Sunday, December 27, 2009

FADE OUT 2009: FADE IN 2010

Another year comes to an end.
2009 will become another calendar thrown into the dustbins of history.
For most producers, 2009 was a year to forget. Another annus horriblis.
It was the year that RTM pursued its flawed pitching/tender policies which destroyed many independent producers who suddenly found themselves with possible billings of less than a quarter million for the year. They floundered, they closed shop. Yet, companies like Gamma Taktik flourished whilst quality producers died by the wayside. And there seem to be no respite.
A few months back, another pitching session was called by RTM. Apart from the few Chinese New Year programmes that were offered to Chinese producers, Malay producers enter the new year wondering when they will get the call from RTM. Wondering if any of their ideas or proposals will be lucky enough to be accepted by RTM.
However, some producers were lucky as they can approach Astro and TV3. But these are far and few as each station has their own commissioning system and policies.
TV3's Primeworks, however, is aiming to become the country's number one content developer and this will be in direct competition with independant producers who do not have the financial and logistical clout that Primeworks (which has production company Grand Brilliance in their panel) has.
Astro is the best bet for innovative and creative producers.
Now with the new Malay channels, Astro is seeking to produce top quality content for local viewers. Their intent is clearly shown when they commissioned high quality mini-series from local producers for their Suatu Ketika slot. These 8-hour miniseries has been a boon to producers who have been lamenting with the miniscule budgets that other station offers.
Whilst not all producers are offered the chance to produce Suatu Ketika titles, those who have been given the opportunity eagerly went to produce some of the best local TV productions ever seen in recent years. This include titles like Rosly Dhobi, 10, Senoi Praaq and Korban 44.
There is talk that the project will be continued and that factual based stories like Botak Chin, Sybil Kartigesu, Tun Fatimah and the Selangor Civil War of 1870 will be produced by various invited producers and directors.
This bodes well for producers and directors with vision.
Meanwhile, in the feature film scene, not many memorable movies were produced and screened these year. Just trying to remember some of the titles that made it to the cinema would be a tough enough task. For those who can remember the following are some of the titles screened in 2009.
Scenario The Movie, Tsifu Tonga, Jin Notti, Jalang, Geng, Talentime, Papadom, Jangan Tegur, Bohsia, Sayang, My Spy, Wayang, Jin Hutan, Rasukan Ablasa, Maut, Santau, Lembing Awang Pulang ke Dayang, Sell Out, Karaoke, Sayang You Can Dance, Syurga Cinta, Skrip 7707, Setem, Jangan pandang Belakang Congkak, Pisau Cukur, Momok The Movie, Pulau Asmara and Muallaf.

Lowest box office performer goes to Pulau Asmara which according to FINAS website only garnered RM20,000 after one week's screening. Not sure if it could overtake Lembing Awang's RM90,000 box office take.

Biggest earner was of course the animated Geng which took in a whopping RM6.2 million beating the surprisingly popular Jangan Pandang Belakang Congkak which raked in RM6.1 million. However, the latter was more profitable since it only cost about RM1.5 million to produce unlike Geng which costs RM4 million. If these figures (acquired from FINAS's website) are true, it means Geng did not make a profit because the cinemas' take of 50% of total box office would have made its gross profit at only RM3.1 million which means that it is still RM900,000 in the black.

What is in store for 2010? More of the same unfortunately. Here are some of the titles lilsted:
Misteri Dendam Balan-balan, Estet, Shhhh Dia Datang, Janin, Eeeee Hantu, Kantoi, Duhai Si Pari Pari, Gentayangan, Lu Fikirlah Sendiri De Movie, Kapoww!!! Sereemmm! Jibam The Movie, Kecoh Betui and Syirik.

Sad isn't it? Any particular titles that catches your attention or fancy? Any of the above titles that cries out : Yes This Is The Movie That Malaysians Can Be Proud Of? Nope. None.

