Friday, December 16, 2011


It was fun whilst it lasted. Writing has always been a passion. Something that makes me feel whole. If I write, I know I am alive...but only if what I write makes sense. Of recent, it hasn't. Not in its content, nor in spirit.
Maybe I need a break. Maybe I need to stop. Maybe I've lost it.
Whatever the reason is, anak wayang ends here.
In hindsight, I wished I had taken more time to post my thoughts.
I also wished I had the balls to also speak what was really on my mind. Even with muted words, I have irked a few. Well, I hope it's a few. If there were more, you have my apologies. So you can imagine what would have happened if I had disregarded decorum and just put some people in their rightful place.
Anyway, if there was anyone who thought that the reason for me starting this blog was to be well known, I have to say that they are way off base. Even when the anonymous comments, some of which I published and some of which I didn't, accused me of trying to hang on to my father's coattails, I really couldn't give these anonymous cowards a damn because those who know me, know that this is not nor have ever been the case.
I write because I love to write.
And I write what I see; I write what I know. Sometimes, it hurts others, but I cannot allow that to prevent me from doing what I have to do. Which was to set some things right, whenever or however I can albeit in measured terms.
I truly have to thank everyone who dropped by to read my blog and I do appreciate your kind words. Don't ever believe any writer who says that they are happy to write for an audience of one, and do not need compliments or in my case, criticism or condemnation.
As writers, we want to be read or heard. Our words mean nothing if it is never read. The world would not have changed if the words of Lao Tze, Socrates, Marx, Plato, Shakespeare, Gandhi and many others remained bound and hidden between covers, unread. This is of course not to say that my words are in the same league as these wise men, but if any of my writings and jottings did make my reader pause and think, and even elicit a small Ahaaa!! from them, I would be totally elated.
So, without much else, I bid all of you adieu, and selamat tinggal.
Elvis may have left the building, but for Anak wayang, he fades to black.
The End.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


I won't delve into the recent FFM fiasco lah. Eventhough many of my readers and fans want my take on it, I would not offer my in-depth analysis of something that creaks and rattles every year.
If I did I would be repeating myself. It's the same thing over and over again, and I have already said my peace on FB about the quality of the jurors. The results of the recent FFM reflect the quality of the said jurors.
What I would like to repeat is that I still despise the racial separation of films in the festival.
It is called Film Festival Malaysia not film festival berbahasa Melayu.
So, you really cannot fault any movies made in Malaysia, by Malaysians, for Malaysians, and then tell them their films cannot qualify for the main awards. WTF.
I mean lets be frank about Merong Mahawangsa, Having watched it, I am quite sure there was more English dialogue than BM dialogue. Heck, even the Chinese princess and her maid were speaking the Queen's English.
So how do you justify MM for winning so many awards including the biggie Best Film Award?
If Great Day or even Homecoming, both which had more Mandarin dialogue than BM, were in cinematic terms a better movie than MM, shouldn't they be declared Malaysia's best film?
Or does FINAS want the non-BM films to start their own festival and chuck out the Bahasa Malaysia movies?
And how would we feel if these non-BM films win big in overseas film festivals and yet the BM films like Majika or MM do not win at any prestigious film festival overseas?
Won't the foreign film press make fun of our cinema industry? And are we happy when they they accuse our film industry as racist? Do we need another black mark in the global arena?
Now, if it is at all possible, can the people who organise the festival tell me, if I decide to make a movie like The Artist (a Cannes award winning favourite and now an Academy Awards hotshot), what category would the film be categorised in?
For those in FINAS who don't know about The Artist, it is a movie shot without dialogue.
Now, if I were to make a movie like that - with no BM dialogue, there's no English dialogue, and there's no Chinese dialogue. A silent movie as such.
It is bona fide Malaysian movie. Let's make it more interesting. I fill the movie with a hundred percent non-Malay actors, funded by Chinese producer, with Chinese psyche and cultural references. Tell me oh organisers of FFM, where would this film stand in competition?
Confused? Scared? Create another category for silent film?
Rules of festivals can be changed lah. Mistakes can be made and always happen. Only the Quran cannot be changed.
So, come on folks, stay with the times. Cinema is moving fast and it is borderless. The only language that matters in making movies is the language of cinema. Full stop.
FOOTNOTE: Are FINAS and the persatuans doing anything about the influx of foreign workers in our cinema industry? These includes actors, stunt directors, producers and directors. Are their paperwork properly done and legal? Do they pay government taxes? Do they have active work permits? Do we still need them?

Friday, December 2, 2011


Last month (November) after the mid year euphoria of local movies chalking up excellent coins - KL Gangsters pulling in RM11 million, Hantu Bonceng raking in RM8.5 milion and Bini-biniku Gangster tallying RM4.7 million), the box office report for October and November aren’t flattering.

