Nazir Razak, Tony Fernandes support Malaysian film awards boycott over language segregation

Nazir questioned the language division for the Best Picture category in the national film awards ceremony and congratulated Afdlin Shauki for taking a stand. — Reuters pic
Nazir questioned the language division for the Best Picture category in the national film awards ceremony and congratulated Afdlin Shauki for taking a stand. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 5 — Datuk Seri Nazir Razak has backed a local comedian’s boycott of this year’s Malaysia Film Festival (FFM) after two popular local films were disqualified from the Best Picture category as they were not entirely in Bahasa Malaysia.

In a post on his Instagram account, the prime minister’s brother, who is also CIMB chairman, questioned the language division for the Best Picture category in the national film awards ceremony and congratulated Afdlin Shauki for taking a stand.

“Respect. I was aghast to hear that my favorite, ‘Ola Bola’, and others can't compete for best Malaysian movie. Why the segregation?

“Change will only happen because individuals like Afdlin make a principled stand, well done!” he said, captioning an image of a news headline which read “Actor Afdlin Shauki boycotts Festival Filem over racial segregation.”

AirAsia group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes also supported the move, saying that the racial diversity portrayed in local movies, like Ola Bola and Jagat that was also placed in the Best Picture (Non-Bahasa Malaysia) category, was a strength that shouldn’t be penalised.

“When will we realise our strength against the world is our diversity. Come on malaysia. The world is changing,” he said in a comment on Nazir’s Instagram post.

However, the Malaysian Film Producers Association (PFM) defended today the segregation of award categories in FFM based on language, saying it was to uphold Bahasa Malaysia in local films.

Malay Mail Online reported earlier today that actor, singer and comedian Afdlin had announced his intention to boycott the film awards ceremony, saying the decision to disqualify Ola Bola and Jagat from the Best Picture category was racially divisive.

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 Malaysia 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, which is Malaysia’s equivalent to the Academy Awards, and the PFM 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.