Tuesday, August 31, 2010


The announcement by the Minister of Information, Communication and Culture Datuk Sri Dr Rais Yatim that local movies made in other languages (apart from Bahasa Malaysia) will now be entitled to tax rebates as enjoyed by movies that are made in Bahasa Malaysia, would be much welcomed by local film producers and investors.
Currently, under the local FINAS Act, local films are entitled to the rebates of 20% of box office (which is the entertainment tax levied on all movies by the state). This incentive however is only for movies with mostly BM dialogue.
Therefore movies that were made last year like Woohoo, Ais Kacang Puppy Love and End of Daybreak (financed by Taiwanese but made entirely in Malaysia) were not entitled to such rebates. These films are also not eligible to win the major prizes at the forthcoming Malaysian Film Awards.
Whilst the announcement is much awaited by the local non-BM film fraternity, Rais, and rightly so, clarified that the incentive is not a blanket order - the film will have to meet a few set criteria - content and box office results.
I am not sure what box-office results meant, but content requirement should be made a criteria.
This is because we do not want Indian or Chinese language local movies that do not even feel like a Malaysian movie but instead a pseudo Hongkong or Taiwanese movie or even a Singapore movie. On the other hand, feeble attempts to add in scenes with Malays in it are also not wanted. For example, the movie Kinta had really deplorable scenes of Malays which are badly shot and scripted. Rather not have that.
In Tiger Woohoo, the only scenes involving Malay dialogue and characters are when policemen are involved. Token scenes like these are really not true to the Malaysian spirit.
I hope Tayangan Unggul's Tamil remake of Papadom maintains its local flavor too.
Furthermore, I do hope that there will now be a growth of movies made in the kind of dialogue city-folks are used to - Malanglish or watever - so that the middle-upper income members of our society who look down on local cinema would support and come to view local movies.

