Malaysian film awards chief jurist cites Constitution in defence of language segregation policy

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Source: The Malay Mail Online

Shanjhey Kumar Perumal’s Jagat was left out of nominations for the main Best Picture at FFM28. — file pic

Shanjhey Kumar Perumal’s Jagat was left out of nominations for the main Best Picture at FFM28. — file pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 6 — The chief jurist for next month’s 28th Malaysia Film Festival Awards (FFM28) defended the language segregation policy for the Best Picture category and urged enthusiasts not to racialise the issue.

Nancie Foo said the use of Bahasa Malaysia as factor in the main Best Picture award category was in line with the Federal Constitution to preserve its identity as the national language.

But she also said FFM had introduced three new categories in recent years to accommodate films in other tongues.

“In 2011, we introduced the Best Picture for non-Bahasa Malaysia category to provide an opportunity for films in languages other than Bahasa Malaysia to compete.

“Now, we have added two more categories that is Best Screenplay and Best Director for non-Bahasa Malaysia films,” she told Malay daily Utusan Malaysia Online yesterday.

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According to the report, Foo said filmmakers had been informed of the Bahasa Malaysia requirement for their scripts in order to qualify for the main Best Picture award, adding that they should accept the rules instead of drawing racial lines on the issue.

“Film enthusiasts need not touch on racial sentiments because it’s clear that Bahasa Malaysia has been an identity since before, in line with the country’s Constitution,” she was quoted saying.

Two critically acclaimed local movies — Chiu Keng Guan’s Ola Bola and Shanjhey Kumar Perumal’s Jagat — were left out of nominations for the main Best Picture, sparking public outrage. Both however, were nominated for Best Picture in the non-Bahasa Malaysia.

Local broadcaster Astro Awani reported Thursday that FFM, for the first time, created non-Bahasa Malaysia categories for Best Director and Best Screenplay this year.

The non-Bahasa Malaysia category for Best Picture was introduced last year, which was won by Chiu’s The Journey.

The National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas) and the Malaysian Film Producers Association have said that the separation of award categories in the FFM was meant to uphold the national language in local films.

Finas director-general Datuk Kamil Othman told Malay Mail Online yesterday that Finas has made it a policy for locally-made films to emphasise at least “70 per cent” Bahasa Malaysia usage in their scripts, but admitted it would be ideal if the Best Picture category in FFM was open to all films regardless of language.

Best Cinematographer nominee Mohd Noor Kassim and popular actor-comedian Afdlin Shauki have both said that they will boycott FFM28 because of the segregation.

FFM28 will be held from September 1 to 3 with awards for 27 categories.

 


No difference in BM and non-BM Best Picture awards, Finas DG says
Source: The Malay Mail Online

Kamil said both the Best Picture sub-categories — Bahasa Malaysia and Non-Bahasa Malaysia — were on equal footing, meaning there is no question of 'Ola Bola' and 'Jagat' being relegated to second best as claimed by critics. ― Picture by Saw Siow Feng

Kamil said both the Best Picture sub-categories — Bahasa Malaysia and Non-Bahasa Malaysia — were on equal footing, meaning there is no question of ‘Ola Bola’ and ‘Jagat’ being relegated to second best as claimed by critics. ― Picture by Saw Siow Feng

PETALING JAYA, Aug 5 — Malaysia Film Festival’s (FFM) decision to divide this year’s best picture award category according to language was made due to government’s push to promote the national language, National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas) Director General Datuk Kamil Othman said today.

He said both Best Picture sub-categories — Bahasa Malaysia and Non-Bahasa Malaysia — in the national film awards ceremony were on equal footing, meaning there is no question of Ola Bola and Jagat being relegated to second best as claimed by critics.

“In principle we have to look at the fact that FFM has always been about films in the official language and the non-official language,” Kamil told Malay Mail Online.

“But generally the two categories of best films are judged based on how good the stories (are). They are only divided by the language only because it has always been about the (promotion of the) official language,” he said.

Citing the Academy Awards as an example, he said one of the main criteria for entries under its foreign language picture category is the use of native languages by contesting filmmakers.

“So it has nothing to do with one is better than the other,” Kamil said, referring to allegations that Ola Bola and Jagat had been disqualified from winning the best picture award because much of its scripts were of mixed languages.

Kamil explained that Finas had made it a policy for locally-made films to emphasise at least “70 per cent” Bahasa Malaysia usage in their scripts.

Local arts news website Daily Seni reported yesterday that both Chiu Keng Guan’s movie Ola Bola — inspired by the multiracial Malaysian football team that qualified for the 1980 Moscow Olympics — and Shanjhey Kumar Perumal’s Tamil-language film Jagat, were to be placed under the Non-Bahasa Malaysia category, which disqualifies them from the 28th FMM Best Picture contest.