The biggest earner is the horror-comedy Alamak Toyol! which to date has taken in RM3.5 million.

Sadly, scraping the bottom of the barrel were Abuya (RM210,000) and Apa Tengok Tengok (RM190,000).

The surprise B.O. showing of November would be newly crowned MFF Best Film Director Shamsul Yusof’s Aku Bukan Tomboy which is finding it hard to repeat the RM11 million taking of KL Gangster. The gender-bending rom-com took in only RM1.5 million though most pundits expect it to break RM 2 million. This box office taking will hardly cover its reported RM1.5 million production cost.

Only two other movies (apart from Tomboy and Toyol) recouped more than RM1 million at the box office. They are horror fare Al Hijab (RM2.3 million) and Klip 3GP (RM1.2 million).

Even the CGI fest Libas, produced and directed by Jurey Latif (who won Pengarah Harapan award at the recent MFF for this film) which bowed in on Sept 29th and entered the October screening window only managed to scrape in RM1 million at the box office.

The average total in box office takings for the 8 movies screening from October to November is just shy of RM9 million. This averages RM1.15 per title. Not a good average for the Malay film industry.

Producers and directors of Ombak Rindu (Osman Ali) and Misteri Jalan Lama (Afdlin Shauki) will be nervously checking the box office tally, as these two films bowed in at the end of November and their fate will only be known by year's end.

From what I heard, tearjerker Ombak Rindu is expected to do excellent business and may even break the RM5 million which is unusual for a drama-tearjerker. Misteri Jalan Lama is said to have been a casualty.

Next up would be Datin Ghairah, Songlap, Satu Malam Kubur Berasap and Papa I Love You, which would fill up the 2011 Malaysian movie slate.

Let’s see if the year ends with a bang or a whimper.

(All numbers are taken from Finas’s website at

FOOTNOTE: You really can’t trust foreign newspapers these days or you wonder where they get their facts from. Read these headlines from theguardian UK – “Malaysia's first gay film is a controversial hit” and AFP –

Malaysia's first gay film a box office hit”:

The following is an excerpt from the AFP report – “Malaysia's first gay-themed movie has been a hit at the box office but an official from the conservative Islamic party Thursday called for it to be banned despite its anti-homosexual ending.

"Dalam Botol" ("Inside a Bottle") raked in one million ringgit ($330,000) in the first five days, making it a local hit, the Star daily reported, despite Malaysia's conservative views on homosexuality.”

If this is true then Finas’s box office report must be false. Which is which? In the Finas website where I get all my box office information, Dalam Botol only took in a little over RM500,000.00. Not the million ringgit taken in five days as stated in the AFP report.

This does not make Dalam Botol a hit at all, even in local B.O terms.

If the foreign press are faking their reports, they then have another agenda which is to say that maybe gay themed movies are accepted by local film viewers. Hmmmm...if this is true than it is a sad state of affairs for professional journalism.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


The likelihood for Malaysian movie industry to go fully digital is real, and it may be sooner than you think.

Today, and without much fanfare, the cinema owners have actually been installing digital projectors. According to unofficial sources, there are 82 digital screens in Malaysia today. And by mid of 2012, there will be a total of 300 digital screens.

What this means is that local film producers, including indie filmmakers, now have a viable digital market place. They can begin their film projects digitally, finish it digitally and exhibit it digitally.
Not a single foot of celluloid throughout the whole process.

Currently about 70 percent of the local film industry is shooting digital but end up spending hundreds of thousands of Ringgit in kinetransferring the whole digital master into celluloid for screening at local cinemas.

If you are a producer with bottomless pockets, you can print 80 copies at RM5000 a pop. This means RM400,000.00 in production costs.

If you are a producer who just have enough, you only make 30 prints adding RM150,000.00 to your production cost.

Now with 300 digital cinema screens across the country by mid or end of next year, digital films can have as big a market as they want to without converting to celluloid for exhibition.

Some TV stations are already anticipating this cinematic paradigm shift. From what I heard, they are currently on the look out for producers who are willing to producers titles for a cost of RM500,000.00 (less than half the current production budgets of digital to film).

With these kind of budgets, young indie producers might consider taking the mainstream leap into movie making, whilst the old school filmmakers would now re-educate themselves into producing digital films. They must now understand what shooting in DSLR cameras mean, or what is the difference between the REDcam, the Cinealtas, the ArriDs and the P2s.

What I fear is that greedy producers would just slightly upgrade their RM70,000.00 made-for-TV telefilms pocket hundreds of thousands in production budget money, and pass it off as a digital movie for digital cinemas.

If digital cinemas screen these z-grade digital movies that didn't even spend a sen for quality color grading and tweaking, the public would be disappointed in both the technical and content quality and soon enough, give digital films the thumbs down.