Monday, August 30, 2010


I don't know about you guys, but what's happening in Jakarta recently, with the burning and the defecating on our Jalur Gemilang by a group called Bendera is quite humiliating for us Malaysians.
I know for some of our politicians, we should try and practice the adage of turning the other cheek, but sometime enough is enough. We don't have to be bullied by our neighbours all the time.
This isn't the first time. Even the fiasco about who owns the cultural rights to batik, satay, silat and some dance forms a few months ago was a little too much to take, especially when the Indonesian media took pot shots at us.
So how do we react to this? Our leaders say that it is not the fault of the Indonesian government and is the work of a few radicals trying to destroy the relationship between Malaysia and Indonesia.
So whose fault is it?
How many times do we have to endure the photos of our beautiful flag being abused in broad daylight without the Indonesian authorities doing anything?
Is it really true the Indonesian government do not condone these humiliating acts by Bendera? I think not because from media reports, the Indonesian parliament has also voiced out their anger against us detaining fishermen (depending on which media you read) or maritime officers who had entered our territory thus giving license for the Bendera bozos to continue their attack on our proud symbols of nationhood.
After our flag what else? Pictures of our King? Effigies of our leaders?
From what I have seen in our media, we have not been very vocal about it.
Yes, of course there's some very diplomatic noise made by our leaders, but what about us as a people? Aren't you outraged by what is happening?
In Facebook or Twitter, there's hardly any outrage shown by my friends.
Do you think you are not affected by all these? Well I am.
Let me remind you that because of a few idiot Malaysian employers who abused their maids, other families who need Indonesian maids have to suffer. Do you really want to pay RM800 and RM10,000 deposit and administrative fees to get a legal Indonesian maid? Who is negotiating these terms for us? It looks as if we are always on the losing end, and the one who has to pay for it are us.
So think again...because this row between Malaysia and Indonesia, our lives are affected.
In the film and TV industry, Indonesians has caused the local industry much heartache to say the least.
Whilst our TV stations spend millions every year in buying Indonesian movies and TV series, the Indonesians do not reciprocate saying that our productions do not meet acceptable standards in terms of technical quality and content, and that our fare is tame and outdated.
Yet, our stations programme Indonesian fare like there's no tomorrow.
About twenty years ago, the reasoning behind buying Indonesian content held water because an hour of Indonesian programming is cheap. It used to be about US500-US1000 an hour. But because the Indonesians are better salesmen than us, today's Indonesians series are bought by TV stations here at nothing less than US5,000 each. In fact, I have heard of some ridiculous fee of US10,000 per hour being paid for an Indonesian series.
And this are second hand series. Furthermore the TV stations do not obtain full rights to the series. It is usually only for one or two screenings. That's all. The rights of the TV series are retained by the Indonesians.
Local producers who get around US15,000 per hour from local TV stations sell ALL rights to local TV stations.
Does that sound fair to you?
Nevermind, maybe the local TV stations do agree with Indonesian TV stations that our quality lack ooomph. How to add oomph when you only get US15,000 per hour.
In Indonesia, TV series are paid US20,000 to US30,000 per hour and the producer still maintain rights to their productions. After being screened on local Indonesian TV they dump their programmes in countries like ours for bonus revenue.
Therefore, the Indonesians are looking at a revenue of US40,000 to US50,000 from one hour of TV production. Of course they can have better sets, locations and top ranking stars in their series.
Let's just calculate how much an Indonesian producer stand to earn from us.
If they sell 52 hours (an hour a week for one year), they stand to receive a minimum of US10,000 x 52 which totals US520,000. Even if the US Dollar goes down to RM3 the amount is RM1,500,000 plus. That's just one slot.
How many slots do you think the Indonesian series fill our TV stations? (Let's not even talk about the fully Indonesian channels on Astro).
I believe, in a week, at least 7 hours (I am being very very conservative) are filled by Indonesian fare. This means more than RM10,000,000 are given to the Indonesians for their second hand products per year. Is that a small number?
You want to double the number?
So, we are enriching the Indonesian producers every year, and what do they do? They belittle us, they don't voice out that what is happening in Jakarta is something they do not condone.
If they are earning millions from us, not to mention taking away slots and hours from local TV stations from local producers, shouldn't they be grateful and thankful?
Personally, I don't like to use the term boycott.
For example, for the past couple of days, I broke my fast with the family at two Indonesian owned franchises - Bumbu Desa and Sari Ratu. I abhor boycotting these restaurants or even telling my friends to forget going to Jakarta for golf anymore.
But then again, if Bendera keeps humiliating us, and if their government don't act against them for such stupidity, maybe I should start boycotting anything and everything Indonesian.
If I do that and everyone else do that, maybe the Indonesians who make their living off Malaysia would at least raise their voices and tell their government to shut down Bendera.
Heck, I am still waiting for the local film industry Associations - PROFIMA, FDAM, Seniman and Karyawan to voice out against these acts by Bendera. What are they doing? Nothing.
They must be oblivious to the hurt other Malaysians are feeling when the Jalur Gemilang is abused during Ramadhan and in the month when we celebrate our Merdeka.
As for the stations, all I can say is that maybe they should relook at their policy of enriching the Indonesian producers for the time being.
Pump the money domestically and see what happens.
Meanwhile, be outraged. Twitter your anger. Email your frustrations. Facebook your feelings against the abuse of our flag. Don't keep quiet. Don't let our neighbours kick us in the balls again and again and again.
Enough is enough.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


So as most things are in our industry, it was a small storm in a tea cup.

A few people flexing their feeble muscles, a couple of individuals who think they are well versed in the Finas Act and a few others thrown in into a misplaced subplot. In the end – it was another bangsawan.

The incumbent Director-General of FINAS has since made a public statement about his extension and also his disappointment over the writings of one popular Malay newspaper columnists who goes by the pen name of Kak Pora.

