Monday, October 26, 2009


Isn't it strange that in a country like Malaysia, its own local films are shunned by the masses. Contrary to what you may have heard or read, there is actually no real revival of Malay language movies. If there was, don't you think the cinema operators would have identified or even operate a hall or cineplex meant specifically for Malay laguage movies?
Yet there hasn't.
This means that cinema operators feel that Malay language movies cannot sustain a cinema hall because the fans of Malay movies, and most of them have to be Malays, are not regularly watching these Malay language movies.
However, there is enough of a fan base for Tamil and Hindi movies to actually have cinema halls catering for this 'small' community. Strange.
For example, in Kuala Lumpur and PJ I know of at least four cinema halls are considered 'Indian cinemas' - State, Federal, Capital Square and Odeon cinema. These halls book more Tamil and Hindi titles than most cinemas, and surprisingly, these cinemas make money and get regular patronage from the Indian community.
So you can excuse my confusion if I wonder why Malaysia, being a Malay majority country, cannot have one cinema hall that caters to only Malay language movies.
In my opinion, as long as Malay language movies are not considered viable products by the cinema operators, I cannot consider them (Malay languaged movies) as something loved and supported by Malays, less so Malaysians.
I don't know when this will change. Some say it's a chicken and egg situation.
Build a cinema chain for Malay movies first, and the fans will come.
But cinema operators want to see the fan base increase ten fold first before they can even consider creating a cinema chain specifically for screening Malay language movies.
There was once talk about creating a national cinema chain, to be managed and run by GLC's or even FINAS. However, I guess, even FINAS doesn't have the courage nor confidence to run a cinema chain for Malay-language movies or Made-in-Malaysia movies. If they think it was viable, they would have done so.
Maybe with the existence of a new RM200m fund announced recently, the plans for a nationalised cinema chain can be revived. Especially a digital cinema chain, allowing local filmmakers to produce and screen their movies in digital format.
These ideas and policies need brave and strong leadership in our industry. I don't think we have that. So it will not happen.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Yesterday's budget by the Prime Minister made filmmakers, advertising executives, content producers, musicians and animators drooling with anticipation. An RM200 million fund has been mentioned available to boost our content industry.
Whilst the details are not yet clear, the PM said that the fund will be managed and channeled through Bank Simpanan Nasional. This is a surprise as previously, most of the funds for filmmaking, were channeled through the SME Bank and the Bank Pembangunan.
There was also mentioned that the funds would have an easier mechanism for those applying for it.
So we wait with baited breath again for the fund to be clarified and materialize.
I remember still many months back, an announcement of an RM15 million fund to be created for filmmakers, specifically for those who want to produce patriotic, historical and cultural themed movies. When this was announced, new wannabe producers with political 'connections' suddenly appeared with new production companies proposing movies based on Hang Tuah, Mat Kilau and many other historical 'icons'. Til to date, nothing has materialised.
No FINAS official is willing to confirm the existence of such a fund. Some however said that they are still studying the creation of the fund. Some just said wait and see whilst a few actually told me, they were just waiting for the money to appear.
Meanwhile, savvy producers who knew people who knew other people, managed to find funding from other sources - especially from MDEC and MOSTI. These two institutions, it seems are more than willing to fund heavy visual effects laden movies to the tune of millions.
I won't mention which producers had received some of this rumoured funding and neither will I identify what movies were made from these funds, but what I can tell you is that these movies were not successful at the box office, to say the least. But what do the producers care, the funds they received, it is rumored, were actually grants or what we in the industry like to refer to as 'free money'. This means box office returns doesn't mean a thing to them.
Meanwhile, other serious producers await for more funding to be made available. Uwei Haji Shaari, one of the more well known Malaysian filmmakers in the global stage, actually found funding (not from FINAS) and is prepping his latest movie - AFTER more than ten years of struggling. I wish him well. I only wished that he should have found his funding much much earlier.
Nevertheless, on a positive note, we as filmmakers can just sit and hope that now with the RM200 million fund created, we will see the quality, and not quantity, of our local films improve by leaps and bounds.

