Monday, February 28, 2011


So The King’s Speech took home the grand prize at this year’s Oscars. What is it about? About a King’s struggle to give a speech free from his stuttering problem. Of course, the story is not that straight forward but from a small royal affliction, Tom Hooper, created a beautiful tapestry of characters, conflicts and human resolve.

Of all the films that were nominated (ten of them), I personally thought that 127 hours was its main competition. The Danny Boyle movie, based on a true story, struck a chord with me about a man facing great odds who sacrificed his hand to gain freedom and reclaim his life.

I wasn’t much of a fan of Nolan's Inception nor Finch's The Social Network.

Let’s compare to what we have been throwing accolades to last year. Best movie? Magika? Best director? Shamsul Khalid for KL Drift 2?

Is Magika something that we would be proud of in world cinema where critics prefer movies like Sin Nombre from Mexico, Departures from Japan, Ajami the jont venture pic from Israel and Palestine, Old Boy from Korea, Uncle Boonmee from Thailand and Laskar Pelangi from Indonesia.

Don’t we have good stories to tell the world?

Sure, FINAS is helping us tell something to the world through their international documentary funding projects but what about world cinema? What do we have?

Nothing much actually.

How about the people from the indie scene? Well, maybe we could consider former indie turned main stream filmmaker James Lee’s Sini Ada Hantu? A horror comedy for world cinema? Why not also throw in Nangkung and Mak Limah Balik Ke Rumah too?

Maybe in the near future, the foreseeable future we could show or be proud of Uwei’s latest opus Hanyut or Yusri’s epic Merong Mahawangsa. But on the other hand, we are just guessing since the two movies have not seen the light of day yet.

Would Yusry’s epic be as grand and as cinematic as Thailand’s Suryothai which even cuaght the eye of Francis Ford Coppola, or is it going to disappear from the global cinema radar like Indonesia’s Fatahillah?

Uwei’s Hanyut, inspired by Joseph Conrad’s novella, is also something that we look forward to especially when he has not directed anything of note for the past ten years.

Meanwhile, the indie movement led by auteurs like Ho YuHang, are making their own mark worldwide with their Chinese-Malaysian movies. Recent interesting movies include Chiu Keng Guan’s Great Day or Ahnui’s Ice Kacang Puppy Love.

Without sounding like a bigot, these Malaysian pieces of cinema does not actually show Malaysia but are quite Chinese in spirit and landscape. Nevertheless, I don’t mind because good cinema is cinema, and good cinema is not race-based. If a Tamil language Malaysian movie wins an Oscar for Best Foreign Language movie so be it.

Furthermore, the Malaysian Malay-language cinema will not be jolted from their state of narcolepsy. They are comfortable with their mind-numbing comedies, mat rempit movies and horror shlock. It mints money, so what do they care.

It really doesn’t matter that the movies they make doesn’t promote positive Malay values or culture. Nor does it matter to them if the movie does not tweak even a 14 year old's intellect. It makes money. That’s the yardstick for success and good movie making in Malaysia. Makes money - mut be good. Didn't make money - it has to be crap.

No matter how good your movie is, even if it wins awards at world cinema festivals, when it doesn’t make a dent at the local box office, you are deemed a failure. Simple as that.

So if you wanna wait and hope that local filmmakers can come out with movies like Sin Nombre or 127 hours or Black Swan or Biutiful or Departures, don’t hold your breathe.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Some years back (2003) I did a direct-to-video production entitled Histeria (not to be confused with the 2008 James Lee movie of the same name). It starred the late Hani Mohsin. The movie was based on a few local and urban legends. It was also remade as a stage presentation called Hantu Hantu Yang Saya Kenali. It was remade (with permission) into a VCD production again entitled Momok by M. Jamil and then the format is repeated (without permission) in his movie Momok.
James Lee's latest movie Sini Ada Hantu produced by Double Vision and Tayangan Unggul also rehashed two of my old stories - Hantu Pokok Pisang and Kereta Mayat (which was a short story in one of my earliest horror anthologies called Teater Seram). I reworked Hantu Pokok Pisang again into one of my episodes in Bilik No. 13.
It's always nice to see how others do it.


My father's last movie for Malay Film Productions was Raja Bersiong based on our first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman's original story. It was also the first widescreen color movie to have come out of Jalan Ampas, but not the first color movie - Ribut and Hang Tuah having been released in color a few years before.
Unfortunately it was also claimed to have been the movie the broke Jalan Ampas's back - having been the studio's most expensive movie to date and it wasn't a box office hit.
I have watched the movie many times but of recent the copy has been missing. No DVD copies around. So it was heartening to find out that someone had actually posted the movie on Youtube.
Do view it. Most people are put off with the dialogue which was unique - it was presented in pantun form, one of the few Malay movies to do so. Another movie directed by my father done in this manner was Bidasari.