The statement he made goes like this:

Pada masa sama Mahyidin juga didakwa oleh penulis Kak Pora enggan ditemui media berhubung dengan isu dana hangus.

Soal dana hangus pernah disiarkan oleh Hip pada 9 Ogos lalu iaitu mengenai produser enggan membayar semula pinjaman bank untuk menerbitkan filem yang dianggarkan berjumlah RM8 juta.

Mahyidin berkata, kebanyakan kandungan artikel yang ditulis dalam ruangan Kak Pora itu kurang tepat, malahan ia tidak sepatutnya ditimbulkan tatkala kehangatan isu semasa mengenai FINAS sudah reda menerusi penjelasan daripada pegawai kanan kementerian, termasuk daripada Timbalan Ketua Setiausaha (Kebudayaan) Kementerian Penerangan, Komunikasi dan Kebudayaan, Datuk Mohammed Mohd Daud.

Perlukah saya (Mahyudin) hendak memaklumkan kepada semua pihak bahawa Menteri sudah melanjutkan perkhidmatan KP FINAS? Saya fikir tidak perlu, nanti apa kata pihak lain pula. Ia kelihatan kurang manis. Biarlah pihak lain yang beritahu tetapi bukan daripada saya.

Saya agak kecewa dan tulisan Kak Pora itu menjatuhkan maruah saya. Lebih-lebih lagi apabila dikaitkan dengan surat sokongan daripada Perdana Menteri, jelasnya.

Berhubung dakwaan beliau mengelak dari media untuk mengulas dana hangus, Mohd Mahyidin sekali lagi menjelaskan, perkara itu sebenarnya adalah tanggungjawab antara pihak bank dengan produser sebagai peminjam.

Menurutnya, peranan FINAS sekadar memberi surat sokongan atau perakuan bahawa sesebuah karya daripada mana-mana syarikat perfileman layak diberikan pinjaman.

Katanya, walaupun FINAS mengeluarkan surat sokongan, pihak bank mempunyai prosedurnya sendiri untuk membuat keputusan akhir sama ada pemohon layak diberikan pinjaman atau sebaliknya.

Urusan pinjaman daripada kalangan produser filem ini ditadbir oleh pihak bank. Kenapa pula saya hendak mendedahkan syarikat penerbitan yang gagal membayar pinjaman ini? Lagipun saya boleh disaman oleh syarikat penerbitan kalau memberitahu pihak mana yang gagal membayar pinjaman itu kerana mendedahkan perkara sulit antara peminjam dengan bank.

There’s a few disconcerting comments made.

Is it correct that he shouldn’t inform the industry that he has been given a three-month extension by the Minister? Who would be the right person then to inform the industry? The Ministry? The Minister? The Deputy Minister? The Secretary-General of the Ministry?

Is there anything wrong in him informing the industry of the extension which was confirmed by the Minister? Why keep the industry in the dark? Isn’t he proud to have been the three month extension to lead the industry via FINAS?

I doubt a three-month official extension in his contract comes under the jurisdiction of the Official Secrets Act. In fact, by informing the industry of his extension, it would have put paid to rumors of other personalities vieing for the seat.

Now at least, the industry will have a three month rumor-mongering session of who will replace him.

In fact, with this extension, shouldn’t the industry also wonder why he was given the extension? Is there anything of significance that he can do in these extra three months that he could have accomplished within the last four years at FINAS’s helm? The only thing I can see of any significance is the organising of the oft-postponed National Film Awards.

Shouldn’t the industry also be wondering that by giving the extension to the current DG, it also means that the Ministry has not found a suitable replacement for him? This is weird because the industry is a billion dollar industry.

The Ministry has in fact recently identified that the creative industry is an important contributor to the national GDP bringing in RM6 billion annually and providing employment for more than 126,000 people annually. (This number differs remarkably from the amount of RM8 trillion quoted by the Film Producers Association in March last year).

