Monday, August 31, 2009


I am feeling good about my proposals offered to RTM during these past two weeks of pitching. I do hope at least 50 percent of what I pitched will be accepted. Unlike most companies, I only submitted and pitched 8 programme ideas.
Below are some of my company's proposals:

Long series/serials (dramatic):

Pangazou - an epic historical dramatisation of Tan Sri Herman Luping's novel of the same title. Pangazou, the Kadazan word for warrior, traces the path to adulthood of two brothers who later become Pangazous in their tribe. If approved, to be totally shot in Sabah.

Detik 12 Malam - a twilight zonish series. The host is a mysterious man who operates an archive. In the archive there are many strange things, not only documents but paintings and antiques. Each item has a strange and unique story behind it. Each episode covers one strange item.

Documentary series:

Rakan Muzium - a series that introduces young viewers as to the importance and the fun of visiting museums. Especially the unique and interesting museums that dot Malaysia's landscape. Currently there are more than 90 private, state and government museums in the country. The series visit the more interesting ones.


Speaker Ku - A girl from a rich family irks her parents when she decided to become a teacher. She even made them angrier when she asked for a transfer to a really small village school. She teaches English and she has a personal goal of creating a good English speaker from one of her students. Of course the students and their parents think she is crazy for trying to make them love a foreign language. Nevertheless she found one student who shares the same kind of love she has for the English language.

Parit Sulong - The story of how Bintang Tiga nearly wiped out my father's family just a few weeks before Hiroshima was bombed. A violent and tragic note in the history of Parit Sulong that not many people know of.

Magazine Series:

Salero Kampuang - A travelogue cooking series hosted by my mom, Datin Rosnani. She takes the viewers back to her hometown of Padang - the home of Nasi Padang. She presents her favourite Padang dishes every week and also the beauty of Padang itself.

Malaysian Culinary Magic - A trip to the best restaurants in Malaysia - the top starred restaurants, meeting the owners and chefs and indulging in haute cuisine that boggles the taste buds.

Satu Selera - Another restaurant hunting series this time with three girls (of course Malay, Chinese and Indian lah) trying out eateries from all three ethnic communities.

Well, if all the above are approved I will have a busy 2010 and a satisfying year. And I can start planning for my indie movie Short Time.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Disney's digital more headaches

It's been awhile since I actually went to a 3D movie. Firstly, my experiences with 3D movies weren't very good. The glasses were cumbersome, the technology half baked and the effect leaves much to be desired. However, the thing that turns off nearly everyone would be the headache you get wearing the glasses for a long stretch of time.
So, I avoided most of the 3D movies - Polar Express, Bolt and many others
So, I surprised myself and actually went to see Up in 3D yesterday afternoon.
And I was pleasantly surprised. No headaches. No problems.
The 3D effect was also not too bad. Disney's 3D technology have soled may problems and have made it into a viable cinema technology.
I also read somewhere recently that 3D movies will be the next big thing in cinema.
So I began wondering when Malaysian cinema will produce their first 3D movie. we are just beginning to grapple Dolby technology and I am wondering when 3D will make its local debut. Hahhahaha.
Imagine Ahmad Idham making his Jangan Pandang Belakang in 3D or Associate Professor Razak Mohideen making his Duyong sequel in 3D. Or KRU producing Cicakman 3 in 3D.
Would any of you pay RM17 to watch these movies?
3D is just the end..the content counts, so if the movie is crap...3D or no 3D, people won't pay good movie to see it. I think they rather pay RM10 for 4D instead of 3D.

Friday, August 21, 2009


In my early days, I have made dramas that were influenced by foreign materials. For example, one of my first dramas was Jelita Ku. It was 'inspired' by the movie My Fair Lady and Pygmalion. It was not a blatant copy as I just took the spirit of the novel and the movie and made it my own.
A couple of years ago, in my TV series Bilik No 13, I wrote and directed a piece called Tengkorak Monyet. This was my nod to one of my favourite horror stories called The Monkey's Paw. This story has also been done by Aziz Othman years ago called Kaki Monyet.
In fact, local filmmakers have also adapted foreign pieces (mainly without attribution) to make their own movies. Hussin Haniff, one of the most original of Malay directors in the 60s, was 'guilty' of 'copying' Kurosawa's Throne of Blood. The movie was aptly titled Mahkota Berdarah which translates to Throne of Blood. Talk about being blatant.
Comedian and part-time taxi driver, Mr Os, was one of the most prolific 'copiers' writing and directing movies that were poor rip offs of movies like his self titled Mr Os which was basically a retelling of Richard Pryor's Brewster's Millions.
More recent examples? Pierre Andre's directorial debut 9 September was a Malaysianised version of Kwak Jae Yong's My Sassy Girl. Pierre's Jangan Tegur too felt as if it borrowed a lot of ideas from William Friedkin's The Exorcist. Ahmad Idham on the other does not plagiarise from other films, but he does borrow scenes from other movies. The film Jangan Pandang Belakang, directed by Ahmad Idham and written by Pierre, for example had one scene showing a ghost floating alongside the car at night. This scene was definitely borrowed from a very famous Thai horror movie which I won't mention.
I cannot knock these guys, because stealing or borrowing ideas seem to allow them to learn film technique. Hopefully, by doing so, they improve their filmmaking skills and maybe create their own original styles and content in the future.
Most recent example, is by none other than indie filmmaker Woo Ming Jin in his Astro commissioned movie entitled Seratus Harijadi. It is basically a 'remake' of Harold Ramis's Groundhog Day. I didn't check out the end credits, so I am not sure if Ming Jin attributed the movie to Groundhog Day, but nevertheless, this is one of the better 'copied' movies done locally. It was well casted, well written (or rather adapted) and directed.
I don't think Ming Jin will be the last director to 'copy' foreign movies. Many will still do it in hope that they can get away with it and maybe entertain viewers who may or may not be aware of the movie's true origins.


