Tuesday, December 31, 2013


By Mansor Puteh

Malaysian Cinema, television and radio should record the memories of the fast-changing Malaysian landscape which is changing all the time, with new innovations, ideas and also the demographic elements thrown in, to add to the spices of the new Malaysian cultural, social, intellectual and economic life.

So if this does not happen, it won’t be wrong if future generations do not know how the country had developed like the young generation today who do not know or care about the past events the country had gone through.

It is therefore ironic how RTM or the respective ministries, could become complicit to this and they are not responsible to be able to do something to ensure that the real use of the cinema, television and radio be enhanced by encouraging the right persons to enter the industry and to weed those adventurers who are out to earn a fast buck from producing programs for them.

In developed countries, their ministry of tourism does not exist. They promote their countries through the medium of the cinema, television and also radio, or through their music.

In Malaysia, tourism promotion is still done in the old-fashioned way which is very expensive and ineffective by sending officials to attend tourism festivals all over the world.

No wonder Hollywood has often been described as ‘an extension of the American State Department’; because it brings more goodwill to the country than their government officials could ever imagine.

But this did not happen by chance; it was all planned by the earlier state government officials who ensured that American cinema, television and music must be accepted by the others which is what is happening in Malaysia and very much all over the world now.

Malaysia still believes in promoting the country abroad and National Unity by using slogans and by sending their officials to attend tourism festivals abroad. But most of the time they returned empty-handed.

They had not learnt how America had used Hollywood to promote National Unity in the country, with much of the emotions that the average Americans had being spilled into their artworks and not in the streets.

In Malaysia, much of the emotions of the average Malaysian citizen are contained within themselves that it only needed to get some personalities to bring these out into the streets.  

Malaysia or the officers in the respective ministries have not bothered to learn from the lessons from Hollywood, and they also do not care who can teach them on these, especially those who had the opportunity to study film in America.

If they had bothered to do this two or three decades ago; surely today Malaysia won’t be as what it is today.

They had also not bothered to ask themselves why the 13 May, 1969 Incident had to happen barely six years after the collapse of the Old Malayan Cinema then based on Jalan Ampas in Singapore.

The Incident did not happen without a reason. The other reasons cited by the political analysts and historians are but a few of them.

The real reasons are due to the collapse of the Old Malayan Cinema which created dissent amongst the people who were divided along racial lines when Hong Kong Cinema and India Cinema and also Hollywood started to influence the thinking and attitude of the people.

This did not happen before. 

Why are Malaysian or Melayu television dramas uninspiring? Some NST readers have asked this and other questions on the poor state of Malaysian television and radio.

First of all Malaysian television and also radio are dominated by people who are not properly trained to do the jobs; they choose drama serials on their personal whims and fancies.

We do not hear of any of the stations sending their own officers to further their studies on film, television and radio abroad so they can bring new methods into the respective industries.

And as for the so-called ‘radio stations’ they are mostly ‘music stations’ so no wonder they get the highest ratings in the country.

They do not have diverse programs, much less on nation-buildings including talk programs and other magazine programs or even news programs.

These music stations cannot come up to par with Radio Malaysia.

Unfortunately, the people in the ministry of communication and multimedia or Kementerian Komunikasi dan Multimedia or KMM today or its predecessors, Kementerian Penerangan, Komunikasi dan Kebudayaan or KPKK are also not trained to use the mediums of television and radio to give the greatest and widest advantage to nation-building.

They are happy if the stations broadcast some programs as long as there are ratings and no one bothered to analyze what they do.

The truth is since the establishment of RTM in 1963, there has never been any serious analysis on the state of the television and radio in the country.

No one has ever conducted a serious study on it even for his thesis at the graduate or post-graduate.

In fact, there has not been any serious book on Malaysian television and its history, which is long and it deserves, to show to all Malaysians how it has developed or not at all.

Melayu television drama serials are one of the most enduring and effective tools to promote national unity and understanding, other than those in the other vernacular languages.

Unfortunately, this advantage or us, has never been utilized or realized.

RTM and the private television stations are too happy to broadcast television drama serials which are in the ‘love triangle’ genre.

There are other genres and fusion of genres that can be encouraged and shown as television dramas.

But RTM and the other private stations do not seem to realize this, so they are being misled by their scheduling problems.

No wonder, almost all the Melayu television dramas have these words in the title, ‘Cinata’, ‘Kasih’ and ‘Sayang’ in them.

These dramas and also feature films do not reflect the changing times that Malaysia is constantly experiencing.

The different environment and physical properties of which Kuala Lumpur experiences and introduces on a daily basis are not reflected in the television dramas.

In industry terminology, there is an absence on the ‘time’ and ‘place’ elements.

Therefore, Melayu television dramas are suspended. The scripts could be written two decades ago, and they can still be produced so no wonder what they deal with are too general, dealing with the limited emotions around ‘hatred’, ‘jealousy’ and the feeling of inferiority complex.

It is therefore pathetic to watch these programs.

The producers are not to be blamed; the stations are the ones who encourage them to come up with such programs in the first place.

Malaysian television can therefore be charged for encouraging dissent amongst the viewers and hence public. Its dramas encourage them to feel fearful and confused with the development that is happening around the country.

And no wonder many Malaysians do not care about their personal safety and comfort because they are living in suspended existence, around the few characters and situations that the television dramas highlight.

The Malaysian film industry is even worse; the producers are only capable of coming up with predictable plots, which they borrow from those films that were produced in Hong Kong, who in turn borrowed those that were produced in Hollywood.

So no wonder despite the large amount of investment that the government has put into the industry by offering grants and also loans, none of the films produced had not very far.

Malaysia is still no where towards seeing one of its film directors winning the Oscars.

So the investment of so much by the government through the relevant ministries can be said to have gone down the drain. It has only benefited so few who could not deliver.

Worse, the ministry officials are blameless, regardless of whether they had not performed well or not. They can still hold their heads high without feeling any sense of guilt whatsoever.

Unfortunately, the only international recognition that the Malaysian film industry had ever got this year, which can be described as such is through the documentary I produced for Finas called, ‘Dancing to the beat of History…’ which was selected for the competition in an international documentary film festival held in Portugal last November which I participated.

Other than that, the film industry’s achievement in the past year can be said to be non-existent.

And foreign film school graduates are sill frowned upon by the ministries concerned which does not have any real plans to engage them. Some are offered posts as lecturers at Aswara, which could not survive without them agreeing to work for it.

Malaysian cinema, television and radio do not reflect the changing times the country is in at any time.

They do not record the memories of the countries, so in the years ahead, the development that Malaysia experienced in the past is not recorded. 

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