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.