Friday, July 23, 2010


A couple of days ago, there was an article in the Malay papers about calon-calon (candidates) for the soon to be vacant post of FINAS Director-General currently held by Mahyuddin Mustakim.
The speculation is that filmmaker and current FINAS Board member, Ahmad Idham, will be the next DG of this hot seat which he has of course denied. He said the confusion may have stemmed from the fact that he has been re-elected onto FINAS's Board.
However, his old friend film-factory producer David Teoh of Metrowealth, who is also on FINAS's board (yeah go figure), is full of praise for the fourth generation filmmaker and has his support as the next FINAS DG.
Amidst all this speculation, three other names have been thrown into the cauldron - Adflin Shauki, Dr Mahadi Murat and yours truly.
I have to categorically deny here that I am being considered for the post. As far as I know, I am the least likely candidate to be offered the job. If I was DG material, I would already have been sitting in Mahyuddin's office and not him, as I was one of the main candidates in the previous DG search. If I was not suitable four years ago, then I am still not suitable this time around.
This doesn't mean that I wouldn't relish the chance to lead FINAS and make into something resembling a body that actually develops the local film industry.
Firstly, as DG, I would ask the Minister to agree that those who are still active in the local film industry should resign from the FINAS Board. Not because they are not helping the industry but because it doesn't make common sense for them to be on the Board in the first place.
However, FINAS would do well by instead creating an Industry Advisory Panel that they can appoint all the David Teohs, the Ahmad Idhams and the Mustafa Maarofs of the world.
As for members of the Board, I would rather request the government to appoint accountants, change managements experts, bankers, marketing professionals, corporate figures and captains of industries to sit on the Board. No film practitioner should be aboard, except maybe the DG.
This statement I just made should also not be taken as support for the Memorandum made by the Malaysian Film Producers' Association for the dismissal of David Teoh and Ahmad Idham as Board members.
This should have been done three years ago when David and Ahmad were appointed as Board members then.
So why the memorandum now? I'm not quite sure, but I heard from a little bird that certain members of the Association are not happy that certain members of the current FINAS board (duhhhhh do I have to spell out their names for you?) have advised against the forking out of more millions for certain production companies who have already taken millions of the government. I don't know how true this is, but someone is said to be orchestrating hard to ensure that David Teoh should not be on board as he is one of the most vocal board member. If David Teoh is not okay for the Board what makes Dato' Mustafa Maarof okay for the Board? Isn't he still active in the industry and has his own production company too? What about Mr Murthee? Doesn't he own one of the fastest growing cinema chain in the country? Isn't that a conflict of interest too? So why only pick on David Teoh and Ahmad Idham?
As far as I know, there is no conflict of interest specifically in regards to David Teoh's position as a FINAS board member. It is in fact a thankless post for him.
And as far as I know, unlike most of those PFM leaders who want him out of FINAS, David Teoh's Metrowealth has not taken a single loan from FINAS or MDec or MCMC or BSN or SME.
He is however the most prolific film producer in the country. Not Pesona, not KRU and not Grand Brilliance. His output have now exceeded two movies per month.
You question the quality of his films? Why don't you ask the million of viewers who pay good money to see his films?
Is he revered by the practitioners (the directors, the actors, the film workers)? Of course he is. At the rate he is going, at least 200 hundred local filmworkers can celebrate this coming Raya with a smile. He gave the director of a box office hit movie he producer a car for work well done. What has FINAS given successful directors?
What I don't agree with David Teoh is his filmmaking philosophy. To him it is the only way for local films to work. His shareholders are happy and by that fact alone, one cannot argue that he is not doing great work. To him, a film should be done with a budget of maybe RM1-1.5 million, 20 days shoot and 20 days post, and wallahhh! a new film ready to be screened.
I also disagree that, for some weird reason, he is going to produce and finance Hatta Azad Khan's next few movies. In this weird arrangement, Metrowealth will produce all of Hatta Azad Khan's directed movies as some kind of strange partnership with Uitm's Faculty of Creative Technology of which conveniently Hatta is the Dean.
Students and lecturers it seem will be involved in this agreement as part of their course work.
Of course, I believe that Hatta will be paid as the director and writer for the work.
I have already said in an earlier blog posting, filmmakers who want to teach should just teach. If they miss making movies, leave the comfort zone of a salaried position of a lecturer or Dean and be a filmmaker.
Anyway, the only winners in this scenario are Hatta and David:
Hatta gets to become a Dean and a film director at the same time and have a financier for all his movies.
David pulak because he is deemed to be helping out an institution of higher learning's creative programme.
But I digress.
Back to the question of FINAS DG.
Who would be my suggestion to take over the post?
Easy. Get the guy who took Singapore's non-existent film industry into a critically acclaimed film industry within a decade, whoever that guy is. So what if he isn't a Malay or Malaysian. We need results and someone who would push the envelope and make the world stand up and take notice of our films.
We need someone who actually knows what makes the industry tick and what it will take for us to make movies that tick too.
We need someone who would listen to the real players in the industry and not to just one or two friends and relatives.
