
8th August Gala Awards Night Ceremony, Dewan Canselor, UMS

No mention of how the public are to attend these functions or whether it's free or payable. Will keep you guys informed.


If I am not mistaken, Ahmad Idham has five movies in the running (Jangan Tegur, Syurga Cinta, Brainscan, Senario The Movie and Jangan Pandang Belakang Congkak). Afdlin has two (Los & Faun and Papadom) whilst prolific Razak Mahideen has three ( Skrip 7707, Rasukan Ablasa and Sifu & Tongga).

From the list, there's hardly a movie that stands out artistically. Sell Out! is not mentioned here but could be in the running in the Digital Film category. Or it is not allowed to compete since it is not in Bahasa Malaysia.

But honestly, I doubt anyone has since each and every movie listed here. Only the jurors would have the ineviable task of viewing all. I have viewed only three movies on that list - that's how bad the selection is. Estet, Geng and Budak Kelantan.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


It was like only yesterday when the results of the last Malaysian film festival surprised many in the industry - Mamat Khalid won the Best Film and Best Director awards for his Kala Malam Bulan Mengambang. And now, within the next three weeks, the next Malaysian film festival will be on us again...huh? Really?
Yes, really...not that many people care or even know about it. This year, the festival or rather the awards night will be held in Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. Why? Who knows.
Maybe, when the idea was mooted, the Minister in charge of the local film industry was Datuk Shafie Apdal, a Sabahan. So FINAS could have suggested hosting the festival in Sabah to 'ampu' him, but alas, there was a cabinet change and now the Minister is Dato Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim, from Negri Sembilan. But it is now too late to change.
So, it will be held in Kota Kinabalu, a state that has maybe less than a dozen movie screens that regularly show Malaysian movies. A state that has not produced a single local film since Sabahan Deddy M. Borhan single handedly brought back the local film industry from the dead in the early 70s.
Now, come 5th August, one day before my father's 83rd birthday, scores of Malaysian actors, actresses, filmmakers, journalists, hangers ons and many others who have nothing to do with the film industry, will descend on Kota Kinabalu. For many, it's going to be a free holiday, free golfing, free makan and lots of schmoozing.
I don't even know what films are contesting. There had been too many Ahmad Idham and Razak Mahideen movies released last year for me to remember any other titles. Mamat Khalid also did not release his latest movie Estet I am not sure if he is entering that movie for competition. Hatta Azad Khan whose film Wayang bombed critically and commercially also did not have any new movie to participate in the festival.
What about Yasmin Ahmad? I don't know if she'd bother to enter her films anymore.
Grand Brilliance had some minor box office hits with sleeper movies, but not sure if those movies can vie for the top awards. James Lee's hysterical Histeria could be too main stream to be considered for the Best Film award.
Cicakman 2? Come can't be serious. Jangan Pandang Belakang Congkak? Forget it...just let David Teoh laugh all the way to the bank. Evolusi KL Drift? Bohsia? Nahhh.
Maybe it's time for an animated movie to win awards? Yes, maybe it's the year of Geng The Movie.
Isn't there any good movies released the whole of last year? Did I forget any title?
How about the indie crowd? Did they produce any gems this past year? I don't know, they've been quiet. But maybe Sell Out! could be the one movie that could cause a surprise! wasn't shot using Bahasa Malaysia - a prerequisite in winning the Best Film award.
Is there anyone outside the film industry that really cares who will win come August 8th?
And doesn't anyone want to know how much the Ministry and FINAS are going to fork out to organise the festival in Kota Kinabalu or is Sabah, as hosts, going to absorb the millions of Ringgit to be the tuan rumah this year?
Whatever it is, I will keep you guys out there informed. I wasn't invited but somehow and because my father cannot make it due to his health concerns, I was offered the invite in his place. So I am going, unless FINAS decides that I'm such a nuisance that I shouldn't even be allowed to take over my father's invite.
So, I will keep you posted.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I am not much of a Riri Riza fan. Apart from his sugary sweet Petualang Sherina, his other movies were of not much significance - even his semi-epic Gie. So when I saw that his latest movie Laskar Pelangi overtook Ayat Ayat Cinta as the Indon box office king, I just had to see if Riri has become a director of note.

