KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 10 ― Cinematographer Mohd Noor Kassim said today that he was thankful that the Malaysia Film Festival's (FFM) Best Picture category is now open to all local films, but will not change his decision to withdraw from this year's event and return his trophies.
Mohd Noor viewed the Communications and Multimedia Ministry's decision today on the FFM award categories as a step in the right direction, but said that more changes were needed.
"For me this is a start for us to move towards a better direction for the country's film industry," he told Malay Mail Online when contacted today.
"We are still halfway, but at least there's a good development. I am thankful," he added.
Mohd Noor said that there were other areas to improve, including not having any industry associations such as the Malaysia Film Producers Association (PFM) or Federation of Screen Guilds Societies of Malaysia (Gafim) organise the next editions of the FFM.
For a "fairer" contest, the FFM can instead be organised by the government, the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas), film critics or those without interests in the festival, he said.
He also reiterated his call for judges from neighbouring countries to be on the panel of jury for the film festival.
Mohd Noor had on Monday night returned his two previous FFM awards to Finas director-general Datuk Kamil Othman, fulfilling his pledge last week to both pull out from this year's FFM and give back the trophies.
"What I have done, I maintain it. I will not retract the decision that I have made," he told Malay Mail Online today.
A seven-time nominee and two-time winner of the FFM’s Best Cinematographer category for 2011’s Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa and Setem film in 2009, he was renominated this year for the same category for the Bravo 5 film.
Last week, he had protested the segregation of the FFM awards into non-Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Malaysia categories, calling this a "racist" policy.
When asked he felt if his decision to pull out from the 28th FFM and to return his awards contributed to the announcement today, Mohd Noor downplayed his role.
"My contribution is the smallest, it's not because of me that there is a change. For me, thanks to the minister that intervened to see which way this matter should go," said the Komuniti Filem Titiwangsa (Komfit) council member.
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.
This year, FFM organisers created two new non-Bahasa Malaysia categories for Best Director and Best Screenplay, adding on to the non-Bahasa Malaysia category for Best Picture that was introduced in 2011.
In a news report by Bernama today, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak said that the Best Picture award — previously restricted only to films in Bahasa Malaysia — would be opened up, while a new category for Best Film in the National Language would be created.
When asked regarding the status of the two other non-Bahasa Malaysia categories, Salleh Said told Malay Mail Online that Finas will be issuing a detailed statement on FFM.
Malay Mail Online is still awaiting a response from Finas director-general Datuk Kamil Othman.
Following the ministry's announcement, a post on the official page of Finas Malaysia this afternoon stated that it took note of the minister's decision regarding the FFM award categories.
"Finas will prepare the latest media statement on any notification and information regarding the changes in FFM28," the FFM organiser said in the statement.
The 28th FFM will be held on September 1 to 3.