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.