KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 5 — Popular comedian and actor Afdlin Shauki has urged his industry peers to boycott this year’s Malaysia Film Festival (FFM) after local films Ola Bola and Jagat were disqualified from the Best Picture category.
He described the exclusion of the two critically-acclaimed films as racially divisive, adding that the FFM decision ran counter to what filmmaking is about: the art of good story-telling that transcends social barriers.
“I decided to boycott because I do not believe that in this day and age where we are trying to promote more unity for all Malaysians, that the film industry’s most prestigious event propagates such segregating behaviour,” Afdlin told Malay Mail Online when contacted today.
“The point is a film festival is supposed to celebrate good filmmaking. Film is about pictures telling stories. Dialogue is actually secondary in good cinematic storytelling. So a Malaysian film festival should celebrate great films regardless of the language, just as long as it is made by Malaysians,” he added.
Local arts news website Daily Seni reported yesterday that both Chiu Keng Guan’s movie Ola Bola — inspired by the multiracial Malaysian football team that qualified for the 1980 Moscow Olympics — and Shanjhey Kumar Perumal’s Tamil-language Jagat, were to be placed under the non-Bahasa Melayu category, which disqualifies them from the 28th FMM Best Picture contest.
Jagat is the debut work of Shanjhey depicting the harsh socio-economic conditions of the ethnic Indians in Malaysia. It garnered critical reviews and was also a box-office hit for 10 weeks in certain cinemas, grossing RM220,000.
According to the report, FFM and the Malaysian Film Producers Association led by SKOP Production chief Datuk Yusof Haslam made the decision due to the use of mixed languages in both films.
Daily Seni also reported that National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS) director-general Datuk Kamil Othman was not involved in the nomination process.
The disqualification drew immediate condemnation from within the local art scene, according to Daily Seni.
Afdlin also announced his intention to boycott the awards on his Instagram account, and drew more than 1,500 “likes” at the time of writing.
The comedian who is also a singer, director and producer said he has no qualms about giving out awards based on the film’s language, but emphasised that the Best Picture category should be open to all regardless of the script.
He panned the decision as absurd in an industry that produces as little as 30 movies a year.
“I call upon all artistes and producers who are not happy with this decision to segregate the categories to make a stand by boycotting the film festival and make it known that we Malaysian filmmakers are unhappy that our industry is used in such a way.
“We believe in a unified industry for all Malaysians,” he said.