Jagat is the debut work of Shanjhey depicting the harsh socio-economic conditions of the ethnic Indians in Malaysia. It garnered critical reviews and was also a box-office hit for 10 weeks in certain cinemas, grossing RM220,000.

According to the report, FFM and the Malaysian Film Producers Association led by SKOP Production chief Datuk Yusof Haslam made the decision due to use of mixed languages in both films.

Kamil said Finas, FFM and BFM Radio, judges for this year’s awards, are currently working on a way to remove the sub categories and award the best picture category to the best film regardless of the language.

“Maybe we can lower the 70 per cent. It all depends on how we work it out”.

But the Finas official admitted that it would be ideal if the ceremony only awards the best film category to the best picture regardless of language.

“But we have to take into account our official language policy,” he said.

The disqualification of the two films drew immediate condemnation from within the local art scene, according to Daily Seni.

The move had also prompted boycott calls by popular comedian and actor Afdlin Shauki, who said the sub-categorisation promoted more “segregation”.

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Nazir Razak, Tony Fernandes support Malaysian film awards boycott over language segregation
Source: The Malay Mail Online

Nazir questioned the language division for the Best Picture category in the national film awards ceremony and congratulated Afdlin Shauki for taking a stand. — Reuters pic

Nazir questioned the language division for the Best Picture category in the national film awards ceremony and congratulated Afdlin Shauki for taking a stand. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 5 — Datuk Seri Nazir Razak has backed a local comedian’s boycott of this year’s Malaysia Film Festival (FFM) after two popular local films were disqualified from the Best Picture category as they were not entirely in Bahasa Malaysia.

In a post on his Instagram account, the prime minister’s brother, who is also CIMB chairman, questioned the language division for the Best Picture category in the national film awards ceremony and congratulated Afdlin Shauki for taking a stand.

“Respect. I was aghast to hear that my favorite, ‘Ola Bola’, and others can’t compete for best Malaysian movie. Why the segregation?

“Change will only happen because individuals like Afdlin make a principled stand, well done!” he said, captioning an image of a news headline which read “Actor Afdlin Shauki boycotts Festival Filem over racial segregation.”

AirAsia group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes also supported the move, saying that the racial diversity portrayed in local movies, like Ola Bola and Jagat that was also placed in the Best Picture (Non-Bahasa Malaysia) category, was a strength that shouldn’t be penalised.

“When will we realise our strength against the world is our diversity. Come on malaysia. The world is changing,” he said in a comment on Nazir’s Instagram post.

However, the Malaysian Film Producers Association (PFM) defended today the segregation of award categories in FFM based on language, saying it was to uphold Bahasa Malaysia in local films.

Malay Mail Online reported earlier today that actor, singer and comedian Afdlin had announced his intention to boycott the film awards ceremony, saying the decision to disqualify Ola Bola and Jagat from the Best Picture category was racially divisive.

Local arts news website Daily Seni reported yesterday that both Chiu Keng Guan’s movie Ola Bola — inspired by the multiracial Malaysian football team that qualified for the 1980 Moscow Olympics — and Shanjhey Kumar Perumal’s Tamil-languageJagat, were to be placed under the non-Bahasa Malaysia category, which disqualifies them from the 28th FMM Best Picture contest.

Jagat is the debut work of Shanjhey depicting the harsh socio-economic conditions of the ethnic Indians in Malaysia. It garnered critical reviews and was also a box-office hit for 10 weeks in certain cinemas, grossing RM220,000.

According to the report, FFM, which is Malaysia’s equivalent to the Academy Awards, and the PFM led by SKOP Production chief Datuk Yusof Haslam made the decision due to the use of mixed languages in both films.

Daily Seni also reported that National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS) director-general Datuk Kamil Othman was not involved in the nomination process.

The disqualification drew immediate condemnation from within the local art scene, according to Daily Seni.

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Language segregation at film awards a ‘disgrace’, ‘Jagat’ director says
Source: The Malay Mail Online

‘Jagat’ director Shanjhey Kumar Perumal said that when language was used as one of the main criteria to judge a film, it was a disgrace to the visual medium. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

‘Jagat’ director Shanjhey Kumar Perumal said that when language was used as one of the main criteria to judge a film, it was a disgrace to the visual medium. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 5 — The separation of the Best Picture award category at the Malaysia Film Festival (FFM) this year to Bahasa Malaysia and other languages is “immature” and a “disgrace” to the visual medium of films, the director of Jagatsaid.