For example, there is a production company that I heard is offering producers RM400,000.00 to produce digital movies in these digital cinemas. And their business model is that they don't really care about box office performance at all. What they want is to quickly screen the movies at these digital cinemas and then be allowed to screen their titles on Astro First within three weeks.

This is because Astro First seems to be working fairly well for local producers. Even weak titles give a hefty profit to the producers' bottomline.

Whatever the reason is, the future of digital filmmaking is already at our doorsteps. It is up to the filmmakers, the producers, the directors, the writers, the actors, the cinematographers, the distributors and the cineplexowners to make sure that digital filmmaking become an acceptable medium of cinema.


Lovers of good classic literature would know where the famous quote above was lifted from. The exact line is: “He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision—he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath—"The horror! The horror!".

It is from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

However, for cineastes (who may not have read Conrad), the line, for them, was a famous quote from the Francis Ford Coppola movie Apocalypse Now. In the movie, which was based on Conrad’s novel, Brando’s Kurtz lay dying and in his dying breathe, mouths the words “The horror! The horror!”

Today, the quotation is given a new meaning in Malaysia, when our former Prime Minister recently gave us his two cents worth about the state of Malaysian cinema – “Oh the Horror! The Horror!”

Whilst Kurtz was implying something else all together, Tun Mahathir was talking about the rather high number of horror movies being produced by our local film producers.

Obviously, the local media and blogs picked up on Tun M’s concerns. Him being our former national CEO and all, his words were like a clarion call for many authorities to act upon this so-called and perceived danger to local society.

In fact, Immediately after his statement, the Lembaga Penapisan Filem or the Censorship Board, invited industry players for a special round table discussion about the issue. I attended the discussion.

They even invited a representative from JAKIM to present its position on and its perspective about prescribed and allowable content for Malaysian films.

Since it was basically a closed door meeting I won’t divulge what was spoken or discussed, but, for now, the industry censorship has decided that the approach remains at status quo, due to the reason that LPF has a very liberal and understandable DG who wants to see the local industry flourish, albeit with some self restraint.

It is due to the LPF’s supportive approach to the local industry that we get to see movies like Gangster, Dalam Botol and Nasi Lemak 2.0, and of course the ‘thousands’ of horror titles that are produced.

However, LPF is not the only body that has a say in what you get to see on TV and cinemas. There are other parties, and individuals who take it upon themselves to be reactive to things they hear, and when Tun M says something, they listen.

Which is why, our local free to air TV stations will jump and cut down on the commissioning of horror titles (tv series). The lallang-mentality of local media who cover the local film industry will however throw some gasoline into the fire and suddenly flay the local film industry for making horror movies and nothing else. Only suddenly they noticed lah.

The horror genre has always been an easy scapegoat for society’s ills. Horror films it seems will “menggugat keimanan orang-orang Islam hingga percaya kepada tahyul”. Surprisingly, only locally produced horror films can do that. The zombie-fest and vampire strewn movies from Hollywood, Korea, Indonesia and Thailand, doesn’t seem to have an effect on locals - Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

I have always maintained that horror films are mere popcorn entertainment for the masses. If horror movies are so effective, turning all its viewers, or even the majority of its viewers, into a blithering mass of scaredy cat Malaysians, we should have been a failed nation ever since Cathay Keris began producing the pontianak movies more than fifty years ago.

However, somehow, much to the amazement of learned scholars who advised the government over the years, we have survived the pontianaks, the orang minyaks, the hantu pocongs, the bomohs and the pawangs and the dukuns, and have gone on to participate in the growth of a strong and wonderful democratic nation that we call Malaysia.

My problem with Tun M’s statement is Why? Why does he want to even comment on the current state of Malaysian cinema? Is it wrong that local film producers produce mostly horror movies? Is it wrong for movie patrons to spend their hard earned money to go get spooked in out cineplexes?

Why when he was PM, didn't he support the growth of quality Malaysian movies? Give grants to make the Malaysian film industry better than its neighbours? Identify filmmakers to create quality content and internationally acclaimed movies? Increase the price of commissioned television programmes by RTM, so that producers don't have to depend on producing cheap horror movies to make ends meet?

You see, the film industry, like most other industries, is business first, art second. Good or bad, this is unfortunately the case in a free competitive industry .

I am personally an avid horror film fan, but that's not to say I don't appreciate quality dramatic movies. Nevertheless, I would defend any producer's right produce horror movies - no matter how bad they are. In time, the viewers will become jaded when the quality of local horror movies go South. Film fans are a notoriously fickle crowd. Today they like horror movies, tomorrow comedies, and the day after gangster movies. So why make a big fuss?

To Tun M, whom I respect as a statesman, stick to the more important issues of nation building and acting as the voice of reason in the season of madness in local and international politics and economics.

The proliferation of local horror movies, truth be told, doesn’t affect local mentality nor psyche. Even if it does, it is really no big deal.