Satu Malaysia! Now the key word for most proposals to RTM. Even in my porposals that I submitted, I had to think of concepts and themes that match or promote the Satu Malaysia or One Malaysia slogan.
But I sometimes wonder. In most productions for Malay dramas, the One Malaysia concept has long been in existence. There is an 'unwritten' policy that most of our dramas must be multi-racial. That's why we see non-Malay actors like Tingting, Madam Wong, Janet Khoo, Param, Rama, Kenji and many others, making a name for themselves in Malay dramas. Malay speaking non-Malay actors are now commanding high fees and are in demand. And this was well before the advent of One Malaysia.
The funny thing is, the producers of local Chinese and Tamil dramas don't seem to have this problem of Malaysianising their productions. Their dramas are usually 100% in Mandarin or Tamil, and you hardly see any Malay faces in the dramas ( and if there were, it is just some token extra speaking one line dialouges in Malay. Sometimes looking at these locally produced Tamil and Mandarin dramas, you wonder if they are actually Malaysian dramas or pseudo Malaysian dramas that could have been produced in India, Singapore, Hongkong or even Taiwan.
No, I am not against the production of local Chinese-language dramas or Tamil-language dramas. But I am just wondering why the Malay producers are 'forced' to produce 'Malaysian' dramas and yet the Chinese and Tamil producers are allowed to produce totally singular ethnic content?
If the government is to promote One Malaysia, then shouldn't there be a concerted effort to produce just One Malaysia dramas? Why should we start polarising our productions and defeat the purpose of One Malaysia?
Didn't we applaud the late Yasmin Ahmad's wonderful short pieces for Petronas as typical Malaysian originals? So why not emulate such ideals into our films? Or is it too difficult to do?
Maybe we shouldn't think about One Malaysia? For example, most of the independant filmmakers who seem to be gaining attention overseas at festivals are already portraying Malaysia as a non-Bahasa Malaysia speaking country. Far from the One Malaysia ideals.
If I am not mistaken, their movies are mostly Chinese-centric, albeit Malaysian Chinese-centric. however, as a piece of cinema, I cannot criticise them. They are producing good cinema, even if it is in their own mother-tongues.
So, now I am slightly confuse. Do I celebrate cinema for cinema sake or do we make movies to promote our language, our culture, our diversity and or One Malaysia?
As filmmakers, we should be striving for excellence. The pursuit for real cinema does not take language into consideration. The only language that matters is film language.
But here in Malaysia, especially those who are producing for TV stations, true cinema takes a back seat. We instead are required to wear our ethnic hats and think ethnic thoughts. We see categories listed that tells us what languages such productions must be made in, thus identifying and confirming that these productions are only watched and viewed by certain races in our societies. This means, Malays watch Malay dramas, Chinese watch Chinese dramas and the Indians watch Tamil dramas. So, who watches One Malaysia dramas? I bet you only the Malays would watch it because it is produced in Bahasa Malaysia.
In the end, we make films but we are not filmmakers.
In the end, we are as fake as the slogan "filem kita wajah kita".