Based on a novel by Andrea Hirata, Laskar Pelangi is considered a major novel in Indonesia - as major if not bigger than Ayat-ayat Cinta. However, its intricacies and nonchalant approach to storytelling, makes the book-to-film effort a tricky one. Therefore, the screenplay must be just right and following that the assured touch of the movie's director.
Now, directing children for a movie is not easy task by any means, even if the children acting are professionals. In this movie, the main cast are played by children who had no acting experience at all. So, you can just imagine the uphill task Riri had to make sure each and every cog in this movie work smoothly. According to the DVD's special features, Mira Lesmana, the producer, said that they actually auditioned over 3000 children to cast the movie's ten students of the rumah pondok school in the island of Belitung.
This movie had everything going against them. A cast of amateurs in the lead roles, a director who is still trying to find his touch, a location that is as alien to Indons as it is to the rest of the world and an accent that sounds strange even to Indonesians.
The fact that the moviemakers decide to remain true to the novel and set it in Belitung (an island off Sumatra) and use the local accent or rather dialect is commendable. Malaysians who watch this movie, may find the language easy to understand as the Belitung accent is very much a Riau-based accent akin to our very own Melayu.
Now, having said that, I truly have to tip my hat to Riri for I think this movie is easily his best work to date. His eye for detail and his handling of the narrative flow, immersed in beautiful imagery and cinematography, makes this movie a modern classic.
A movie triumphs when at its end, you don't want it to end. Not many movies achieve that. And even with Laskar Pelangir running at 125 minutes you still want it to go on and on, and follow the trials and tribulations of ten school kids and their wonderful teacher Ibu Musalmah, a character beautifully sculpted by Cut Mini.
However, the movie's success also belongs to the two main young actors playing the role of Ikal and Lintang. Ikal (played by Zulfanny) and Lintang (played by Ferdian) were marvellous. Though at the beginning of the movie, they may have seemed a little overwhelmed with their responsibilities, by second quarter of the movie, their performance allows the audience to embrace their every thought and their every dream.
Laskar Pelangi is a wonderful movie about the importance of education - without being preachy. It manages to become universal in its message allowing us to accept the movie not as an Indonesian movie, but simply as a movie with heart.
I wholly recommend parents, teachers, students and yes, even our cabinet ministers, to watch this movie. I am sure, it will move them. Move what, I am not sure, but if anyone of them understands the importance of a child's need for access to education and knowledge, they will more than appreciate this movie.
Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for another movie called Krazy Crazy Krezy directed by on Rako Prijanto and co-produced by Sharad Sharan of 99 Pictures with Nusantara Films.
The movie was previously titled Teman Untuk Selamanya but somehow the producers decided to change it to KCK.
The unusual suspects - L to R - Pierre Andre, Vincent, Sissy, Julia, Sigi and Tora.
The interesting thing about this movie is that it was inspired by P. Ramlee's movie Seniman Bujang Lapok. Three young guys, all down and out, wanting to make their mark in the world.
The movie stars Tora Sudiro, Vincent and Malaysia's Pierre Andre. Their love interest are played by Sissy Priscilla, Sigi Wimala and Julia Ziegler.
It goes without saying that the movie is a comedy, and it does have it moments. However, I'm sad to say that the movie could have been made much better without the presence of the Malaysian cast. Both Pierre and Julia were totally miscast in a role they are totally uncomfortable with.