The phenomenon is nothing compared to the explosion of kopitiams and kedai mamaks in the country that charge obscene prices for Kopi O, Nescafe Ais, roti canai, roti bakar and nasi kandar. These establishments swipe hundreds of Ringgits per person per month out of their salaries. It is also nothing compared to the inexplicable growth of tomyam warungs all over the country as if it is now the national dish.

So Tun, trust me, horror movies do not corrupt nor pervert the minds of the Malays and other Malaysians. You know what does.

Friday, October 7, 2011

24th Malaysian Film Festival November 2011 - A Preview

The coming Festival Filem Malaysia 24 in mid November has attracted 41 entries which is according to Finas a record of sorts. It is the highest number of movies competing in the history of the festival.

However, the big hike in entries doesn’t mean an increase of good quality movies.

The list of movies entering for the BM section are:

1. Mantra

2. Senario asam garam

3. 4 Madu

4. Cuti Cuti Cinta

5. Ngangkung

6. Aku Tak Bodoh

7. Hantu Kak Limah Balik Ke Rumah

8. Aku Masih Dara

9. Janin

10. Khurafat

11. Damping Malam

12. Sini Ada Hantu

13. Kembar Siang

14. Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa

15. Ratu the Movie

16. ...dalam botol

17. Cun!

18. Di Larang Masuk

19. Senjakala

20. Pemburu Istana

21. Seru

22. Momok Jangan Panggil Aku

23. Kongsi

24. Nur Kasih The Movie

25. Karak

26. KL Gangster

27. 3 2 1 Cinta

28. Rasuk

29. Sekali Lagi

30. Tolong Awekku Pontianak

31. Flat 3a

32. Senario Ops Opocot

33. Karipap karipap Cinta

34. Hantu Bonceng

35. Bini Bini Ku Gangster

36. Libas

37. Al Hijab

38. Sumpahan Puaka

39. Raya Tak Jadi

40. Jangan Pandang Congkak 2

41. Klip 3GP

The list of non-BM language films are:

· Lolio Popo

· Great Day

· Nasi Lemak 2.0

· Garuda

· Appalam

· Homecoming

The breakdown of genres are as follows :

  • · DRAMA – 5 TITLES
  • · COMEDY - 13 TITLES

The most prolific director is of course non other than Ahmad Idham who has 6 titles in the running. He is followed by three other directors who have three movies each in the competition. They are Razak Maidin, Azhari Zain and Bob Hashim. Three other directors come next with two titles each – Syamsul Yusof, Yusry KRU and Pierre Andre.

As for producers, it is obvious that Metrowealth has the most entries.

The surprising entry in the BM language section is Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa. Most would agree that the BM usage in this movie does not allow this movie in this section.

A surprise omission from the competition is Dain Said’s Bunohan, a movie that has received good reviews in various international film festivals. Another movie not in the list is the much hyped Dua Alam.

From observing industry and local media talk, the front runners are Merong Mahawangsa, KL Gangster, Nur Kasih, ...dalam botol, Khurafat and Hantu Kak Limah Balik Ke Rumah.

Rank outsiders would be Ngangkung, Karak, Cun! and Mantra.

If language is not a consideration, Homecoming and Great Day should be in the forefront. Appalam which is a remake of Afdlin’s Pappadom, could be in the running too if well done.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Naguib Razak is the new Director-General Finas. When I called him a week back he confirmed the rumors. He started work yesterday (1st September 2011). Congratulations Naguib. You got your work cut out for you.
The New DG Naguib Razak (left) with former FINAS DG Dato' Mayhiddin Mustakim.
A documentary filmmaker (with awards to boot), Naguib is nevertheless a surprise choice to head the local film development authority. He takes over from Dato Mahyiddin Mustakim who left Finas in June after nearly four years at the helm.

Naguib is an unknown quantity as an administrator and as manager, though most of his documentaries are of international standard. Running a small documentary project is totally different from running firstly the 'political' government agency called FINAS, and secondly taking care of myriad problems, requests and needs of the local film industry.

I see Naguib as someone in the mold of the first Director-General of FINAS, the late Ismail Zain (picture below), an artist turned DG.
Why? Naguib's appointment might be a return to the core of FINAS's function which is to develop quality Malaysian cinema - not to fund it or support it. The development of Malaysian cinema (this includes both Malay movies and Chinese-language Malaysian movies plus local Tamil-language movies) has been fairly ignored. Development is not infrastructure. Building multi-million ringgit buildings that hardly anyone uses is not the key to creating quality cinema. It is building a new generation or even rejuvenate current generation of filmmakers into inspired auteurs. I believe Naguib will listen to those who want to offer something different to the screens - more creative, more cutting edge and hopefully more thought-provoking stuff without losing sight of its Malaysian origins - culturally, socially and psychologically.

