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 and 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.