Award-winning cinematographer returns FFM trophies in a black plastic bag
Mohd Noor Kassim, who'd won the Malaysia Film Festival's (FFM) Best Cinematographer in 2009 and 2011 for 'Setem' and 'Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa' respectively, returned his trophies after attending the Tanya FINAS 2.0 forum on Monday, 8 August.
According to Malay Mail Online, the seven-time FFM nominee said that segregating the Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay awards into BM and non-BM categories "gave the impression that Malays were afraid of competing with non-Malays".
“Why do we fear healthy competition? Why differentiate with Chinese and Indian? In film, the language of film is what’s important,” he said.
"We aspire to be a developed nation in four more years but our thinking is still backwards. We must practise a policy of openness, not equality. We can uphold the Bumiputera status but we don’t have to deny the artistic works of others which are better," he added.
Mohd Noor, who has been nominated for Best Cinematographer again this year for 'Bravo 5', has also announced his intention to withdraw from FFM28.
While there will be no renomination for FFM28, FINAS said that the non-BM categories - two of which were created this year - may be abolished following an open discussion with filmmakers and the media at the Tanya FINAS 2.0 forum.
FINAS director-general Datuk Kamil Othman remarked that FINAS is meeting up with academicians and linguists to discuss the matter.
He added that the Communications and Multimedia Ministry will make an announcement when a decision is finalised.
FINAS has also explained the reason behind the segregation of awards, while filmmaker Afdlin Shauki announced his intention to boycott this year's Festival Filem Malaysia:
4 AUG: Two local films released last year - 'Ola Bola' and 'Jagat' made headlines and received positive reviews from critics and viewers alike, injecting much-needed hope into the flailing film industry in Malaysia
'Ola Bola', directed by Chiu Keng Guan, features a multicultural cast and was inspired by the glory days of Malaysian football in the 1980s, specifically their journey towards qualifying for the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.
'Jagat', a masterpiece ten years in the making by Shanjhey Kumar Perumal, chronicles the hardships faced by ethnic Indians in the 1990s as well as the universal themes of migration, urban poverty, and the resulting downward spiral into crime through the perspective of a young Indian boy.
Fast forward to 2016, nominees for the upcoming 28th Malaysian Film Festival (FFM28) - the Malaysian equivalent to the Oscars - were announced last night, 3 August
This year's awards show is helmed by the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS) and Malaysia Film Producers Association (PFM).
It goes without saying that 'Ola Bola' and 'Jagat' were expected to pick up nominations from major categories, especially for Best Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. Indeed they did... but there's a huge catch:
Both films were nominated for all three categories... but NOT the main ones. Instead, they were segregated into the "Bukan Di Dalam Bahasa Malaysia" a.k.a. "not in Malay" sub-categories, presumably due to the fact that the films did not feature the national language in its oral presentation.
While the 'Best Non-Malay Film' category was introduced in 2011, the 'Best Director For Non-Malay Film' and 'Best Screenplay for Non-Malay Film' were only introduced this year.
'Ola Bola' acquired 14 nominations while 'Jagat' earned nine. Fellow 'Best Non-Malay Film' nominee 'The Kid From the Big Apple' also bagged nine nominations. See the full list of nominations here.
Much like the uproar surrounding the Academy Awards' mostly-white nominees in the infamous #OscarsSoWhite controversy, Malaysians took to social media to voice their dissatisfaction over the segregation of nominees
Some questioned why language is deciding factor when films should be judged based on storytelling, especially when it comes to whether or not a film is "Malaysian" enough
Others strongly suggest abolishing the "non-BM" sub-category and incorporating its nominees into the main categories instead. Some even called for boycotts and a more diverse judging panel.
The Screenwriters' Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor (PENULIS) also released a statement renouncing the nominations, which they deem "racist" and an insult to the unity of Malaysians
"Why did FINAS Malaysia and the Malaysia Film Producers Association (PFM) create racist categories such as Non-Malay Film?
What are FINAS and PFM doing to foster the spirit of unity in Malaysian cinema? Or the 1Malaysia concept upheld by the government?"
You can read the full statement here.
Ironically, award-winning actress and producer Erma Fatima remarked on the irrelevance of the 'Best Non-Malay Film' category on-air at the 27th Malaysian Film Festival awards ceremony last year
Her spontaneous statement was said to have been met with agreement by those in attendance.