Shanjhey Kumar Perumal — whose critically acclaimed Tamil-language movie about the difficult lives of Indians in Malaysia was nominated for Best Picture (Non-Bahasa Malaysia) in the national film awards ceremony — told local broadcasterAstro Awani that film comprised other facets of art like acting, cinematography and editing, besides language.

“When we use language as one of the main criteria to judge a film, I feel that it’s a disgrace to the visual medium,” Shanjhey said.

He pointed out that silent film The Artist won several Oscars, including Best Picture, at the US 84th Academy Awards in 2012.

The independent filmmaker also said when he went to India and to the New York Asian Film Festival, Jagat was considered a “Malaysian” film.

“But in our own homeland, our films are categorised according to language. So I feel that this is unnecessary and immature, in my opinion,” he said.

The nominations of Chiu Keng Guan’s Ola Bola and Jagat for the Best Picture (non-Bahasa Malaysia) category at the 28th FFM this year, instead of the main Best Picture category, had sparked public outrage. The Best Director and Best Screenplay categories similarly have non-Bahasa Malaysia versions.

Ola Bola was inspired by the multiracial Malaysian football team that qualified for the 1980 Moscow Olympics and was reportedly the fifth highest-grossing local movie in history, raking in RM15.85 million according to a New Straits Times April report.

The Malaysian Film Producers Association (PFM), however, defended the segregation of the award categories, saying it was to uphold the national language in local films.

National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas) Director General Datuk Kamil Othman told Malay Mail Online that both Best Picture categories — Bahasa Malaysia and non-Bahasa Malaysia — were on equal footing, meaning there is no question of Ola Bola and Jagat being relegated to second best as claimed by critics.

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Best Cinematography’ nominee withdraws from ‘racist’ FFM
Source: The Malay Mail Online

Cinematographer, Mohd Noor Kassim (centre) withdrew from the Malaysia Film Festival on August 5, 2016. — Picture courtesy of Mohd Noor Kassim.

Cinematographer, Mohd Noor Kassim (centre) withdrew from the Malaysia Film Festival on August 5, 2016. — Picture courtesy of Mohd Noor Kassim.

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 6 — A Best Cinematography nominee in the Malaysia Film Festival (FFM) has pulled out from the film awards ceremony, citing racism over the segregation of categories based on language.

Cinematographer Mohd Noor Kassim, who was nominated for the Bravo 5 combat film in the 28th FFM this year, also said the separation of Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay to Bahasa Malaysia and non-Bahasa Malaysia categories gave the impression that Malays were afraid of competing with non-Malays.

“If we’re already scared of competing with our own fellow citizens, but of different languages, Malaysian films won’t win the Oscars even we wait for another 1,000 years,” Mohd Noor told Malay Mail Online yesterday, referring to the prestigious Academy Awards film ceremony in the US.

“To me, the Malaysia Film Festival should have Ola Bola and Jagat compete for Best Picture. There’s no need to have non-Malay film [categories],” he added.

The nominations of two critically acclaimed movies — Chiu Keng Guan’s Ola Bolaand Shanjhey Kumar Perumal’s Jagat — for Best Picture (non-Bahasa Malaysia) at the 28th FFM this year, instead of the main Best Picture category, had sparked public outrage.

Mohd Noor posted on his Facebook page last night that he was withdrawing from FFM “not because I’m afraid of competing, but because I strongly oppose racist elements”.

The cinematographer, who has been nominated seven times in the FFM and won twice for Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa and Setem, told Malay Mail Online that films should be judged by their content, not by the language of the dialogue.

“For example, look at Iranian or French films. We don’t understand but we feel close to such films,” he said.

He stressed that films made by Malaysians, regardless of the language as long as they’re based on Malaysian culture, should not be segregated.

The National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas) and the Malaysian Film Producers Association (PFM) have said that the separation of award categories in the FFM was meant to uphold the national language in local films.

“To me, uphold our films first. What is the use of having it in BM if the content was rubbish?” Mohd Noor said in response.

The cinematographer’s withdrawal from the FFM came after popular comedian and actor Afdlin Shauki said he would boycott the film awards ceremony and urged his industry peers to follow suit.

Local broadcaster Astro Awani reported Thursday that FFM, for the first time, created non-Bahasa Malaysia categories for Best Director and Best Screenplay this year. The non-Bahasa Malaysia category for Best Picture was introduced last year, which was won by Chiu’s The Journey.

Director-general Datuk Kamil Othman told Malay Mail Online yesterday that Finas has made it a policy for locally-made films to emphasise at least “70 per cent” Bahasa Malaysia usage in their scripts, but admitted it would be ideal if the Best Picture category in FFM was open to all films regardless of language.

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