Saturday, April 6, 2013


By Mansor Puteh

How do you know if an international or regional film festival is good or not? Easy.

Just look at those people who are behind it. And if they are people who are not influential in the film industry and who are not well-known for their critical views and analyses on film, then chances are the festival they are organizing is also like them, not good.

Secondly, look at the winners that were given awards in their debut festival; and if they are all suspicious, then the festival looses its credibility, especially if the winners do not get direct career benefits from having won the recognition in the festival.

Thirdly, this mostly concerns the Asean International Film Festival and Awards (AIFFA) which was held recently in Kuching, Sarawak.

How has AIFFA influenced the definition of the Asean Cinema, and who are their thinkers, philosophers and whatever, that are behind the organization of this festival, if they are merely a film awards show.

And what sort of topics did they have for the forums and who are the panelists that have been invited to speak in them?

All these will determine if the AIFFA will become an interesting, influential or important regional film festival in the Asean Region of Southeast Asia.

Chances are it will not.

No one knows if AIFFA 2014 will take place and if it will encourage local film producers in Sarawak to want to develop their own cinema.

Otherwise, AIFFA will become nothing but a heavily sponsored regional film awards show with no real significance or meaning at all.

And those in Europe will still be the main centers where not only Asean Cinema is defined but Asian Cinema, too, despite having their own limitations, since the organizers are not qualified to talk about these regions in the first place.

They have in the end used a common yardstick to evaluate films from the Asean and Asian regions, so much so that over the years, all those films from Asia and also the Muslim World that have been recognized by the film festivals in Europe or the West and America are like those their own filmmaker had created earlier that formed the templates for their counterparts in Asia and the Muslim World to copy, shot by show.

And this is not good for the long-term development of the Asian and Muslim World Cinema.

And AIFFA is not able to do much with the winners also not being able to do much with their win as they were given the awards by people whose backgrounds in film which can be said to be irrelevant as they too must be people who are seeking some personal glory and artistic as well as cinematic recognition themselves.

So how could they offer recognition to other filmmakers, when they are also seeking for some themselves?

And no one knows what Kuching and Sarawak can benefit from it? It can be just a small cinematic activity to distract the political leaders of the state.

AIFFA will join the many other film festivals that are already long established but which are still not recognized.

There are just so few of the more than four thousand or so film festivals that are held around the world that can be said to be important and interesting. 

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