FINAS's role is to develop and support the industry - it is not a body that tells the industry what to do without consultation. It is not a body that patronises the industry players.
FINAS should also not be a body that sieves and evaluates scripts and approves loans for these scripts. It should be a body that would instead actually put its money where its mouth is. If they think a script is worth giving a loan to, they should actually invest in that script.
Why pass the risk to the producers? If FINAS think they can evaluate a script and tell the producers who to cast, what budget to maintain and who to direct and what location to secure, then shouldn't they be the producers and take the risk themselves? How can they evaluate and approve the script and the marketing and promotion plans of the film, and approve the loan? And when the film flops, why do they blame the producer?
See? Conflicts occur when FINAS doesn't know what role it should play in the industry.
To me, loans should be minimise or even scrapped.
There should only be joint venture funding facilities and full grants.
And these grants are only given to projects that are unique and need not be necessarily a commercial undertaking. It should be for projects that would elevate the industry cinematic profile worldwide.
Loans? Just get the banks (BSN or SME)to simply evaluate the capability of the producer to pay back the loan, and not the project's artistic merit. In the end, it is just another business loan from a bank to a client. And the client MUST be able to pay it back. Simple as that.
You have a contract with a TV station? Sure here's the loan. You have some valuable land as collateral? Sure here take a million ringgit loan. You have a salary of RM30,000 a month? Sure, here, take the loan.
You have the next Avatar screenplay that everyone is raving about? Sorry, not interested. Go find investors. Banks don't deal in fantasies.
FINAS's role should be making policies, and identifying ways of educating young filmmakers. Even after so many years of existence, it is still hard to believe that FINAS has not created a scholarship fund for young up-and-coming filmmakers who need to hone their knowledge in Universities around the world.
What other things should FINAS do? Here are some suggestions:
FINAS needs to promote Malaysian movies locally and not only internationally.
FINAS should hold hands with film producers and fight for a cess fund taken from foreign films that are screened in the country. This fund would be used to finance film projects.
FINAS should not beg for funds from the government but instead get it from the private sector. In the UK, the lottery concessionaires pool funds to help the creative industry including the film industry to create non-mainstream movies.
FINAS should fight for some of the money from sin taxes - gambling, smoking and drinking.
Companies like Genting and Sports TOTO should funds movies yearly.
FINAS should get each state to produce one state-themed movie every year.
FINAS should really tell us how long it would take them to develop filmmakers or films to be accepted by the major film festivals of the world like the ones in Turin, Berlin, Cannes and Venice.
Heck, FINAS should be moving their butts and make the industry buzz instead of going phhfffttttt!
So if the people in the corridors of power think that Ahmad Idham can do all these, then give him a chance.
What ever it is, the last four years have been uneventful for FINAS and directly the film industry. Therefore, it is really in dire need of a new Kapitan who has new ideas and new directions and brings us new hope.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Currently I am in the middle of completing a short documentary on the above mentioned person. If you don't know him, it's okay. Not many knew of him unless they've read or bought his memoirs entitled MALAY NATIONALISM BEFORE UMNO.Even people in his own hometown of Matang where I went yesterday to interview his 80-plus year old brother Osman, no one knew who he was. Not even the staff of the Matang Museum where another national hero was once imprisoned, hanged and buried - Ngah Ibrahim. The museum is only 100 meters away from the house of Mustapha's birth and his old house.
Mustapha Hussain, who passed away in 1986, is one person who all Malaysians, especially the Malays, should know about. Who he was, and what he did in the struggle for our country's independance. Some say his leftist views was his bane but I disagree.
Ibrahim Yaakob, who I believe was a traitor to Malaya, is somehow more revered and given more space in our history books than Mustapha Hussain.
Ibrahim, for local history buffs, is one of the founder members of the first Malay 'political' group Kesatuan Melayu Muda (which was a front for the real meaning of the group - Kesatuan Malaya Merdeka). Mustapha was the vice-president.
Ibrahim was also the proponent of Indonesiaraya or Melayuraya - a country that was supposed to include Malaya, Indonesia, Brunei and Singapore.
He left Malaya after the war, became a banker and politician in Indonesia under the pseudonym Iskander Kamel and was given a hero's burial there.
Like Mustapha, who stayed on in Malaya, never agreed to many of Ibrahim's ideas. Mustapha is deemed a threat to security, imprisoned by the British after the war, barred from teaching and lived a simple life.
Unknown to many, he was actually an UMNO member during the early days of the party. When Onn Jaafar resigned as president, his friends invited Mustapha to compete for the post. Without money and influence, Mustapha knew it would be a tough battle. Surprisingly, he lost the election to Tunku Abdul Rahman by ONE vote.
To his dying day, according to his family, his love for the country and its peoples never abated. He cared more for the poor and the disadvantaged.
For all his efforts, he only received the AMP medal from the Perak Sultan in the 80s for his heroic role in saving the lives of 400 Malays from Changi prison at the beginning of the war.
After interviewing his family, especially his brother Osman in Matang, I wrote the following in his memory.


