Friday, November 27, 2015


By Mansor Puteh

Our historians, psychologists, sociologists, politicians, researchers, think tankers and other so-called experts may not realize this, but the fact is the 13 May, 1969 Incident happened barely four years after the Old Malayan Cinema then based in Jalan Ampas in Singapore collapsed.

Sometimes I wonder if they have done enough to help reshape the thinking of the people using their respective discipline. Maybe not.

No wonder the controversies and scandals that we see in the country involving racial and religious issues as well as social and cultural ones have never been looked at from their perspectives other than by petty and general analysts only and other media clowns.  

Efforts to revive it by moving it to Malaysia, also at the suggestion of the then Singapore prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, failed. The Old Malayan Cinema did not create new voices in the form of the introduction of new generation of film directors and depending on those who were once with the studios in Jalan Ampas and East Coast Road in Singapore proved an utter failure.

The problem became more acute with the advent of films from Indonesia which became a rage by the Melayu and non-Melayu.

However, contradictory efforts by the distributors caused the sudden influx of films from Taiwan and Hong Kong, many of which were produced by the Shaw Brothers’ studios at Clearwater Bay in the country, that were mostly historical and costume epics, which gave the Chinese in Malaysia a renewed pride and reconnection to China, via Hong Kong and the cinema.

The Indians in Malaysia too started to be fascinated with the films that were brought in from Chennai and Mumbai, respectively.

And American exporters were quick to seize the moment by establishing their own offices in Malaysia to distribute their films, whose activities are now undertaken by local importers and distributors without them even needing to do the chore anymore.

And what had all this caused in the shaping or reshaping of the minds of the New Malaysians and Old Malayans of the different races? Plenty.

One thing’s for certain is that the society had been fractured beyond recognition and with the economic development which saw the sudden flow of people from their traditional habitats to the cities and urban areas, surely, some skirmishes would bound to happen through economic, social and cultural and sometimes religious discontents, added by political polemics and semantics.

And diversity can become a bane not boon or not an advantage but a disadvantage.

And when politicians from the different groups started to become fiery, it did not take too long for them to get what they had not bargained for, the outbreak of the 13 May, 1969 Incident the aftershocks of which had been felt over the years in various forms.

But the latest aftershock that happened was so sudden and totally unexpected that no one could guess how an ominous cellphone can cause that to happen.  

Unfortunately, with the many historians, psychologists, sociologists, politicians, researchers, think tankers and other so-called experts that we have in the country with some of them having gone abroad to study in their respective fields, none of them had bothered to look at the issue from this perspective.

This is understandable since none of them sees the cinema as barometer to gauge the people’s propensities and attitudes, other than to look at it from the point of view of popular entertainment which it may be not.

And worse, with the establishment of Finas since 1980, it has not even cared to look at the matter from this perspective and only cared to encourage the activity of film production without knowing what a cinema entails and how to create one that is suited to the present needs of the country.

The New Malaysian Cinema, must be a cause for the creation of the new Malaysian society whose members must not be emboldened by alien values and ideas, so that the propensities that they may have can be curtailed to put focus on the needs of the society and country and not to be selfishly bound to personal tastes and dictates only.  

It is also unfortunate that there has never been any discourse in Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara on these matters, because their members are so aloof to the real use of the cinema that the need for the establishment and development of the New Malaysian Cinema had simply skipped their attention.  

And what is the most unfortunate is how the government had spent so much money to develop the cinema, since the formation of Finas in 1980, yet, nothing substantial has happened.

And the ministers concerned did not care to ask specific and pertinent questions because they too were not sure what they could do with Finas and what to expect from them and the officials who seem to be very busy going all over the world attending film festivals and markets without ever benefiting the industry.

And they are selfish and want to guard their own status quo because they fear those who are better qualified and formally trained would overshadow them in case if they become prominent filmmakers that have managed to get international recognition for their works.

In the end, Finas loses and the country loses, and the specter of the 13 May, 1969 Incident continues to loom over the country, and unfortunately, the aftershocks had been felt over the years with the latest one happening over a cellphone at an IT center in the city center.

This incident could have easily been avoided if those in authority knew what to do with Finas and get those who are with this national film agency to work hard to establish and develop the New Malaysian Cinema and get those involved in the film industry to produce films which are in pursuit of the New Malaysian Dream. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Abg mansor, if u want to visit studio jalan ampas now, i can bring u there.. i have -zul omar- (last time we met at bangi discussing about omar rahmat paintings)