A Separation, a 2011 Iranian drama written entirely in Persian, was the first non-English film to have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 2012.
It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film that year, making it the first Iranian film to clinch that honour.
If the Americans didn’t show any bias against the Iranians, Malaysia should also be able to look beyond the language used in our movies, says local filmmaker Al-Jafree Md Yusop. This is especially so since the film industry is so niche.
The recent decision to separate the Best Film awards at the coming Festival Filem Malaysia (FFM) or Malaysian Film Festival shows that the government still has a long way to go in getting it right with the film industry.
Al-Jafree says the ministry has gotten it all wrong with the film industry for 35 years.
“The organisers of the FFM should not even be from Malaysia Film Producers Association or PFM, which is a conflict of interest. How can the organisers themselves be taking part in the awards ceremony?
“Unlike the Academy Awards in the United States, it is hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. That is how Malaysia should be doing it if they are really serious with honouring the film-making industry in the country,” he says.
When Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak announced the Best Film category to be separated into two categories, it caused an uproar.
“Our film-making industry is getting slightly better and with such a decision will only discourage the industry from growing.
“But its recent announcement to scrap the category is good news as now the film Jagat has a chance to be nominated in the category.
“The industry is already very small, and if the ministry makes such segregation then there will be nothing left but films like Mat Motor or Suami Aku Ustaz which are an embarrassment to the country,” he adds.
Al-Jafree, who heads film lovers and film industry professionals group Komuniti Filem Titiwangsa (Komfit), disagrees with the ministry’s stand on the national language.
“The national language is already very well protected and has a high place in the Malaysian society. It does not need further protection and we all know that.
“I had been a 35-year problem as from the very beginning, it is not a festival. I don’t know why they call it a festival when it isn’t really a festival.
“That alone is a problem. When they implement the segregation it brought more negativity to the aspiring film-makers,” says Al-Jafree.
However, Al-Jafree says the latest decision by Malaysia National Film Development Corporation (Finas) to scrap the ministry’s suggestions earlier proves that with the right effort, people are able to change decisions made by the government.
“At some time they have to realise that the move is not going to benefit the industry. Unfortunately in this country, although there calls for the government not to politicise certain issues, we can’t avoid it.
“That is how it is in Malaysia. The government must not put emotions before perfection of the film-making industry if they want to bring it forward,” he adds.
Soo Wern Jun