Friday, October 16, 2009


I really hate it when politicians take pot shots at movies for their own warped ends. Why do they keep doing that I don't know.
I didn't want to even mention or touch upon the ongoing UMNO meet at PWTC. I got no reason to since every other blog covers it to death. However, when one Putri UMNO member takes pot shots at the movies, I can't but voice out my concern over such rhetoric.
Why oh why did this member be allowed to go to the platform and make a call to ban all horror and scary movies? Not only locally produced movies of such genre but also foriegn ones. According to her, if such movies were allowed to be produced, people would lose faith in religion (Islam). She wants producers to make movies of good moral values, proper storylines and meaningful subjects for the betterment of society.
And what's worse, her motion on this subject was PASSED!
Only last month, the Minister of Communication, Information and Culture announced that the Government would not support no condone movies or TV productions that highlight the rempit culture. Okay, that's one genre down the drain. Now horror movies.
This has been done before during the famous banning of VHS movies - VHS meaning violence, horror and sex. We barely recovered from that, until some producers started tweaking and testing the waters until Shuhaimi Baba broke the barrier with Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam.
Since then, producers became more courageous and now were brave enough even to produce pure horror movies like Histeria and Jangan Tegur. Not that they were any good, but they were genuine horror movies. What we cannot deny is that horror is a popular genre. Even a half baked production like Momok The Movie, based on my theater play Hantu Hantu Yang Saya Kenali, is raking in millions.
And as far as I know, there is no correlation nor study that proves such movies erode the viewers' faith in religion. Horror movies have been around since the Jalan Ampas days with early Hantu Kubur and Hantu Jerangkung movies.
"Booo!!! Seriously...does this face from the 60s scare you?
Who can also forget Jahlelawati's portrayal of Pontianak or Mariam Manado's Comel on the screen? I know it really looks dated when viewed today, but when it was released back in the 60s, it scared the pants of thousands of viewers.
And there were even horror movies from the US and England being screened. Malayans were introduced to werewolves, vampires. zombies and mummies through the silver screens.
S0 was there a marked decrease in anyone relinquishing their religious views since then? Did Muslims lose faith in God the minute they stepped out of the cinema halls after watching Dendam Pontianak or Sumpah Orang Minyak?
If not why the frequent fear by politicians and the powers that be, that horror movies can be detrimental to our psyche or our society and our religion?
If fact, I remember well when such movies actually made more Malays memorise as many ayats from the Quran as possible to ward of evil. The ayat Kursi also was especially memorised by children to protect themselves.
Is this a bad thing?
In the movies, the azan too was shown as being an effective way to chase evil away.
On the other hand, I also remember once, when we were not allowed to make Malay horror movies, Malay viewers went to see instead Chinese and English horror movies to sate their desires for such cinematic wares.
I could see instead, young kids beginning to believe that plastering yellow pieces of paper on the foreheads of zombies will make them stop hopping and also making the crucifix sign will ward off all evil.
Popular Hongkong Keongsi movies are loved by young and old, Malays and Chinese.
See? If we don't have Malay movies to show that verses from the Quran or specific doas are used to protect oneself, young Malaysians would instead pick up from the foreign movies other funny explanations on how to get rid of ghosts and monsters. These include using garlic bouquets, driving oak stakes into the hearts of vampires and even holding your breath to confuse Keongsis.
I really really hope that calmer heads and clearer minds run our political arena. There are so many other important issues to focus on. Banning horror movies is not one of them.
If you want to ban something that has been proven to be deadly then ban long public holidays. We all know that long public holidays create massive traffic exodus called balik kampung. And hundreds have died and thousands maimed and injured every time such holidays take place. This is fact.
As far as I know, no horror movie made in Malaysia has killed a single person.
So which is worse?
So stop picking on filmmakers. As it is, our censorship is already stifling. Stop demonising our local films and let us make movies for the masses and give them what they want.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Awani has just commissioned me to do three more documentaries by year's end. Had a meeting recently and the three documentaries would basically be reflections on certain events that occurred in 2009.
One is about the sidelining of the English language in our education system - especially the retraction of teaching Mathematics and Science in English. I plan to approach this documentary, though 30 minutes in duration, in a Micheal Moorish documentary style. A light hearted look at the issue. Hopefully Awani can accept this treatment.
The second one is a look baack at the performing arts scene in Malaysia in 2009.
The third, which will be the biggie, is an in-depth documentary on environmental issues and finding out where Malaysia stands on these issues. This would be interesting as United Nations has just announced that it was disappointed with the recent environmental talks held in Bangkok which is a precursor to the more important Copenhagen meet before the year's end. The Copenhagen meet is important because the UN is trying to replace the soon-to-end Kyoto Protocol with a sterner and more firm declaration for all to agree on.
I know most of you really don't think going green is not important or rather most feel that the global environmental problem is not yet a crisis and if it was, it's the problem of governments and not individual citizens.
I belong to this group. I am hardly a green person.
Nevertheless, I have been watching documentaries over the past weeks about global heating and other environmental problems.
And then the tsunami in Samoa happened, and followed by the storms in Vietnam and Philippines.
A few days back, thousands died in Padang in a massive 7.6 earthquake followed by a 6.6 aftershock a day later.
I was thinking - maybe Mother Nature trying to tell us something? Is she angry? Is she saying that all the previous signs that she has shown should not have been ignored? Is that why within a fortnight she showed her might?
These recent events, has made me think about my position in the whole issue.
And I think I would want to know what other Malaysians think about it too. What more the positions of other Malaysians - both laypersons and scholars, along with the people in charge of policy making.
Through my documentary, I would want to know if the Malaysian government is just giving lip service but maybe not that serious about taking part in the global checking of pollution and other dangerous emissions from industries?
What about our private sector? Are they ignoring the need to be more conscious about green matters too?
I hope to shift through the chaff and find answers. And if I can't find answers, at least I want to get people to ask questions, because I believe now, that we really cannot be selfish and leave a dead planet as a gift for future generations.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Yes, I've been lazy. Can you blame me after a week of Hari Raya open housing and makaning? It's the lontong, the lemang, the rendang, the soto...oh my god...too much of good things lah. And all these have made me lazy.
I wanted to write about my week long Raya in Singapore. Post photos. But I did that on Facebook. Had a great time. So did the family, so much so they want to do the same thing again next year. Glad to see my kids get to know their cousins and aunties and uncles and grand uncles and grand aunties. Of course, they enjoyed receiving duit Raya in SingDollars too.
And the food. Yes the food. I don't mean to put down the Malays in Malaysia, but there's something about home cooked Singapore Malay food that is just mind blowing. Is it the rice? Is it the water they use? Is it the spices? Is it the recipe? Or is it just the cook? I don't know. I mean my cousin's nasi beriani was just excellent.
Have been wanting to write about a few things that are on my mind. Things bothering me about where Malay culture is going....about the Arabicizing of the Malay world....for example are we becoming more Arabic leaving behind our Malay roots? Think about it. Is all things Malay taboo? But then again maybe that's too deep.
And then the Padang quake many lives gone in the blink of an eye, and for no good reason.
Yes it's God's will people say....but just think of the thousands of people suffering right now in home, no food, no water, no electricity, no medicine and not a great future in store for them.
Even good news that came my way ( got commissioned to do three more documentaries for Awani before year's end) seemed out of place.
I don't know.
Maybe I should take a break from blogging. Maybe for a few days more.
Let's see how it goes lah.