By Mansor bin Puteh
Finas used to enjoy celebrating the anniversary of their existence on 27 June every year until I wrote something about it that was published in the newspapers that forced the then minister to cancel it after that.
What was there for Finas to celebrate when other larger government agencies that brought in money into the country’s kitties did not have any of that?
So the last grand dinner held in a five-star hotel that cost a few hundred thousand ringgit was scarcely attended.
Many people who are new in the industry do not know of this.
And I was writing about it not as a film critic, but as a researcher and scholar. And I have often been invited to speak in international forums, seminars and conferences in many of the forty countries that I have been to.
It’s not easy to talk about the film industry, and it is much less to talk about wanting to develop it. But it is not so to me!
It’s not easy to talk about the film industry, and it is much less to talk about wanting to develop it.
So Finas that has been formed forty years ago this year, has never made any attempt to develop one, much less to find how to create it so that in time, after ten years of its existence, the industry could function on its own, so Finas could then play different roles, knowing that it had caused the establishment of the film industry in Malaysia.
But there is no one in the whole country who could talk about how to establish and develop the film industry; the past experience with the old film industry then based in Singapore, was formed with the setting up of just two film studios.
So maybe this is one method that Finas ought to consider if they truly want to establish and create a new film industry for the country. But what about the need to also create the New Malaysian Cinema?
This question will undoubtedly cause many in Finas and the film industry that we have a semblance of, to wonder what’s the difference between the film industry and the cinema.
There are differences: The industry is dominated by practitioners who come into the industry by dragging a lot of their backgrounds and there is always a clash amongst them because they produce films for difference purposes, mainly to earn as much as they can by producing films the type that the mass viewers want.
Whereas the cinema is dominated by researchers, film critics, scholars and thinkers. Do we have any of them in the country?
Finas does not have even one film expert in the history of the American film industry or Hollywood to know how Hollywood developed; it also does not have film historians and scholars who could guide them with their findings, to shape their policies, in order that funds can be channeled to the right purposes and individuals with the right backgrounds and so forth.
Finas is busy with what is graphically attractive; films and other productions and the activities of their officers and minister who never knew how to behave in front of experts they have sidelines, with feeling ashamed.
And with the Hari Raya Puasa approaching, some of them are busy offering ‘duit raya’ to some of the more unlucky industry practitioners, that serve their immediate purpose with the one thousand ringgit that is placed in the ‘raya’ packets.
All these welfare activities can be done away with if the industry is active so that those who are in dire straits today could function better and more actively, to work in film productions with some who can go abroad to do bigger projects.
Finas should and by right now have an office in Hollywood itself; and it is to serve those who have formal qualification and personal connections with individuals who are in Hollywood who were their classmates in film schools in the country.
But Finas and their board members could not go that far to allow them to think in these terms; they do not care with what human capital we have and how to utilize whatever little that we have from amongst those who had the benefit of going to America and also the United Kingdom and other countries to major in films.
No wonder once they are no more with the board, they will all stop talking about films including those officers who are in Finas now who will also disappear quietly and will never be sought for their views on films by anyone especially the media.
Whereas those in the board since Finas was formed had never got any formal training in film to know what they could focus on, which is to engage those who are qualified to take charge of helping the film industry to be established.
The worse nightmare that anyone in the industry can experience is when the minister and senior Finas officials who like to think ahead and to sound smart, is when they talk about their ambitions or goals to see Malaysians winning the Oscars. And they like to create a slogan such as ‘Road to Oscars’ with the minister aiming for this to happen in twenty to thirty years’ time.
There is no country in the world that has aspired to see their filmmakers win the Oscars because it is not something that anyone including those in Hollywood to think about. Even those who have won them can never be certain that their next film will bring them their next Oscars.
As in the case of Malaysia, who do the minister and Finas think are the Malaysian filmmakers who can deliver the Oscar for the country?
What’s the point in encouraging Malaysians filmmakers to produce such films in the first place when there are not many Malaysian film viewers who can never appreciate such films, those that have artistic and cinematic qualities in them when Finas has never encouraged them to appreciate such films?
*This only represents the views of the writer, and does not necessarily reflect those of BebasNews
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 hopes to create an unusual world record in world cinema by producing a film called ‘Malaysian Snow’ that will be shot in 50 countries.)