What we would like to know is how much of this RM6 billion was actually contributed by the local film industry (Feature films and TV). It could be small because if this number includes the revenue generated by the cinema industry (which should not be considered as part and parcel of the creative industry) and also the distribution sector of the market, plus the advertising and TV commercial industry, the amount generated by local feature film and TV production industry isn’t that big.

What I am trying to say is that let’s give a better and more accurate picture of how healthy the local film industry is. Is it a really healthy RM6 billion industry? Or just a RM100 million industry. If it is RM6 billion, then the DG’s position in the industry is one helluva important post.

Now, what about him saying that FINAS only plays a small role in the approving of loans to producers.

“Peranan FINAS sekadar memberi surat sokongan atau perakuan bahawa sesebuah karya daripada mana-mana syarikat perfileman layak diberikan pinjaman.”

Is this true? Does this mean that once FINAS approves and recommends that a production can receive a loan it then plays a hands-off role? Does the bank (in this instance) BSN then take over the process of evaluating and approving the loan and can ignore the recommendation?

If this is true, than logically, if the Bank can overlook a FINAS recommendation for a feature film loan for reasons only known to them, the Bank can also offer loans to a non-FINAS recommended movie for a producer they believe is capable of ‘servicing’ a loan.

What is the criteria for the Bank to now release the loan?

I don’t understand the DG’s statement about this. As far as I know, BSN is entrusted to administrate the loan. They do not have a say as to who should or should not receive a loan once FINAS approves it. Unless of course, there is an unwritten law or policy that allows BSN independent assessment of the loan application. If there is then really what function does FINAS play in this loan process if BSN can ignore the recommendation?

Finally, I think the film industry has a right to information regarding the status of the fund.

They have a right to know who has received the loans. They have a right to know who has failed to service the loans and default on their repayments. Why? The fund belongs to the industry and they have the right to know. If such official information is made known, many producers would not believe in rumors that the loans are only given to a select few. They would also then understand what proposals or what genres are recommended by FINAS and receive the loans.

They would also then be free to question why a company can receive three consecutively loans without fully repaying the loans and then make a request for a fourth loan when FINAS only allows one company to apply for loans three times and that too if their repayments are serviced regularly. I’m not saying that this has happened. I’m saying that the industry should be able to weed out rumors and only be presented with official data.

Shouldn’t the FINAS DG should be courageous enough to inform the industry with facts and truths? But when he is quoted as saying:

” Urusan pinjaman daripada kalangan produser filem ini ditadbir oleh pihak bank. Kenapa pula saya hendak mendedahkan syarikat penerbitan yang gagal membayar pinjaman ini? Lagipun saya boleh disaman oleh syarikat penerbitan kalau memberitahu pihak mana yang gagal membayar pinjaman itu kerana mendedahkan perkara sulit antara peminjam dengan bank.”

If the industry knew who these companies are that received loans and did not pay it back, we ourselves would then know which company not to support. This is because the fund is the industry’s and we should not tolerate any producer who received loans from this fund and not pay it back. Unless of course the fund is really ‘free money’ as is referred to by many in the industry who can’t seem to get any for themselves.

If this is the case, really then, it's a complete waste of time for me to even comment about this.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


