FILMS bring people together regardless of what genre or language. Some movies are purely for entertainment purposes while there are others that are intended to promote involvement in today’s critical social issues. As long as there is a good storyline it is enough to be a pull-factor. The good films would undoubtedly generate plenty of buzz in the entertainment world. Some may even go on to be critically acclaimed movies and be awarded come awards season. In fact, all over the world film festivals are held to acknowledge and bestow trophies upon those who have strived to make a difference in the art world.

Malaysia is no different. Every year the Malaysia National Film Development Corporation (FINAS) organizes the annual Film Festival Malaysia (FFM). It is one of the most prominent award ceremonies and highlight for the film industry in Malaysia. To put it succinctly, it is Malaysia’s equivalent to the United States Academy Awards. Unfortunately this year’s event has been marred with controversy.

Surprisingly popular movies Ola Bola and Jagat were not nominated for Best Film, Best Screenplay and Best Director at FFM. Instead the films were nominated for the non-Bahasa Malaysia categories for Best Film, Best Screenplay and Best Director, with the last two categories being introduced for the first time this year. This had caused uproar with actors, industry players and politicians all weighing in with their opinions on the matter. It showed a clear divide between those who felt that the different categories were necessary to uphold Bahasa Malaysia in local films and those who argued that there should not be any form of segregation for those movies in other languages submitted for competition.

filmIt is rather disappointing that a feel-good movie such as Ola Bola, which ironically celebrates Malaysia’s diversity and watched by many Malaysians, was excluded from the most prestigious category. MCA Vice-President Chew Mei Fun was right when she contended that Bahasa Malaysia should not be the core consideration when nominating movies for FFM if not it should be known as the ‘Malay Film Festival’.

There is no doubt that Bahasa Malaysia remains the national language and there continue to be on-going efforts to ensure that the country’s mother tongue is preserved. Yet even Dewan Bahasa Pustaka (DBP), which is the Malay language’s masters, has conceded that there are words that did not need to be borrowed from the English language to fit Bahasa Malaysia today. Some of these words include uniti, sukses, transformasi, respon, bajet and kualiti among others. Interestingly enough if one watches local Malay films or even television series one cannot help but spot the use of English words “turned” into use as Bahasa Malaysia.

filmAfter all the hoopla surrounding this year’s FFM nominations, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak announced that participation in the Best Film category will be open to all film industry players in the country. He stated that future FFMs will only have one Best Picture category and the segregation will no longer take place. There are now calls for FFM organisers to cancel two other non-Bahasa Malaysia categories – Best Screenplay and Best Director. While it remains to be seen if these changes will also be made, it is hoped that FFM will move on to greater heights and that local talents will flourish beyond our shores.

Durjana Dewi is an independent analyst and Malaysian Access reader. Article written is strictly her personal view. Malaysian Access does not necessarily endorse the opinions given by any third party content provider.