So I guess the mediocrity of 2009 will definitely flow into 2010 where we will be fed with more jaded horror movies and slapstick comedy. Imagine - most of the movies listed above were approved by FINAS and SME under the film loan scheme. As it is, there was a big hoohah over failed servicing of the loans on titles that failed at the box office. I guess more titles will join the queue of movies not getting enough at the box office to pay back the FINAS loans.

Once again, just by looking at most of the titles, how in the hell did these titles get approved and received loans by FINAS? Jibam The Movie? Kantoi? Kecuh Betui?

Maybe I should submit a comedy skrip called FINAS the Movie....maybe by just telling the nation the whole truth about FINAS, it'll be the comedy film of the year. Yes, true, actual fact is stranger and funnier than fiction.

Friday, December 25, 2009


The unprecedented clamor to covet the post of the President of the Malaysian Film Directors' Association (FDAM) is mind boggling to say the least.
The Association, which is the only association in the country that has as its members Malaysian film directors (including TV directors), will be having their Annual General Meeting this coming 30th December. This is after suddenly postponing (three days before) the previously announced date which was 20th December.
Most members who had cleared their schedules for the 20th of December suddenly find themselves not being able to attend the 30th December AGM. Those not able to change their plans and attend the AGM include Afdlin Shauki and Hans Isaac.
It is estimated at least 20 people who are supporting one particular opposing candidate will not be able to attend on the 30th.
In one fell blow, incumbent president Ahmad Ibrahim or more popularly known as Mat London, improved his chances of yet securing another victory as the association's president.
There seem to be no real challenge to Mat London's leadership, except maybe from Mamat Khalid, director of Kala Malam Bulan Mengambang and the upcoming Estet, who has announced that he will be offering his services as FDAM President at the AGM.
Whilst Mamat is trying to get his act together, rounding up the support of some impressive members in the industry, Mat London has been securing endorsements from his own fan base quietly and without much fanfare.
What is sad to me is that the members of the association, who are film and tv directors, who claim to be intellectuals and thinkers, can't seem to realise that the association has not been functioning like it should or could be.
Most too seem to be oblivious about the lack of proper management of their own association. The members' lack of understanding of the association's constitution and the rules and regulations of running as association under the Registrar of Societies Act is also disconcerting.
Such a core understanding of what an association should be, has led to what FDAM is today, a shadow of what it once hoped to be and the laughing stock of the industry.
Why? Well, for one, for an association of so-called elite filmmakers, it currently uses for their office an old container offered to them by FINAS.
Instead of rejecting the offer, FDAM has made it their office for the past 8 years. This is the image of the association if outsiders come to visit FDAM.
With the RM30,000 grant the association receive from FINAS annually, they could have done better by getting or renting a better address and space for its members to call 'home away from home'. So, it will be interesting to check the association's accounts and balance sheet to see where that RM30,000 went to.
However, what FDAM has also failed to do, under the current regime, is to set a path to make its members a respectable lot. As supposed leaders in the film industry, FDAM's voice is hardly heard nor considered eloquent or relevant.
The current leaders tenure is nearing its end, and I think it is a travesty if the members allow them to be re-elected once again.
Then again, those who should lead the community of directors don't seem to want to challenge Mat London and Co.
The members are in a messy quagmire and it will be interesting to see how they vote come next weekend.
I feel, and I hope to be proven wrong, that come this 30th December, members of FDAM will once again vote for mediocrity and self-mutilation by voting in again the incumbents.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Come 17th December, Kaohsiung Taiwan, will host the 53rd Asia-Pacific Film Festival. This is a surprise as most people have already thought the the festival had died an untimely death.
Only five years ago, the 50th APFF was held in Kuala Lumpur. The year after, the 51st edition was held in Taipei.
Hong Kong was supposed to host the 52nd edition but due to the global recession, the festival was cancelled. The next host - Jakarta, in 2008, also decided against organising it.
After two years of cancellations, most people in the industry have already assumed that the festival, the oldest film festival in Asia, had run its course.