My father, Datuk Jamil Sulong, was born 84 years ago today. Happy birthday Abah. We all love you.
Last night, at PWTC, Persatuan Seniman organised a Malam Legenda Perdana in honor of my father and also to launch his autobiography entitled Warisan and Wawasan.
The book is published by Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka and is also available on Dawama's website.
Firstly, I personally would like to thank SENIMAN, especially its President Harun Salim Bachik, for organising the event. I believe the members worked hard to ensure the evening's success. Iwould also like to thank FINAS for their contribution and support.
I would also like to thank Datuk Johan Jaafar, who officiated the launch, for his contribution in realising the publishing of the book. When the book was first compiled, Datuk Johan who was then the Chairman of DBP, ensured that the book was published. Now, eventhough he is no more DBP Chairman, and instead the Chairman for Media Prima, he still consented to officiate the launching of the book. Thank you Datuk.
I would also like to thank all the artistes that contributed to the successful presentation of the event - even by just attending the dinner meant a lot to Pak Jamil and his family.
However, such a wonderful night it would have been if not for some either misunderstanding or complete indifference.
The evening belonged to Pak Jamil. No one can argue that.
It was a night to celebrate his creative genius - as a filmmaker, writer and lyricist and to also to celebrate his friendship to many in that hall. A few would be brave enough to call him their peer, many would consider him their mentor. Some consider his their teacher and even as a father figure. Some would even go as far to say they owe their livelihood and their career in this industry to him.
No, no one can argue that that night belonged to Pak Jamil.
Now if only someone in the organisation had valued how much it would have been for Pak Jamil to have his family close to him, the night would have been perfect.
Instead, his sons' families were seated in a table on the last row of the hall. Six table rows back. Not in the middle, not by the side. Back right at the back. These it the table Pak Jamil's two daughter-in-laws and six of his grandchildren who attended were asked to sit.
Because the tables up front were sold and were meant for the sponsors?
If SENIMAN needed us to pay we would have. One - for the family to be close to Pak Jamil and see him enjoy the tributes being paid to him. Two - so that the family isn't made to feel as if they are second class citizens.
His grandchildren were there to be with him, but were completely shunted away to that last row.
My wife was particular annoyed, no more that that, she felt insulted that her family was treated in that manner. I too was annoyed by that and also by another personal slight, not by SENIMAN, but by another incident.In fact, the family actually wanted to walk out and leave the hall as their presence seem to be totally insignificant for the evening's proceedings.
Personally, I have one gripe.
I know my mother will hate me for saying this, but when Pak Jamil was taken to the stage for the launch of the book, only Pak Jamil, my mother and his children, along with the privileged dignitaries, should be on stage AND NO ONE ELSE! But someone else was!!! I wanted to walk off the stage at that moment, but I told myself I didn't want to ruin my father's day. If my day was ruined, it doesn't really matter, but it's not my day. But I just can't understand, why does that someone is so thick skinned that she thinks she is part of the family or worse, my father's child? I don't consider her my sibling. I don't think my brother considers her a sibling. And I don't think my real sister feels that that person is our sibling, too. She has never been and never will be.
What would have been a nice photo of me and my siblings with my parents, has now and forever more be a photo of lesser significance.
But what can I do, it was my mom that insisted that person come on to stage with her real children. To my mom, that person was family. Her daughter. My sister. NOT!!!
And furthermore, what I thought wasn't also right, was that in all the speeches and comments made during the evening by anyone, was that my name was mentioned, my elder brother's name Captian Arjunaidi was mentioned, my sister Murni's name was mentioned, that other person's name was mentioned many times, but my younger brother's name Asnadi, who is in New Jersey, did not deserve a single mention. I guess the scriptwriters for the event weren't told of the names of Pak Jamil's three sons.
It did not end there.
When my father was to going cut his birthday cake, his grandchildren weren't even allowed nor invited to be around him. In fact, I had to tell Ogy Ahmad Daud, who was the MC for the night, to announce over the PA system and call for the family members, especially Pak Jamil's grandchildren, to be around him for that special moment but I guess other people were more important. My son especially was so pissed that he just walked off in disgust.
Me? After I had done my official duties for the event, and kissed my father and wished him happy birthday, I decided to support my family's decision to leave the hall before a so-called family photo is organised.
But at the end of it all, what I think or feel really doesn't matter. What my wife thinks or what my children feel doesn't matter. It was Pak Jamil's night. No one else's.
I hope truly hope my father enjoyed the tribute and his birthday celebrations.
Eventhough it was without his family.
Maaan, I am in so much doodoo with this posting.