Here it is: Jamil Sulong's Raja Bersiong based on Tunku's story and produced by MFP in 1967.

Hope you enjoyed this movie. One of my dreams is to actually take this legend onto stage and present it at Istana Budaya. It has all the elements - conflict, tragedy, horror, history, music and an epic feel.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


(I wrote about the persatuans about two years ago)

During out shoot recently, the authorities came for a visit. To check on my crew and staff and artistes. They actually checked our membership status to the four main persatuans that Finas endorses – SENIMAN, Profima, FDAM and Karyawan. Of course there are others, but these are those that are usually on set. SENIMAN is basically for actors, as is Karyawan but anyone can actually be a member. Profima was previously Persatuan Pekerja Pekerja Filem Malaysia (PPFM) but because their acronym clashes with Persatuan Penerbit Filem Malaysia (PFM), they decided to change it to Professional Film Workers of Malaysia or something like that.

Anyway, to produce anything in this country, you must be a member of one of these associations (persatuans). Legally I’m not sure how secure this is. I was once a Union member as a journalist and I know how that works but in the chaotic world of filmmaking, could Finas actually enforce such a ruling if it is legal.

I’ve actually asked a lawyer friend and he said that at most the requirements are just advisory but not mandatory. Why? Because one can question the standards of each persatuan and what they offer to the industry. There is no pre-qualification like the architects or engineers.

The persatuans within the film industry are merely a social association working with the framework of the Rules and Regulations as set our in the Registrar of Societies.

If persatuans are that powerful, every industry would have to bow to the thousands of associations out there. Kesatuans are different as are associations of professionals i.e. architects, engineers, contractors, builders and such. There are various bodies and authorities and agencies that monitor the standards of their work.

Anyway, back to my location shoot. Half of my crew were not Profima members. And at that moment, we were shooting a scene that was supposed to be Australia in winter. And to make that scene authentic, we need kweilohs. So we got a casting agency to get some kweilohs for extras.

Hahhaha...we forgot to mention to our agent that we need kweilohs who are members of Seniman! can we forget that!! We also needed special permission to use foreigners in that scene. Fuhhh lagi problem. Luckily for us we just got a memo and a warning – for using kweilohs who are not Malaysians and non-Seniman members, for hiring crew members that were not members of Profima.


WTF do I need to hire someone from an association that these people don’t believe in? I know so many who pay subscription fees just to work in the industry and they really don’t care what the association does or doesn’t do. It’s like a toll to work. Sounds familiar tak? You want to work in the industry? Sure, pay your membership fee. Annually. Then you can work to your hearts content.

What kind of mentality or industry that accept this kind of situation?

Are we going to be bullied into doing this? What do we (the producers) get out of hiring bonafide members? Are members truly qualified to work as a gaffer? A bestboy? A clapper loader? A key grip? A production manager or assistant director? Is there a guarantee of their performance and quality of work? None right? They are just Malaysians who decide one day to “Hey I think I can earn some decent money working on a technical crew of a TV or film production”, and all I need to do is join Profima. That’s it. Nothing to it. So why do you want to blame me for using some crew member whom I know have worked for years in the industry and is more professional and proficient in his work as a tech crew but did not join Profima?

What is it that these associations including Profima or FDAM done for the industry lately? From newspaper reports Profima just organised an awards ceremony that not many people knew about or was invited to participate or attend. What’s more mind boggling was that one newspaper even mentioned that the event cost more than RM3 million to stage!

Wow! How the association exco members or its normal members ever approved such a budget is beyond me. If you read the articles of the Societies Act Section carefully, I’m really not sure how many of the associations can survive scrutiny. Isn’t there any member out there who doesn’t want to find out how Profima spent money for the event? Don’t they care what happens to the society’s funds?

Don’t the members know that they as members have the legal right to check the books of their association at any point of time (reasonable hours or working hours)?

Anyway, if these associations that Finas holds high esteem for are maybe entities that are not managed properly, how can they be pillars of professionalism in the industry? So why bother?

I think it is about time Finas steps it foot down and demand a complete and detailed review of all the associations in the industry. Check their accounts, see if it is audited. If they do not want to show it to Finas, get a members to compel them through the Registrar to allow them to check their administrative procedures and their accounts. Hire a lawyer to review all the associations constitutions – trust me – the constitutions of these association are at best a sheet of rules and regulations that cannot stand the test of law.

If the associations want to be considered a powerful and the pillars of the industry, be above board, be clean, be exemplary and above all be incorruptible.

Do all this and I will guarantee that you will see the members become more proactive in the management and administration of the societies. And as a producer, we will be more than glad to support and cooperate with these entities.