KUALA LUMPUR, April 2 – Diversity was the order of the day at the recent Malaysian Film Festival (FFM), the 30th edition of the premier local film awards.
Of the 42 movies vying for awards in 27 categories on the night, 25 were in Bahasa Malaysia, eight in Mandarin, seven in Tamil and two in Cantonese.
One Two Jaga may have taken the top prize of Best Film, but the achievement by the non-Bahasa Malaysia movies was the highlight simply because it showed that the scope for making good local movies and receiving accolades for such effort does not face the bias that one might imagine based on the main composition of members in the local film industry.
This is evident with four key awards, namely Best New Actor, Best New Actress, Best New Director and Best Child Actor going to non-BM movies.
The four are Kyo Chen who took the Best New Actor accolade for his role in the Mandarin movie Guang, Jaya Ganason (Best New Actress, The Farm: En Veettu Thottathil), Quek Shio Chuan (Best New Director, Guang) and Jake Eng winning Best Child Actor for playing the young Lee Chong Wei in Rise Of The Legend: Lee Chong Wei.
Guang’s win bodes well for future of industry
Guang is based on a short film of the same name which Quek also directed in 2011, is about a young man struggling with autism.
At the FFM held last Saturday night at the Plenary Hall, Putrajaya International Convention Centre, Guang also won two other awards, for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction.
This bodes well for the opportunities that abound for filmmakers of the different races in Malaysia, with due recognition given for their work on screen and behind the scenes.
Jagat and The Journey pave the way
Over the past few years, some non-BM movies have made great inroads into the mainstream awards night. The highest recognition was achieved by local Tamil movie, Jajat, which won Best Malaysian Film and also gained Shanjhey Kumar Perumal the Best New Director award. It was also nominated for Best Screenplay.
The Journey, about Chinese kampung girl and her English boyfriend spending time with her father, saw the movie win four awards from six nominations in 2014.
The Journey won for Best Non-BM Film, Best Actor (Frankie Lee Sai Peng), Best Cinematography and Best Box-Office Film.
Controversy over language segregation
However, the main category of Best Non-BM Film, ceased to exist since the controversial FFM28 awards in 2016, when two movies, which did well critically as well as at the Box Office, that is Jagat and Ola Bola, were categorised as non-BM films.
Even if Jagat was rightfully placed there, due to the main language having been Tamil, but there was an uproar among the public and in the media, from people of all races, over Ola Bola being in that category.
Many had speculated that movies that year with ties to FFM board members and even the judges were afraid of being defeated by Ola Bola in the Best Film category that year.
Ola Bola, a story loosely based on the successful national football team which qualified for the 1980 Moscow Olympics, was a major hit becoming the top box-office film ever among local films at the time, and was well-received by people of all races. It had some dialogue in Mandarin and Tamil too, aside from BM.
Eventually, as a compromise, the Best Non-BM Film category was removed that year and the Best Film divided to Best Malaysian Film for all languages and Best National Film for movies in BM.
Finas scraps two Best Film awards
These two categories were then scrapped the following year, with Finas, the organisers of FFM, announcing that there will only be one Best Film category going forward.
Meanwhile, at the FFM last Saturday, One Two Jaga, a movie directed by Nam Ron, won Best Film, and five other awards.
Nam Ron, who is an accomplished actor and won the Best Actor prize in 2018 for his brilliant performance in Redha, also won for Best Director which the film’s star, Rosdeen Suboh was named Best Actor. The movie also took the prize for Best Screenplay.
As far as the plot is concerned, One Two Jaga also reflected a change in the local movie scene from just a few years ago, by touching on the subject of corruption in the police department. Such a topic would not have been allowed previously with negative perception of the police and the government being a major no-no for Finas and the Film Censorship Board.