Sunday, December 18, 2011

Local Film-makers in Dire Need of Aid

The National Film Development Corporation (Finas) appears to be giving more focus to documentaries these days.
After 100 days in office, the new director-general, Mohd Naguib Razak, 42, has yet to reveal his plans for the development of the local film industry, which is supposed to be Finas' main agenda.



He had earlier asked his critics and the media to give him time to properly plan a strategy for the film industry. He had asked to be given 100 days to do this.
Naguib was appointed Finas director-general on Sept 1, replacing Datuk Mohd Mahyiddin Mustakim. His appointment raised eyebrows as he has no background in feature filmmaking. Instead, Naguib is well known and has received international acclaim for producing documentaries such as Anak Duyung (Child of Mermaid), The Boat-maker and the Sea, Becoming a King, and Spellbound: Crimes of the Mind.

One hundred days have since passed but Naguib has not announced anything. However, some have noticed that lately, Finas has been aggressively involved in the development of documentaries.
One good example was the Finas Documentary Festival 2011 held on Dec 11, an award giving ceremony for those involved in documentary-making. In fact, Finas was the main organiser for the event.

If one goes to the Finas official website, one can get a lot of information on events related to documentary-making such as seminars, workshops and pitching sessions with the main agenda to market local documentaries to the international market.
While it is a positive effort, many are asking what Finas plans to do to develop the local film industry. Especially since the industry is showing signs of being in trouble.

While five films raked in more than RM8 million at the box office this year -- Khurafat Perjanjian Syaitan, Kongsi, KL Gangster, Hantu Bonceng and Ombak Rindu -- most other films released were not so successful.
There were many films that made less than RM1 million at the box office. The bad news is that most of the film-makers with poor box office collections were first time film producers.

Among the films that did badly at the box-office were Karipap-Karipap Cinta, Abuya, Apa Tengok-Tengok, Sumpahan Puaka, Toyol Nakal and Datin Ghairah. These films were produced by new film producers and a few were made using the Finas Feature Film Loan. Since the films failed at the box office, the producers would have a tough time repaying the loan.
And while we are on the subject of the Finas Feature Film Loan, Finas has yet to find ways to assist loan-taking producers whose films are still in a "development limbo". These producers are the ones who should be given assistance instead of documentary film-makers. After all, there is an agency called Filem Negara which focuses on documentaries.

Besides these "abandoned" films, the industry's other main problem is insufficient slots under the Compulsory Screening Scheme.
Since April this year, a new local film will open every week. In the past, only two local films were allowed to open a month. The move was made due to the increasing number of local films.

However, despite the move, there is still a long list of films waiting for release. At press time, slots under the scheme have been filled up until June next year. In other words, producers currently shooting films can expect their movies to be shown in late 2013!

The situation will burden independent film-makers who rely on box-office takings to proceed with their next project. Having to wait more than a year for a completed film to be released would only cause more film-makers to drop out of the industry.
These are among many problems that need urgent attention.

Naguib had urged local film producers to be more creative in film-making and not only focus on making horror films. He said Finas would assist film-makers who produce non-horror films market their films internationally. This came after the recent controversy about the glut of local horror films in the country.

This year, there have been several good non-horror films such as -- Dalam Botol, Abuya, Cun, KL Gangster, Sekali Lagi and Nur Kasih The Movie. So, let's hope Naguib and Finas can help market these films outside the country.

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