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


My only daughter, Adylla Lyanna, turns 18 today. Happy birthday sweetheart. You are now entering adulthood and you inherit responsibilties that go with it. Your parents are proud of you and we love you. Always respect your family and elders, and make friends with those who respect you and that you respect. You are now at a very complex and confusing time in your if you have questions...ask your mom...hahha.
Time has zoomed by so fast. I still remember the chubby cute daughter that I loved so much. Now she has grown tall and slim and beautiful. Hehehe it worries me....but thank God you are taller than most guys in your age bracket...makes it tougher for you to find guys...heheh..anyway, concentrate on your studies first and your career...everything else will fall into place for you. Believe in Allah and trust the road He has chosen for you.
Happy Birthday Dylla.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I had an interesting conversation with some people that I will not mention who they are, but three of them were FINAS Board Members. Another was a senior Information, Communication and Culture Ministry official.
We were just talking about making movies.
The FINAS board member was telling the top Ministry official that he has perfected the formula for making movies locally. He proudly informed nus that from first day of shoot until printing the film's A Print, it took him only 27 days! He then said that if other producers cannot do the same, they should not be in ther business.
He said with this new formula, he plans to produce one movie per month. And this is a member of our FINAS Board.
Now, the Ministry official seemed quite taken aback by this guys' strategy and seemed quite interested in what he had to say.
The Ministry official then also said that he saw in some documentaries that US filmmakers are shooting feature films using HD camcorders. I tried to explain to him that they were many levels of HD technology but he said if these guys can make movies using cheap HD cameras, why can't we? I decided not to waste my time trying to explain to him the difference between consumer HD equipment and professional HD equipment.
I mean, his Ministry just spent RM50 million dollars in a sound studio in FINAS, and yet he is telling us that we should use low end HD cameras for producing feature films.
I then tried to tell him that FINAS or the Ministry should look into helping senior filmmakers like Rahim Razali, Mahadi Murat and myself, who have ideas and still have the creative energy to make good movies for the international festival market. I told him local producers and FINAS only seem to be interested in funding young talents.
Guess what he said. He thinks if the older filmmakers cannot make films that the current film viewers want to watch, they shouldn't be making films. If the younger film makers are making more commercial films that are viable, then they are the right people to boost local film industry.
He said he knew what he was talking about because ALL his degrees were in marketing and he considers himself a marketing expert, and that filmmakers should know how to market their films. According to him, good marketing can even make a lousy film successful. Film is ALL marketing, he said. So put more emphasis on market our ideas and films. That's the key to improving our industry.
I sat there dumbfounded. I am surrounded by people who are in a position to make a difference in the film industry and yet what I am listening scares the shit out of me.
In the end, I was told something that really took my breath away.
Young director Ahmad Idham, director of such classics like Jangan Tegur, Congkak, Jangan Pandang Belakang, Jangan Pandang Belakang Congkak, Brainscan and Syurga Cinta, have been given a seat in FINAS's boardroom. So now, Metrowealth has two representatives in FINAS's board - producer David Teoh and his current favourite director Ahmad Idham.
After hearing that, I returned to my hotel like one of the characters in Mamat Khalid's zombie movie - feeling completely dead inside and walking aimlessly without a brain within the film industry.
What else can you say when this happens?


My friends have been bugging me past few days wanting to know when I will write about the 22nd Malaysian Film Festival in Kota Kinabalu last week.
I told them there was so much to things write about. It is of course in my personal opinion the weakest ever festival in the history of MFF. It is even as bad if not worse than when A. R. Badul won the best director award for Oh Fatimah! over a decade ago.
Even the fact that a movie entitled Papadom - a movie that no one has seen (apart from the Jury members) won Best Film award, Best Comedy Film Award, Best Actress award, Best Actor Award, Best Song Award amongst others, made the festival surreal.
I think in that aspect, our film industry made history. Apart from International Film Festivals like Cannes, most national film festivals only allow films that have been screened in the year prior to the awards to participate. Films that were not screened during the eligible period of time were not allowed to participate - which makes sense.
For example, how can we be excited at the awards night when a movie none of us had the chance of viewing won? It's like , "huh? so what? kinda feeling" when Papadom won many awards that night.
Don't get me wrong. I respect Afdlin Shauki and I believe Papadom deserved the awards but then again I haven't seen it, so I really don't know.
But then again, in a field of cow manure, a single flower or two stand remarkably alone and attracts attention. That's what the festival was about. Imagine Talentime and Papadom (and maybe Setem) going against titles like Abalasa, Jin Hutan, Momok, Syurga Cinta, Bohsia, Jangan Tegur, Skrip 7707, Maut, Histeria, Sifu dan Tonga, Brainscan andBold Cicakman 2. It's like a crazy bad year for local cinema. What's worse, the theme for the festival is Malaysian Films To The International Arena and yet none of the films that participated could better a film not yet shown.
Now, the good thing about the festival was that Sabah played hosts. And they were great hosts. I cannot fault them for the little screw ups that happened ( what event doesn't have minor screw ups right?) and really the Sabahans were excellent hosts.
Forget that the participants were ensconced in the One Borneo shopping center for five days. Forget that taxi cabs in Sabah are expensive - costs you about Rm50 bucks return from One Borneo to the city and back.
So, for most participants, apart from the various events that they attended, all they saw of Sabah was the inside of the shopping Mall - One Borneo.
I was lucky that I had work to do at the same time the festival was held in Sabah. I was producing my Merdeka documentary and interviewed Datuk Harris Salleh, Tan Sri Herman Luping Datuk Ayoub Aman and Tan Sri Ghani Gilong. So the trip to Sabah was quite fruitful for me.
At the end of the day, what did the Festival achieve? In terms of bringing Malaysian films closer to Sabahans I think they succeeded somewhat. At least the hundreds of students from UMS who turned up for the Awards night at the Dewan Canselor, got to meet their local heroes.
But in terms of recognising and celebrating excellence, I think the festival was a dismal failure.