They were not Kings nor Princes

Nor were they Lords nor Masters,

They were Malays,

Simple folks

Teachers, Farmers, Mechanics, Labourers.

Since time immemorial,

They look up to the people seated up high,

Caste is caste, and caste is acceptable once.

Our land, our Tanah Melayu,

Rich in minerals and tin,

And rubber.

The new Masters brought in

and invited the others, at 40 sen a day,

To work, to toil and be exploited,

for the rich to share its riches.

The teachers, the farmers, the mechanics, the labourers,

They just look on.

See their land as chess pieces,

Sacrificed to others for gold and opium

For cash and riches.

The "lazy Malays" kept on smiling,

with only rice on their plates

and some salt and some vegetables.

They were happy.

The rich play with the rich

And the whites play the rich

And the rich play out the people.

The rising sun threw the rays over the Tanah Melayu,

The Union Jack ran away

Tail between its legs.

The rising sun opened the eyes of some.

They now see the white invincibility a myth.

They realise that maybe,

Somehow maybe

The time has come

For them to rule the land of their forefathers.

The riches to returned to them.

The land theirs once again.

The land lost to others, may it be white, yellow, black or pink,

But the rising sun rose to soon,

And then began to set,

Leaving a bloody trail.

And with the setting sun,

Three stars rose,

With lead bullets and steel blades,

They rose to challenge the Union Jack.

It was a confusing time,

But for a few souls who wanted all these to end,

Who wanted Tanah Melayu to be what it should be,

Some resorted to the three stars,

Some resorted to take it to the people.

Some resorted to sleeping with the enemy.

The Kings and Princes kept quiet.

As long as their positions were respected,

As long as their dynasties were protected,

And the Union Jack kept them happy.

And they were pleased.

They also assume the masses respect them.

They know that there will be no Jebats amongst them.

Orang Melayu pantang menderhaka!

Malays, who were once prevented from gaining knowledge,

Or even to receive full education began to read.

Trotsky, Nehru, Bose, Hitler.

Tale of Two Cities, Three Musketeers and many others.

Some went left, others went right.

A few went Red.

But the ideals are one.

Merdeka Merdeka Merdeka.

And Mustapha was one of them.

A teacher. A simple man. A family man.

And a man with a plan.

He maybe left, but then again isn’t everyone’s heart is on the left?

Being anti British he was deemed a threat.

His friends were incarcerated. Somehow, he escaped.

It was then that the rising sun came.

He and friends were released.

The rising sun left, and they were incarcerated again.

This time he cannot escape.

Without a trial, he was thrown in prison in Batu Gajah.

When released, he was not allowed to teach,

He lost his job and struggled with his family.

His family that loved him

As a father, a husband and a true Malayan.

One wonders why we praise Tok Janggut, Mat Salleh,

Tok Naning, Ngah Ibrahim, Bahaman, Tok Gajah, Maharajalela,

Dato Sagor for being anti-British,

and yet

Those who took the same stance in the 40s and 50s

are considered enemies of Malaya.

Enemies of the state.

Enemies of the people.

Enemies of history.

Unless you sleep with the enemy, you are the enemy.

It really doesn’t matter that you and your friends were the first to rise,

and sowed the seeds of Merdeka.

It doesn’t matter that it was you and your friends who first shouted

Merdeka Merdeka Merdeka!

It was you who had family members

die in the war fighting for freedom.

A brother who remained missing after the war.

Another slain by the three red stars.

No one sheds tears for them any more.

No one sheds tears for you.

To the victor, a new history.

Power and riches beyond imagination.

To the vanquished, a small plot of land

A cold slab. For the lucky few, a footnote.

But for those who know the truth,

We salute you.

We shed tears for your bravery,

For your sacrifice,

for your struggle.

We know our true heroes.

We know our fellow men.

Sleep well our true Wira Merdeka.

Where there’s injustice,

there will always be another you.

We agree with those who knew you

And called you Bayu.

Today, from now on, I too call you Bayu.

Bapa Melayu.