By MANSOR BIN PUTEH
The truth is that Finas cannot be developed by unqualified people as does the theater and television; they also cannot be developed and expanded on their own and must be merged to become an entity.
MALAYSIANS have not learned from the vast experience of those involved in the film, television, theatre and literary endeavours, especially novel writing in the west where their tradition offers many clues and ideas that we could borrow and perfect to benefit from.
Malaysian authorities tend to look at any endeavours in its totality and not alongside others to allow them to see how most of those who are involved in any one branch of the arts are also affiliated to the other branches, not by virtue but by convenience as it does not pay to be stuck to any one, to start with.
Consider that the American Broadway is not under their ministry of culture, and neither is Hollywood placed under a so-called ministry of information or multimedia.
In fact, America which only has 15 ministries in the federal government, and no ministry of youth and sports, is something that all Malaysians have not come to understand fully as to how and why this could happen in a country whose sports activities is a vast industry.
So, in Malaysia every branch of the arts must be separated for convenience in order to allow each to thrive on its own. But, unfortunately, this has failed to happen.
Even after so many years and with so much money channelled to fund activities and agencies, such as Finas, the industries have failed to develop. They continue to be stationed under governmental auspices of the respective ministries and ministers, who call the shots.
Finas, formed in 1981 and which already has been allocated a huge annual amount gets even more funds for project development and what not – all adding up to a whopping RM1.5 billion.
Despite that what can Finas be proud of? That there are now so few films that have managed to collect RM40 million at the local box office?
And Finas is still getting funding from the government each year.
With so much investment, surely Malaysians should expect some miracles to happen to the film industry, so that later the New Malaysian Cinema could emerge from it.
Unfortunately, this cannot happen as we have sidelined film scholars and film critics and the better qualified people, the few who had the opportunity to study film at prestigious universities in America.
Malaysian Cinema today is no more than Fake Hollywood, and all the top box office breakers are Fake Hollywood films, copied from earlier Hollywood films and sometimes from Hong Kong and South Korea.
Finas and the film industry, if there is one that can be described as such, has caused so few to benefit from it, without ever benefiting the agency and the film industry or to support the quest to develop the New Malaysian Cinema.
This is unfortunate.
If we look at the total funds that the government had allocated to Finas since its formation in 1981 (it is going to be 30 years come June), which could have amounted to RM1.5 billion, for sure we will be horrified. Such a huge amount as that could have been put to better use for the building of highways and other structures that everybody can see, which can in turn bring revenue to the country.
Or, if the government had allocated this huge amount right from the beginning when they wanted to establish Finas in June, 1981, then surely, the Malaysian government could even purchase a small studio in Hollywood or build one there that could be used as a launching pad for top or leading Malaysian filmmakers to produce films for the Americans and the world market.
It is not difficult for the government to draft the Finas Act of 1981 or Akta 244 as it is also called, if it is not useful to be used as any guide to trust the development of the film industry as what we can see now.
It will be bad if this act is not redrafted by highly qualified film scholars so that the New Finas Act can be used to achieve a better goal and so that in time the film industry could be a major income-generating activity in the country and not a parasite of any ministry.
And it was not by chance that Hollywood was established by four film producers and not by the state of California or the American government, and how Broadway, too, was established by private individuals.
The American television that emerged from the activities of Hollywood and Broadway, too, is never under their ministry of information because they are independent and income-providing activities for the country.
In fact, the entertainment industry of America can be said to be the sixth largest industry of that country.
So, how come we are not able to turn our own entertainment industry with the film industry and theatre forming the major part of it, to be one of the leading industries in the country? One that provides a huge source of revenue and employment?
The truth is that Finas cannot be developed by unqualified people as does the theatre and television; they also cannot be developed and expanded on their own and must be merged to become an entity.
In this regard I wish to highlight a fact that is not known generally by all Malaysians. It is about a fact where three Chinese businessmen from Shanghai whom I expect to be not conversant in Bahasa Melayu went to Singapore to establish the Shaw Brothers’ Malay Film Production at 8 Jalan Ampas and Cathay-Keris Film Studios in Jalan Buloh Perindu. They had, invariably, created what film scholars describe as the Old Malayan Cinema, using their own money and resources.
Compare Finas with its sound financial backing by the Malaysian government. It is an entity formed under an act of parliament, but one which has not yet managed to develop the film industry, never mind, the New Malaysian Cinema. That will never happen – even after RM1.5 billion has been poured into it.
This is what you get from sidelining film experts and film scholars and pander to the whims and fancies of the few cunning people who could not do anything else but by produce films using ideas copied from Hollywood or those from Hong Kong, South Korea and sometimes, India, too.
Mansor is the only Ivy League-trained filmmaker of Malaysia who majored for his Masters of Fine Arts degree at ColumbiaUniversity in New York City. And he was a contemporary of former US President Barack Hussein Obama. His first feature, Seman: A Lost Hero created Malaysian film history for getting a nomination for best film in any film festival in Europe. He will be showing his works in Finland in January next year. He hopes to create an unusual world record in world cinema by producing a film called ‘Malaysian Snow’ that will be shot in 50 countries.)