Monday, August 3, 2009


You must have noticed why I haven't been posting new stuff as often as I used to over the past two months. Well, the simple answer is that I haven't been well. I was admitted into hospital three times - mostly due to suspected gastric or reflux attack. However, when the third one became too severe, the doctors decided to do a second round of more detailed scans of my insides and lo behold! They found that my gall bladder is capable of building stones all the time and that my bile duct has been strained or distended due to the frequent squeezing of earlier stones - hence the unbearable pain.
So I had to undergo two procedures. The first, a scope procedure where the enter the area through my throat, my stomach, my duodenum and upwards again into the bile duct to clear and clean it and put a permanent tube meant for the second procedure - the complete removal of my gall bladder.
This was done under sedation and took about one hour. Before this noon procedure, I was already fasting since 9pm the day before.
When I woke up, the doctors said the procedure was successful, but to me the pain was still there.
So, my second operation, the big one, was scheduled the next day at 2 pm, and so, since I just came out of the scope, I am not allowed to take anything - no drink no food until the second operation is completed. I was on drip all these while.
The next morning, the pain began again and I felt my chest crashing in. I actually thought I was having a heart attack. The doctors wheeled me down to the OR or OT and was prepped up for the operation within the hour. This one will be done in full General Anaesthetic or GA. I hope I had a good anaesthetist - and within seconds of him saying that he is putting me to sleep, I was gone.
I woke up groggy but alive (duhhh). Someone told me the nearly 3 hour operation was successful but because of the pain I had earlier just before the operation, he recommended sending me to the HDU (High Dependancy Unit). I don't remember much of the few moments after the operation but I do remember a doctor saying that I already have had too much morphine in my system as I was in constant pain.... yeah guys just pulled out my gall bladder through three cuts in my abdomen whilst pumping helium or CO2 into my stomach. That's painful okay?
So I lie there in HDU, my wife and kids taking turns to see me (they allow only two visitors at any time in HDU). They, like me, were glad I am still around.
I was tired and sleepy and they left me alone. But that night was still painful as I begged them to give my more Betadine injections if I can't have morphine.
Still no drink and no food.
Surprisingly, next morning I felt better and was surprised when the nurses gave me a change of hospital clothes and told me to take a bath. Huh? You mean I can walk already? Just last night you told me to pee into this papaya shaped contraption because I cannot yet be allowed to walk.
They say I am fine. And, surprise surprise, I was. There was of course the sharp pains and discomfort but I managed to shower and changed myself.
Later in the afternoon, they sent me back to a normal ward where I would be held for observation for the next two to three days. Oh yes, I was allowed to drink a little. This was now the fourth day of my fast.
And apart from the weird hallucinations I had on the first night in my new ward, and the sharp pains I had which required another dose of good old Betadine, I was fine.
Yesterday afternoon, they discharged me.
Then the real pain came. The bill? RM24,000.00.


Yasmin Ahmad, to many, one of the country's most honest filmmaker, passed away of a stroke last two Friday ago. She was 51.
When I heard of her stroke she suffered in TV3 premises, I could only say a little doa for her, and had thought of popping by the hospital the next day and meet up with her parents.
Unfortunately, I could not do that as I was admitted into Assunta Hospital for stomach and chest pains. She passed away later that night.
Yasmin's shooting star had come and gone - in a blink of an eye, leaving us a handful but meaningful legacy of movies that touched most true Malaysians but fell short for most peminat filem Melayu arus perdana.
She wasn't in the industry to win awards, nor was she there to make money or rub shoulders with celebrities. She couldn't care less.
She was here for one purpose. To tell stories.
I am not that particularly close to her but ever since we met at the Tehran Film Festival about three years ago, we became more comfortable with each other. The last time I met her was the the Damansara Cineleisure complex where she tried to persuade me to watch the preview of her movie Talentime. I told her I can't attend and wished her luck and also told her I'd rather pay to see her movies, as I always do for local ones.
The last time we communicated was through this blog. Just a days before she passed away, in fact. She read my review of Lestar Pelangi and wanted to know if I thought it was better than Zhang Yimou's Not One Less.
That's the thing with her that I love. She's great to talk to, about movies, books or about life.
I can't see anyone taking up her mantle.
Of all the maintstream filmmakers, she was the most UNmainstream.
To Yasmin, we love you and miss you dearly. Allah loves you more.