No language requirement for a ‘Malaysian film’ under Finas Act, says ‘Jagat’ team

'Jagat' director Shanjhey Kumar Perumal (pic) and executive producer Sivanantham Perianan pointed out that the regulations for the 28th FFM nominations had not specified that the nominees use the national language as a medium. — Picture by Cinema Online
'Jagat' director Shanjhey Kumar Perumal (pic) and executive producer Sivanantham Perianan pointed out that the regulations for the 28th FFM nominations had not specified that the nominees use the national language as a medium. — Picture by Cinema Online

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 8 — The director and producer of critically-acclaimed film Jagat have questioned the Malaysia Film Festival’s (FFM) insistence for local films to use the Malay language yesterday, which has led to its controversial segregated nominations.

The duo — director Shanjhey Kumar Perumal and executive producer Sivanantham Perianan — called on organiser Malaysia Film Producers Association (PFM) to explain the source behind its language requirement, claiming that such a thing does not exist in the Finas Act 1981.

“Finas Act 1981 does not touch on the use of national language as the only medium for filmmaking. In fact, there is no definition stipulating what exactly a ‘national film’ or ‘Malaysian film’ is,” they said in a statement.

They pointed out that the regulations for the 28th FFM nominations had not specified that the nominees use the national language as a medium.

“Therefore, we request for PFM to explain and exhibit the source of authority for the 70 per cent Bahasa Malaysia requirement that becomes the reference in shortlisting and judging the best picture for FFM all this while,” they said.

The duo questioned whether language requirement was only put in place by the organisers of FFM, and suggested that it can be revised through a dialogue session with stakeholders if that was the case.

They also suggested for the festival’s committee to benchmark FFM with national film festivals held in India, which they claimed has a more complex pluralistic society than Malaysia.

The nominations of the 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 as well as within the industry.

The National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas) and PFM have said that the separation of award categories in the FFM was meant to uphold the national language in local films.

Finas director-general Datuk Kamil Othman told Malay Mail Online that the national film agency has made it a policy for locally-made films to emphasise at least “70 per cent” Bahasa Malaysia usage in their scripts.

Popular actor-producer Afdlin Shauki and award-winning cinematographer and this year’s nominee Mohd Noor Kassim, both said they would boycott FFM28, which is to be held from September 1 to 3.

Despite that, Shanjhey and Sivanantham confirmed Jagat will continue to participate in the film festival.