So last weekend, when I was in Yogya, playing golf with a bum leg, the country made its selection for the best of our local film industry. The decision was that Majika was the Best Film and that Shamsul Yusof is our country's best director for his subtle and elegant work on Evolusi Drift 2.
I won't delve into the results nor the decisions - but if that is what the jury think we should tell the world - that these are our best, I feel truly sad and at a loss for words.
Personally, the best movie that played on our screens last year - the best Malaysia movie on all scores - be it direction, music, cinematography, screenplay, acting lay in one movie. That movie? Ah Niu's Ice Kacang Puppy Love.
That Ah Niu was even not considered for Best Young Director was a travesty in itself.
So what if the movie is in Chinese? It's a Malaysian movie - albeit a Chinese Language Malaysian movie.
If I am not mistaken, the last time I checked, FFM stood for Film Festival Malaysia - not Festival Filem Melayu.
Come on guys, give credit where credit is due. Ice Kacang Puppy Love is Malaysia's Best Film of 2009-2010.
But screw it lah. It looks as if we are scraping the bottom of the barrel.
If you need to test the standard of a local film, send Majika, Evolusi Drift 2 and Ice Kacang Puppy Love to a known film festival - see which film the festival organisers choose as an entry from Malaysia. Try it. See which film they accept.
Feeling sad about the state of the country's film industry, I decided to go on an Indonesian film watching binge...yeah yeah...I know..they burnt our flags...they stomped pictures of our leaders...but whatheheck, they make good movies.
So, it's been awhile since I watched their best and I decided to take some time and view them.
Over the weekend, during my trip to Yogya, I managed to pick up a few DVDs including Deddy Mizwar's critically acclaimed Alangkah Lucunya (negeri ini), Joko Anwar's much talked about Pintu Terlarang, Riri Riza's Sang Pemimpi which is the sequel to his megahit Laskar Pelangi, Ratna Sarumpaet's Jamila dan Sang Presiden and Aidtya Gumay's Emak Ingin Naik Haji and Ayu Utami's Ruma Maida.
All these films, without a shadow of doubt, are miles ahead of any of our movies in FFM 23. Including Ice Kacang. Sorry Ah Niu.
These are quality cinema. With real subjects and real soul. With real intent.
I've always loved Deddy Mizwar's sense of humour through his previous films including Nagabonor 1 and 2 and Kiamat Sudah Tiba. In his latest directorial effort, Alangkah Lucunya (negeri ini), he has decided not to put on his comic-genius hat. He instead brings to the screen a Dickensian tale of an unemployed graduate trying to help a bunch of young street pickpockets to earn a 'halal' living much to the chagrin of his pious father.
Jamila dan Sang Presiden, is a surprising production from Raam Punjabi's MVP Pictures, the company more famous for producing thrashy horror flicks like the Kuntilanak series. Starring the beautiful Atiqah Hasiholan as a prostitute sentence to death for killing a VVIP client, the movie keeps a tight rein on prosidings keeping up the suspense and drama til the final fade out. The ever amazing Christine Hakim plays a support role in this movie as a female prison warden.
Riri Riza's sequel to Laskar Pelangi, Indonesian record breaking movie, isn't as good as the first instalment of the so-called Laskar Pelangi tetralogy. Nevertheless, we follow the main characters again as they go through adulthood with the main character of Ikal still chasing his dreams of being a writer.
One of my favourite Indonesian film directors, Joko Anwar, again keeps up his momentum as one of the most original of Asian auteurs, with his numbing Pintu Terlarang. Maintaining his filmnoir canvas signature to paint his psychological thriller, the movie is unlike any Indonesian film you have ever seen over the past few years.
Acclaimed writer Ayu Utami's screenplay entitled Ruma Maida, and directed by Teddy Soeriaatmadja, created a film that lays waste to corporate leaders who are eager to destroy the country's checkered past and history in their chase for the almighty bigbucks. A complex story that defines the need for the new generation to embrace education and history.
The above are just one liners of the movies. For the love of me, I can't bring myself to create one liners for our local movies that means anything.
Our films lack depth, history and soul. Our films lack cinema. Our films lack maturity.
Unfortunately, our films make money. So any criticism about the quality of these films fall on deaf ears, as the gauge of a film's quality in our country depends not on the film itself but on the box office numbers. That is the measure of a film's quality. Nothing else matters.