I believe, because of Naguib's background, the documentary filmmaking industry in Malaysia is in good hands. However, the feature filmmaking industry which is basically made up of three segments - the commercial filmmakers (i.e. MIG, Grand Brilliance, Tayangan Unggul), the indie filmmakers (Ho Yuhang Woo Ming Jin Amir Muhammd et al) and the serious filmmakers ( Uwei and Dain Said etc) are a different kettle of fish altogether. And it may take awhile for Naguib to figure out how to approach, tackle and lead this segment of the industry.

Whilst the commercial filmmakers are doing reasonably well, what with their movies making RM9million at the box office per pop, FINAS should not let them dictate the future of Malaysian cinema. The world is really waiting for quality Malaysian cinema which to date has actually been shouldered by the indie filmmakers with their no-budget digital movies.

FINAS should really look into giving grants or funding quality cinema. If a mat rempit or Malay gangster script lands on their lap asking for loan, think twice about funding it and look instead at the other script which wants to give insight to the local Malay woman's psyche or something like that. However, if the horror movie script and mat rempit script is truly interesting and original sure why not, but as a body that sets the strategy to improve Malaysian cinema and get it noticed internationally, FINAS needs to get its act together soonest possible.

Whatever it is, I hope Naguib asserts himself in FINAS and in the industry soonest possible. We need to know his direction and his strategies soonest possible. We need to know if he is a no-nonsense man or someone who sways like a lallang. We really need to know if he can stamp his mark as someone who is really serious in supporting and developing the local film industry.

I wish Naguib the best of luck. He is young and energetic and I truly hope to see him push the boundaries of being a FINAS DG. It is a hot seat, but in life a hot seat is better than a cold one. The industry and its citizens will support him in his role as the DG, but if they see the DG as someone who is not going to bring changes but instead support the status quo, the support will wane.

Oh yes, one request Naguib, can you please investigate all the persatuans in the industry? Check if they have their books in order, if they carry out the duties responsibly and if they are actually representing the workers in the industry. It would be great if you did and then get ROS to come in and clean up these persatuans once and for all.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


There is a saying in Malay that translated into English sounds like this: a frog under a coconut shell. (Katak bawah tempurung). It sorts of sums up the mentality of our film industry or for those who wants to be picky and doesn't like me generalising stuff – sums up the majority of our film industry.

We seem to be satisfied with what we have and praise ourselves, pat ourselves on the back and compare each others' work and am totally satisfied with it. Some of the filmmakers I know just want to make movies for the following reasons – cari makan, maybe win some popularity award locally and to be part of a glamor industry.

Very rarely do you hear that they are in it to hone their craft as filmmakers, that they were inspired by movies by Bergman, Satyajit Ray, King Hu, Scorsese, Teguh Karya, John Ford or Kurosawa (for my generation) or by Spielberg, Lucas, Luc Besson, Beat Takeshi, Guy Van Sant or Guy Ritchie (for the younger generation). Or that they are in it to be able to screen their works at Sundance, Venice, Cannes, Berlin or Torino. They are happy to get screened in Rotterdam or Jeju or some small unheard of festivals around the region.

Making it in the film world sometimes isn’t by choice but sometimes by chance. For some, the need to make quality movies seen by a world audience made them leave our shores as they cannot find investors and funders who share their vision of creating a better Malaysian cinema. Of course, the stifling censorship rules here is not something world-class filmmakers can work with too.

Investors are aplenty if you bring scripts that pander to the basest common denominator of our local film going culture – horror and comedy. Drama? Tough. Epics? Expensive and doesn’t draw crowds. Action? Well, this should be the latest trend after the blockbuster performance of KL Gangster – really. Just check out the movie coming soon entitled Bini Bini ku Gangster.

I do not want to knock these genres because great movies do exist in these genres – Exorcist (US), Halloween (US original), The Exile (Hongkong), The Election (Hongkong), Hangover (USA), Godfather (USA), My Wife’s A Gangster (Korea), Shaolin Soccer (Hongkong), 4bia (Thailand) and Ring (Japan) many others.

But somehow, there is a lack of movies that could travel overseas, get quality distribution and also winning important awards at known festivals. Would the world market want to see Merong Mahawangsa when they have Bangrajan and Langsuka? Would they want to screen KL Gangster when they have Merantau, Ong Bak and Beat Takeshi movies?

What do we need to break this barrier? I believe to start off, we need to meet with Malaysians who have made it overseas. Either with those who made movies that make money or won awards. And there are a few.

At the top of the list would be Michelle Yeoh.

A Hollywood and Hongkong film action icon, Datuk Michelle Yeoh is one person who could single-handedly help give Malaysian filmmakers exposure to the world.
Datuk Michelle Yeoh, former Bond girl and cast as Suu Kyi in her latest movie

She knows people, she knows how the business works internationally and she is talented. Her latest movie about Myanmar heroine Suu Kyi may actually garner her an Academy award nomination.