However, Taiwan seemed to want to revive this festival, and next week, it will welcome one of the smallest numbers of entries ever recorded for the festival.
Malaysia is sending three films - Afdlin Shauki's Papadom, Hatta Azad Khan's Wayang and Yasmin Ahmad's Talentime.
Selection criteria? Papadom was best film at the recent Malaysian Film Festival held in Sabah. Talentime won best director plaudits for the late Yasmin. And somehow, Wayang, which did not many awards at the recent Malaysian Film Festival, received accolades as the Best Film in TV3's annual Skrin Awards.
Not many Malaysian filmmakers will make the trip to Taiwan next week. Most in the industry knew nothing about the festival (until today's newspaper article in Berita Harian), but those who were informed realised that unless their producers pay for the trip or if FINAS picks up the tab, only then would they go.
The biggest surprise however is the sad omission of Karaoke, the first Malaysian movie to be shown in Cannes after 14 long years.
Malaysian filmmaker Chris Chong's internationally acclaimed Karaoke was screened at the Directors’ Fortnight of the 62nd Cannes Film Festival from May this year.

Karaoke (scene from the movie shown above) was nominated for the Camera d’Or (Golden Camera), the award for the best first feature film presented in any one of the Cannes’ selections (Official Selection, Directors’ Fortnight or International Critics’ Week). This distinction went unheralded in Malaysia and Karaoke's entry in Cannes this year was a bigger coup than Uwei Haji Shaari's Kaki Bakar which was screened under the Un Certain Regard category in 1995.
I guess a Malaysian movie which was selected to be screened in Cannes is not good enough to be selected by the Persatuan Pengeluar Filem Malaysia (PFM) as our country's representative to the 53rd APFF next week. I know the reason too. Firstly, the movie did not use Bahasa Malaysia as its main language (the filmmaker thought the most important language in his piece is film language) and the most glaring - the producer is not a member of PFM. Errmmm wait a minute, are Primeworks/Chilli Peppers and Uitm members of PFM?

Friday, December 4, 2009


Once again we get bypassed for quality film education or production opportunities. Previously, I personally felt sad that Lucasfilms decided to start a facility in Singapore some years ago, allowing direct intake of talented animation graduates in Singapore to find work on international animation projects.
At that time, we were expounding the virtues of our Multimedia Super Corridor and other spin off projects from the initiative. But all that is now water under the bridge, just like our expensive multi-million dollar Saladin The Movie Trailer.
Now, New York University, one of the best places any filmmaker could have to learn about filmmaking has set up a center in Singapore.
This is the link to their website : TISCHAsia
Now, here's the kicker, the resident Artistic Director for the campus in Singapore is non-other than multi-Academy Award winner Oliver Stone. Serious! No kidding.
The institution offers Degree and Post Graduate course in Film Production, Writing and Digital Animation.
A quick look at the Masters in Fine Arts course, which has a two-year duration, will take you back about US$41,000.00. (Just about RM150,000).
Now if FINAS knew about this, or even MOSTI, and if our Ministry of Communication, Culture and Arts are serious in producing world class filmmakers, they should think seriously about sending and sponsoring a batch of maybe 12 post graduate students to this school.
Once these pioneer batch graduates from NYU TischAsia, they can then teach ten students each in three years time. By 2015, we would then have at least 100 world class filmmakers in our midst.
Is this a dream? Maybe, but it's an achievable dream. FINAS is thinking of spending millions in doing co-production with South American companies, they spend millions financing film festivals and events, they spend millions sending their officers to film markets overseas, they lend millions to untested producers and filmmakers who either screw up the production or make movies that no one wants to see.
So why not just put aside about RM2 million to send 12 talented or young filmmakers who have shown potential to this NYU Tisch Asia Campus to do their post graduate Masters course and actually improve our dilapidated film industry within the next five years.