Malaysia Film Festival: judging good filmmaking or language?

Malaysia Film Festival: judging good filmmaking or language?

Film festival is a very celebrated festival in many parts of the world, where we celebrate good filmmaking, actors and actresses through many different categories.

Malaysia, ourselves, has our very own film festival as well, which is the Malaysia Film Festival or more popularly known as the FFM (Festival Filem Malaysia).

I believe the awards, other than recognizing quality work of films by the whole production crew, is also to encourage them to keep on working harder in order to be able to compete in the international arena one day.

For the past one year, without a doubt, there are many improvements in our local film industry. It is certainly obvious with the movie Ola Bola and Jagat.

As many knows, Ola Bola is inspired by the multi-racial Malaysia football team that has qualified for the 1980 Moscow Olympics while Jagat is about the plight of Malaysian Indians set in the early 1990s.

Ola Bola alone has been an inspiring movie to many, stirring and touching the hearts of Malaysians at a time when many racial slurs were thrown in the public. Praises were given to the movie and its production crew by people across the board.

Watched by all races in Malaysia, breaking box office, it is probably one of the best film ever made in Malaysia as within just 18 days of its release in cinemas, the movie made more than RM12 million. It is undoubtedly a Malaysian favourite this year!

Unfortunately, the organisers of the FFM stroke a new controversy when it disqualifies Ola Bola for the Best Picture category. Instead the movie and the other popular movie, Jagat is placed under the non-Bahasa Malaysia category.

Finas explained that there is a rule that 70% of the movie script has to be in Bahasa Malaysia, to be eligible for the nominations.

They should have been more flexible and probably think of amending the rules. Language shouldn’t have been main criteria to judge the quality of a film.

If we were to look at Ola Bola itself, many Malaysians would have a true reflection of their lives as the movie speaks how we speak in real life. The mixture of Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and Tamil, especially the broken slang of Bahasa Malaysia by the non-Malays in the movie is how we speak every day, perhaps during that era. Imagine if everyone in the movie speaks perfect Bahasa Malaysia, it just makes no sense.

That is the beauty of our diversity. We may not speak each other’s languages perfectly, but we are still able to communicate and make good friends with each other.

Sarcastically, if the organisers insists that it should be divided into Bahasa Malaysia and non-Bahasa Malaysia category, maybe the FFM should be led by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka the next round to ensure the usage of good Bahasa Malaysia.

A movie about Malaysia and Malaysians, produced and acted by Malaysians, are deemed not Malaysian enough?

Malaysians are tired of politics and religion that has been used to divide ourselves. Arts, movie and sports are probably one of the few things left to unite us.

The whole nation cheered together when our nation’s football team competes in the tournaments. There’s never only a single race that cheered for Dato’ Lee Chong Wei in badminton competitions, all races cheered for him.

Every single Chinese in Malaysia cheered and is so proud of Shila Amzah, the Malay singer who made it big in China by singing Mandarin songs and winning a competition in Shanghai. I bet when the Malaysian Chinese meets Chinese from other countries, we would have trashed talk them.

Ola Bola is a truly Malaysian art, a movie about sports that has united Malaysians. Instead of leveraging it to keep us united even more, the FFM is trying to divide?

When we were so hunger of unity, when we were so in need of unity; then the film industry tries to segregates us even more?

I remember and have loved a quote in the Ola Bola movie, “Kita menang sama-sama, kita kalah pun sama-sama”. The quote has inspired and gives me hope of a seeing a really united Malaysia. Let us, Malaysians keep hanging on the quote and make it a life reminder. I hope the FFM would make changes so that we can really see hope of unity.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 12th August 2016.

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