In one of the many reviews (like the one in the reviewer completely left out mention of the existence of the two Malaysians. In another review, the critic gave this quote; "Salahkan telinga saya yang tidak akrab dengan bahasa Melayu, dialog Pierre Andre dan Julia Ziegler -yang sering kelepasan pake bahasa Melayu- banyak yang tidak saya mengerti. Apalagi kedua aktor ini juga seringnya berbicara dalam tempo cepat."
It is sad, that these two are the showcase of Malaysian talent in Indonesian cinema. They had a golden opportunity to promote themselves, and through their craft other Malaysian actors too, but unfortunately, they didn't do that. What they did was no favor to their peers back home.
What to do lah.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Sometimes I really wonder what the role of FINAS is in developing our industry and also to 'martabatkan' our own film history. I have always been accused of being too hard on FINAS - always trying to find fault with this institution. I really don't care. If I see them not doing their work for the betterment of our film industry, I voice out. Like how I am voicing out now.
Recently, FINAS published a book called Filem Melayu Klasik, authored by Johari Shariff and Dr Ubaidullah Mustaffa. It was launched in conjunction with Hari Seniman 2009.
Now there's a few factual mistakes in the book.
Firstly, Haji Mahadi is mentioned as the first Malay director in 1952 for Permata di Perlimbahan. Unfortunately there is no mention that the film was completed by A.R. Tompel as Haji Mahadi was taken of the director's seat for reasons not recorded.

A minor mistake, but still a mistake was the mention that P. Ramlee was the person responsible in completing Sergeant Hassan. It mentions that Alberto Avellana, legendary Filipino director, couldn't complete the movie and the directorial duties were taken over by P. Ramlee. Nevertheless, the director's credit was still given to Avellena. The fact is Avellena did complete the film but had to leave the movie at the end of the shoot and allowed Ramlee to director some one or two pick up scenes. P. Ramlee did not 'ambil alih' the director's seat. Such sweeping statements in a book like these shouldn't happen. Give Avellana his due. He made what Sergeant Hassan is, not P. Ramlee. Yes, P. Ramlee gave a great actor's performance, but he did not direct the movie.

Secondly, the book is about Filem Melayu Klasik. It mentions Ajen Nora Zain as a Malay movie when is was not. It was actually shot after Gerak Kilat was completed though somehow its production date was stated as 1965 and Gerak Kilat's as 1966. Gerak Kilat introduced Jefri Zain which was a box office hit which allowed Nora Zain (the name was chosen to piggy back on Jefri Zain's success) to be produced together with Gerak Kilat's sequels Bayangan Ajal and Jurang Bahaya. Nora Zain is a Hong Kong movie as were Bayang Ajal and Jurang Bahaya.
All were directed by hongkong legendary director Lo Wei (if I am not mistaken) and the movies were all actually Hong Kong movies with all scenes shot twice to re-shoot the scenes with the Malay cast and released as a Malay movie in Malaysia and Singapore.
Whatever it is, Nora Zain cannot be included as a Malay film classic.
Now, in the book there's a section of legends of the Malay movie screens - actors, actresses and directors. These include legends like Jins Shamsudin, Salleh Kamil, Nordin Ahmad, Rosnani, Latifah Omar, Sarimah and many others.
Directors include S. Kadarisman, Omar Rojik and Nordin Ahmad.
However, missing were my father Jamil Sulong, Salleh Ghani, S. Sudarmaji and Hussein Haniff. How these four legends were left out is beyond comprehension. Maybe Dr Ubaidullah and FINAS think my father is a lesser person in our film history than even Kemat Hassan and Ali Rahman.
That takes the cake.
But however, what really made me nauseous was that such a book like this, an attempt at being intellectual and informative, had a photo in the final pages of the FINAS staff and the Director General in a rather stupid pose.
FINAS staff involved in publishing the book pose like 60s entertainers complete with Vespas. The Director-General Mahyudin Mutkim, third from left, justifies his position in FINAS by posing in this photo.

What was on their mind when they posed for the book? Do they think they are celebrities? Are they movie star wannabes? I don't know. Just imagine, a book on our Parliamentary history and in the final page Datuk Seri Najib and his team pose like how these FINAS people posed.
It truly shows the insipid mentality of the people responsible for the development of our film industry.