PETALING JAYA: A decision by the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas) and Malaysia Film Producers Association (PFM) to create separate categories for Bahasa Malaysia and non-Bahasa movies in the upcoming Malaysia Film Festival (FFM) has ruffled many feathers, especially among screenwriters and movie fans.
Screenwriters Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor (Penulis) president Alfie Palermo questioned the decision for the “divisive categories”.
“Where is the role for Finas and PFM to foster the spirit of unity in the local film industry?” he said in a Facebook posting.
In a phone conversation with The Star, Palermo urged Finas to form a more inclusive selection committee for FFM.
“I don’t think the selection criteria should be left to just individuals under PFM. There are other members of the industry who can be included to represent more voices.”
Palermo said many industry peers had voiced their dissatisfaction over the different categories.
His posting was shared by hundreds of social media users, including notable film critic Hassan Muthalib, writer-filmmaker Amir Muhammad and actress Ida Nerina.
Ida said in a Facebook posting that FFM should reflect Malaysia and not just one language.
Finas director-general Datuk Kamil Othman explained that the decision was simply a transitory compromise.
“As a national agency, we look for the best way to reflect the diversity in the local film industry.
“We want every film to have a chance to be represented at the Malaysia Film Festival,” he said at an event to announce FFM’s top five nominees in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday night.
Of the nominees, it was announced that films like OlaBola, Jagat and The Kid From The Big Apple will not be competing for major awards such as Best Film, Best Screenplay and Best Director at the film festival.
Instead, they will be in the non-Bahasa Malaysia category for Best Film, Best Screenplay and Best Director.
The non-Bahasa Best Screenplay and Best Director categories have been introduced for the first time this year.
The non-Bahasa Best Film category was introduced in 2011, when Chiu Keng Guan’s Great Day won.
Kamil said from the industry perspective, winning in the non-Bahasa category was just as prestigious.
“We look at it as being on the same level. The only difference is the use of national language,” he said.
FFM judging committee chairman Nancie Foo said local films have to include 70% dialogue in Bahasa Malaysia.
OlaBola features dialogue in Mandarin, Tamil and Bahasa Malaysia while The Kid From The Big Apple is mainly Mandarin and Jagat is in Tamil.
Kamil revealed that Finas is working towards omitting the non-Bahasa Malaysia categories in the future, so language won’t be a barrier.
“We want to move forward together. Quality Malaysian productions will be recognised as contenders under one Best Film category.
“Ultimately, Finas will be working with stakeholders towards a film festival where one film can be honoured as the best overall Malaysian film, taking into account the usage of the national language and the diversity of languages spoken in the country.”
The 28th edition of the FFM awards night will be held at Plenary Hall, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, on Sept 3.