KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 6 — A Best Cinematography nominee in the Malaysia Film Festival (FFM) has pulled out from the film awards ceremony, citing racism over the segregation of categories based on language.
Cinematographer Mohd Noor Kassim, who was nominated for the Bravo 5 combat film in the 28th FFM this year, also said the separation of Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay to Bahasa Malaysia and non-Bahasa Malaysia categories gave the impression that Malays were afraid of competing with non-Malays.
“If we’re already scared of competing with our own fellow citizens, but of different languages, Malaysian films won’t win the Oscars even if we wait for another 1,000 years,” Mohd Noor told Malay Mail Online yesterday, referring to the prestigious Academy Awards film ceremony in the US.
“To me, the Malaysia Film Festival should have Ola Bola and Jagat compete for Best Picture. There’s no need to have non-Malay film [categories],” he added.
The nominations of two critically acclaimed movies — Chiu Keng Guan’s Ola Bola and Shanjhey Kumar Perumal’s Jagat — for Best Picture (non-Bahasa Malaysia) at the 28th FFM this year, instead of the main Best Picture category, had sparked public outrage.
Mohd Noor posted on his Facebook page last night that he was withdrawing from FFM “not because I’m afraid of competing, but because I strongly oppose racist elements”.
The cinematographer, who has been nominated seven times in the FFM and won twice for Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa and Setem, told Malay Mail Online that films should be judged by their content, not by the language of the dialogue.
“For example, look at Iranian or French films. We don’t understand but we feel close to such films,” he said.
He stressed that films made by Malaysians, regardless of the language as long as they’re based on Malaysian culture, should not be segregated.
The National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas) and the Malaysian Film Producers Association (PFM) have said that the separation of award categories in the FFM was meant to uphold the national language in local films.
“To me, uphold our films first. What is the use of having it in BM if the content is rubbish?” Mohd Noor said in response.
The cinematographer’s withdrawal from the FFM came after popular comedian and actor Afdlin Shauki said he would boycott the film awards ceremony and urged his industry peers to follow suit.
FFM's organisers had created two new non-Bahasa Malaysia categories for Best Director and Best Screenplay this year, adding on to the non-Bahasa Malaysia category for Best Picture that was introduced in 2011.
Director-general Datuk Kamil Othman told Malay Mail Online yesterday that Finas has made it a policy for locally-made films to emphasise at least “70 per cent” Bahasa Malaysia usage in their scripts, but admitted it would be ideal if the Best Picture category in FFM was open to all films regardless of language.