Second on the list is James Wan, a Kuching-born Australian filmmaker whose claim to fame is creating and directing the first Saw movie. He also supervises the Saw franchise which is in its seventh outing (Saw 3D). His latest directorial effort is Insidious.

Saw franchise creator and director is from Kuching
He is the only Malaysian-born filmmaker to have produced 8 Hollywood feature length movies to date of which he directed five. He is what Hollywood refer to as flavor of the month filmmaker due to the overwhelming success of his Saw franchise.

Third in line would be critically acclaimed Tsai Ming Liang who is now Taiwan’s top filmmaker. Like Wan, Tsai was born in Kuching but instead of US-bound, he went to Taiwan to make movies.

Tsai Ming Liang is one of the most original directors of his era
As a Malaysian-born filmmaker, he has most impressive awards list having won at the prestigious Venice (Vive L’amore), Berlin (The River) and Cannes (The Hole). No other Malaysian or Malaysian-born filmmaker can boast such an impressive CV.
Fourth in the list is a relative unknown but a powerful socialite in the US. She is Florence Low Sloan, who has just produced her critically acclaimed movie Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, directed by Wayne Wang.

Florence Low-Sloan with hubby and Meryl Streep
Malaysian-born Florence is married to the former CEO of MGM, Harry Sloan. The daughter of local developer magnate Tan Sri Low Keng Huat, Florence formed a company called Big Feet Productions which produced Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Considered as one of the most powerful Asian ladies in the US, her partner in the movie company is another powerful Asian woman, Wendy Deng Murdoch, the third and current wife of media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Fifth would be Encik Shahril Ibrahim, a friend of mine who left for the US and stayed on to become one of the top CGI software engineers in the American film industry.

Shahril (Right) chilling out with friends back home in KL.

He began his film career as the software development head in Bossfilms supervising CGI work on Species, Multiplicity, Outbreak, Turbulence and Desperate Measures. He is now attached to Californian award winning effects house Ryhtm & Hues as Senior Advisor.

These are amongst the few Malaysians who have the pulse of the international film industry in their hands. These are the people that the Malaysian film industry should know and meet up and network with. These are the people that FINAS or the Malaysian government should woo to set up companies and exploit their experience overseas as filmmakers.

Forget about baby-gloving Shahrukh Khan with titles and location sponsorships. Get these people who are Malaysian-born and get them to introduce filmmakers, young and old (me, me and me), to producers, investors and distributors who would be able to identify talent and nurture them and open doors of opportunities in the international filmmaking scene.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Below are a short list of movie's that I've watched and enjoy - either as popcorn kinda entertainment or for its aesthetics.

US of A
Tough year...haven't seen anything I really liked. However, be it known that I have not seen the final Harry Potter movie or Captain America. Not that I think these two would change my mind that nothing interesting have come out of Hollywood this year. Am waiting to get my hands on Woody Allen's latest movie Midnight in Paris. However, I did enjoy watching I am Number Four, Fast Five, Hanna and Source Code. Big disappoints? Green Hornet, Pirates of the Caribbean, Transformers.

Loved Attack The Block. Unpretentious fun. Ten times better than Hollywood's Super 8. The King's Speech is another must see. Can't wait for the second edition of Sherlock Holmes later this year.

Wayne Wang's Snow Flower and The Secret Fan was mesmerising. Though the story was a little convoluted, I just allowed myself to be taken by the flawless cinematography which was like watching the famous Chinese painter Chan Yifei's works come to vivid life.

Nowhere Man and I Saw The Devil stands out from the rest.

I enjoyed a Takashi Miike's 13 Assassin - a remake of the famous 13 Ronin samurai movie.

I loved Peepli Live. Though its a 2010 movie, I only got to watch it this year.

I only enjoyed a couple of movies that were produced locally. However I can only say that I truly enjoyed only one movie Homecoming. Eventhough its a co-pro between Malaysians and Singaporeans, I have to say that it was an excellent movie to watch. No Bahasa Malaysia-language Malaysian movies made my list.

Sang Pencerah, Bebek Belur, 3 Hati and A Mirror Never Lies. Excellent cinema. Good movies.

I loved Hello Stranger! and Suck Seed.


