KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 9 — Prominent cinematographer Mohd Noor Kassim made good on his pledge to return his two trophies won in past editions of the Malaysia Film Festival Awards (FFM) last night.
The two-time winner of the FFM’s Best Cinematographer for 2011’s Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa and Setem film in 2009 stepped into the spotlight last week protesting the awards’ nomination segregation policy according to language as racist.
And despite attending the lengthy explanation by the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas) and its strategic partner Malaysia Film Producers Association (PFM) last night during the Tanya Finas 2.0 forum, Mohd Noor appeared unconvinced that the separation of local films into the Bahasa Malaysia and non-Bahasa Malaysia categories was in the national industry’s best interest.
“I am still dissatisfied because we are Malaysians. Why segregate?” he told ProjekMMO, Malay Mail Online’s sister publication in Bahasa Malaysia after returning his trophies following the discussion.
“I am Malay but I say, [it appears] the Malays fear competition with other races. I am ashamed as a Malay.
“Why do we fear healthy competition? Why differentiate with Chinese and Indian? In film, the language of film is what’s important,” the 43-year-old added.
The cinematographer had last week told Malay Mail Online that 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.
Mohd Noor approached Finas director-general Datuk Kamil Othman as soon as the forum ended, and handed over his two trophies that had been placed inside a large black plastic bag.
There was an exchange of words, but their chat was indistinct to reporters nearby.
A seven-time FFM nominee, Mohd Noor was nominated for Best Cinematographer again this year for the Bravo 5 combat film, but had last week declared his decision to withdraw from the 28th FFM scheduled for September 1 to 3.
A day later, he announced he would return his trophies unless the awards organisers cancelled the existing list of nominees and held fresh nominations.
Last night’s explanations on the importance of Bahasa Malaysia in local films by Kamil, PFM president Datuk Yusof Haslam and its chief executive Panchacharam Nalliah ― popularly known as Pansha ― failed to sway Mohd Noor’s conviction.
“This is all nonsense. It’s all politics. We aspire to be a developed nation in four more years but our thinking is still backwards. We must practise a policy of openness, not equality.
“We can uphold the Bumiputera status but we don’t have to deny the artistic works of others which are better.
“There are all sorts of interests. Perhaps some may request for funding here and there. For him, it’s to save himself, not to save the industry nor the country’s needs,” he said.
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 outrage both among the public and within the film industry.