Being a filmmaker isn't much fun. Especially when it's so difficult to get your ideas, your thoughts, your dreams onto the screen.
Malaysian movies (not cinema) are going great guns. Formulaic, noisy, brash movies are minting loads of money, making the new generation of filmmakers smile proud and their producers swooning in amazement.
With KL Gangster breaking all box office records for a Malay movie, producers today would not be happy if their movies now break the RM6 million mark. If KL Gangster can recoup more than RM12 million at the box office, why can't other filmmakers do the same.
So expect a slow of slick action movies ala KL Gangster to hit the screens forthwith. No story, no character development, just fast paced mindless action.
At least, this genre is a welcomed break from the numbing horror movies that filled the local cinema slate last year. Of course, we have that crappy epic called Merong Mahawangsa which will most probably sweep most of the awards at the coming Malaysian Film Festival.
That would be a travesty as the movie could not even meet the festival's language ruling.
Meanwhile, we await the latest offerings from Adflin Shauki who has just completed his Papadom 2 and Mamat Khalid who surprisingly is doing a sequel to his unappreciated Rock. The sequel which recently wrapped principal shooting in Taiping and Ipoh is simply called Rock 2. Having made one of the biggest box office hits of his career last year with his Hantu Mak Limah Pulang Ke Rumah, I guess he is entitled to chase his dreams.
Other filmmakers like the prolific Ahmad Idham and Prof Madya Razak Maidin seemed to have reached their plateaus. Most of Ahmad Idham's movies are forgettable mush whilst Razak who has now taken over UITM's Faculty of Arts and Creative Technology (FACT) as its Dean, will be taking a sabbatical from filmmaking whilst creating little Razak-clones for the Malaysian film industry.
Whilst all these are happening, nothing much is happening in FINAS as the industry is kept wondering who would fill the vacant post of Director-General. The former DG, the now Dato' Mahyuddin Mustakim, left at the end of June. Since then the two Deputy KPs have been holding fort for FINAS. Previously, there was so much hype about who is going to replace Mahyuddin but surprisingly this time round, the Malay press have been keeping mum about the choices available for the hot seat.
Personally, I hope the government would choose internally. I believe having a professional administrator is much better having someone with experience or connections to the film industry (for the time being). FINAS needs to be stabilised after Mahyuddin's stint, not that he left FINAS in a mess, but it really needs someone who will not be conflicted and distracted by stuff that is not beneficial to FINAs and the film industry itself.
Having a civil servant, who is efficient and who is supported by a punch of Director (Pengarahs) who are already in the groove, would be ideal. FINAS then could look into the possibility of actually reshuffling their Board, again dropping all those with connections to the local film industry (to avoid claims of conflicts of interest) and appoint professionals from NGOs, banks, staturoy bodies and other agencies including academicians.
Meanwhile, if FINAS still needs the advice and intelligent musings of practitioners like Mustafa Maarof and David Teoh, they can always create a Film Industry Advisory Panel.
I doubt all this will happen, but one can always hope.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thai Epics - We Can Only Dream To Match Them.

Thai filmmakers are getting more and more ambitious with their movies. Ever since Tanit Jitnukul's massive hit Bang Rajan was released in 2000, Thai filmmakers, who can pool millions of dollars for their quest of producing epic movies, have tried to better it.

One such filmmaker is Prince Chatrichalerm Yukol whose Suryothai in 2001 sort of set new standards for the Kingdom's epic movies.

Such was Suryothai's impact in global cinema, that Francis Ford Coppola agreed to lend his name as Executive Producer in the re-cut international release.
Award winning filmmaker, Nonzee Nimbutr, whose horror flick Nang Nak, became a massive hit domestically and internationally, also tried his hand at directing an epic - the 2008 movie Queens of Langkasuka. Nonzee's movie, even with its faults, to me was the best Malay epic ever produced in Thai language. Those who watched it know what I mean.

However, it is Prince Yukol that sealed his status as the Kingdom's best epic filmmaker. He stamped his class with his Naresuan Trilogy.

The first part was released in 2007. Part two, released as Kingdom of War overseas was released a year later. However, the final part (Naresuan 3) was only released earlier this year.
Budget-wise, the trilogy is the most expensive produced films in Thailand's history.
And if you had seen any of the three, you can see why.
I haven't seen Part 3 yet, but Part 2 was a truly amazing epic.
Eventhough the story is a little convoluted due to the many palace intrigues and the politics of ancient Siam, the pay off at the end is worth the wait.
The final battle scenes which lasted easily an hour in duration is also breathtaking.
Watching Naresuan makes me believe that unless we really have similar kind of funds, we shouldn't even try to make epics.
Naresuan makes both Puteri Gunung Ledang and Merong Mahawangsa look so pitiful. Not only in technical terms, but also in the storytelling department.
Just look at the trailer of Naresuan 2 and you'll know what I mean.

Catch the movie, be patient in trying to remember the names of the princes and lords, the numerous kingdoms at war, the beautiful heroines and the numerous colorful tribes involved in this bit of Ayuthiya history, and enjoy the movie as it sends you on a rollercoaster ride in the last act.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Do Malays really care about their heritage and past?

This post is not about movies. Like I said, sometime I would write about something else that I think is important to me, and hopefully important to others too.
The title of this post as one can read is "Do Malays really care about their heritage and their past?"
Why of a sudden?
Well, I believe not many knew of plans for a Museum of Malay Civilisation. It was to trace the origins, traditions, beliefs, history and diaspora of the Malays and was to be located in Putrajaya.
I thought that this museum should have been constructed and set up a long time ago because I believe not many Malays actually understand their heritage and better still not many non-Malays appreciate the Malay race - its history, its culture and traditions and its origins.
Unfortunately, this project and proposal didn't see the light of day.
If I am not mistaken, the museum that was supposed to house the Malay civilisation permanent exhibit has now become the Museum of Natural History in Putrajaya.
I am not sure why the museum was scrapped. Maybe someone in the government believes that such a museum is not politically correct. If this is so, it is sad.
This talk for the above museum was maybe five-six years ago. Now it is a forgotten chapter in our history. Not even a chapter, hardly a footnote even.
Then sometime back, about two years ago, there was talk of turning the old Istana Negara into a Museum Di Raja Malaysia. This historic building, previously owned by a famous Chinese millionaire Chan Wing.

Wikipedia states:

The palace was originally a double-storey mansion built in 1928 by a l

ocal Chinese millionaire,Chan Wing. During the Japanese occupation from 1942–1945, it was used as the Japanese officers’ mess. After the surrender of the Japanese, the building was bought by the Selangor State Government. It was then renovated to become the palace of His Majesty the Sultan of Selangor until 1957.

The Federal Government then bought the palace in 1957, to be converted into the Istana Negara for the newly created sovereign post

of Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaya which was about to achieve independence that August as scheduled. Since then it has undergone several renovations and extensions. But the most extensive upgrading was carried out in 1980, as it was the first time that the Installation Ceremony of His Majesty DYMM Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong was held at the Istana Negara. Prior to this the Installation Ceremonies were held at the Tunku Abdul Rahman Hall in Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur with the first one held in 1957.

In about a year's time, the new billion over-Ringgit National Palace will be completed and it will be the new official residence of our Yang Di Pertuan Agong.

So the old Istana Negara will be vacant.

I thought then the idea to turn the old Istana Negara into a Royal Museum was long overdue.

Malaysia's constitutional monarchy is unique if not the only one of its kind in the world. The Malaysian Agong-ship is as old as the nation, created in 1957 when the country achieved its Independence.

But whilst the Agong's position is only 54 years old, the Malay Sultanate is much older. Quite old, in fact, and its history should not only be recorded, but should be exhibited and made known to all Malaysians and other interested parties in a single museum.

The content in such a Royal museum would be educational, interesting and entertaining.

Simple facts like the Melaka Sultanate is not the first nor the old

est Malay sultanate in the Malay Peninsula should be made available to the public, at least to correct misconceptions.

Little forgotten facts like the late Sultan Abdullah of Perak, who was exiled to Seychelles when wrongly found guilty by a kangaroo court of being involved in the assassination of Perak Resident J.W.W. Birch.

The British exonerated the Sultan and allowed him to return to Malaya albeit without allowing him to claim to his rightful throne. However he managed to retain the title of ex-Sultan of Perak upon his return to his homeland.

Whatever it is, the Malays hold the Malay Sultans or Rajahs in high esteem. They have daulat. The Malays lay all their hopes in terms of upholding religion (Islam), budaya (culture) and ras (race) on this system of monarchy.

It would not be far fetched to say that without the Malay monarchy or the Malay Sultans, the Malay race would be nothing.

So, archiving everything about the history of the Malay monarchy is akin to archiving the history of the Malays.

And since the museum of Malay civilisation was stillborn, I was really hoping that the plans to turn the Istana Negara into the National Royal Museum would materialise.

Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed.

I hear commercialisation again wins the day.

Reliable sources recently said that the proposal to turn the old Istana Negara into the Royal Museum has been officially scrapped and now, it seems, someone has won a negotiated bid to turn the 83-year old property into a 6-star luxury hotel.

Another one bites the dust.

What is again frustrating is that if my sources can be relied on, the proposal for the Royal Museum has been approved by various levels of government including the Economic Planning Unit. Yet, it was rejected without rhyme nor reason.

A building listed under the National Heritage list somehow manages to slip through leaks and into the hands of hoteliers who want to commercialise the area into something I believe will not be appreciated by most Malaysians.

Remember the old Majestic Hotel? Destroyed. Remember Bukit Bintang Girl School? It's now the Pavilion.Remember St Mary's Girl School? Flattened. Remember Pavilion Cinema? A carpark. Remember the old Museum of Kuala Lumpur in Dataran Merdeka? Now it's a restaurant.

What next? The Parliament building? The St John's Institution? Victoria Institution?

That's just in Kuala Lumpur. What about the hundreds of other historical buildings in danger of being torn down to make way for modern buildings.

If Istana Negara can be turned into a 6-star hotel, what can we say about other buildings with lesser historical impact?

I think the powers that be should really take pause, and realise that sometimes, the conservation of heritage is more important than dollars and cents. Their decisions can embarrass and even insult the people they promised to serve.