Wednesday, March 30, 2016

SEMAN: A LOST HERO, P. RAMLEE AND NORDIN KARDI…AND THE NEW MALAYSIAN CINEMA THAT NEVER CAME…AND THANKS TO FINAS FOR HAVING BEEN TURNED INTO A TRAVEL AGENCY…

By Mansor Puteh


This film I made called, ‘Seman: A Lost Hero’ in 1988 should have launched the creation of the New Malaysian Cinema in the mid-1980s, but the authorities and anti-New Malaysian Cinema movement were up against that, because they wanted to further extend the Old Malayan Cinema until one by one those who were active in it dies...


It is a test film to allow me to experiment on many things and I also ended up shooting it and also editing as there was no one who could do that for me because much of the things I wanted in the film was not in the screenplay but in my vision.

Maybe many in Malaysia are not aware of it now because it was made so long ago, but some may still remember it, although they may not have seen it because it was never shown in the cinemas.

But it was shown to the public on Astro and someone did record it to show it to his students.

And I had also been invited to show it in private screenings to the film students and public and a bit of the film had been written and published in the newspapers in the country.

But alas, they were the English language ones, with none of the Melayu newspapers had bothered to write anything on it even when it was invited or selected by some international film festivals such as in America, Portugal, Singapore and special screenings in Manila, Oberbausen and London, and god knows where…

In the Figueira da Foz International Film Festival in Portugal which I attended, it was nominated for best film.

Even the Japan Foundation had selected it for screenings in some major cities in Japan and invited me to talk about it, but somehow the national film agency called Finas got the Foundation to choose another film called ‘Tuah’ instead.

In fact, Finas had also tried their best to not allow the screening of my film in some festivals abroad, despite it having got a loan from Finas to allow me to produce the film.

Finas was then dominated and controlled by the ‘leftovers’ from the Jalan Ampas crowd. And the officers felt threatened by the appearance of the small group of young Malaysian filmmakers who had formal training in film from universities and colleges in England and America especially and some other countries such as India and Japan and elsewhere.

No wonder my name and the title of this film have never been mentioned in the magazine that this agency publishes. 

It is too bad that Finas that has been formed more than thirty years has failed to do what they are supposed to do.And they are lucky the opposition did not care for this agency that had been allocated hundred of millions of ringgit, to achieve nothing...

There is no one in this film agency who has any degree or even diploma in film management...1MDB and the other 'scandals' are nothing.

The New Malaysian Cinema could have caused the image of the government to improve a lot if it had been allowed to develop.Maybe they are some who did not want Finas to develop the New Malaysian Cinema because of this and the minister concerned too could not know what he could do with Finas till today...

It is too bad that I submit this film to Venice fifteen years after it was made...because I felt uncertain of its value and quality. Some in London who saw it walked out of the cinema at Hammersmith Theater because they thought they knew better, but alas, they are not those who are trained in the cinema to know how to appreciate it. Seman is lead by Nordin Kardi who later became vice chancellor of a university in Malaysia and now a Tan Sri too...

Some who saw his acting for the first time thought he could make it as an actor... Pity P. Ramlee, if he had chosen to go into acting full-time...

Finas was not formed by the government under the Finas Act of 1980 to develop the film industry, but what those who were in it did not subscribe to such a scheme, firstly, because they did not know how to do it and secondly, they were still trying to revive the Old Malayan Cinema as much as they possibly could even when it had collapsed in 1965.

The few of them from the earlier generation could not do much; they had spent all their energies and were not suited to create any film that could be liked by the new generation of film viewers.

Some of them managed to produce and direct films after Finas was formed but they could not go far; even those who had the talent they could show in their earlier films produced by the two major studios in Singapore, but they could not come up with anything that could be said to have the same or a bit of the magic that they used to have.

Finas did not care; and the government or ministry did not care. And the opposition too did not care. And none of them ever brought the matter concerning Finas to the Dewan Rakyat or Dewan Negara.

And this is what had caused dissent against the government when such an important medium of communication had not been properly used, because those in Finas did not know how to use it and to get the government and the political and other leaders to push for the positive development of the New Malaysian Cinema that only one person had tried to convince everybody who are dumb on such issues.

Now that Finas has indeed wasted so much time of more than three decades of not doing anything substantial, what can they do now if they are told so? Nothing.

The problem is that Finas had neglected to conduct or to get someone who is qualified to conduct a thorough research on the state of the industry and see how it can be trusted to influence the development of the regional and world cinema.


If no such research can be conducted, how on earth can Finas be able to do anything to develop the film industry so that it can be the basis for the creation of the New Malaysian Cinema and the Sinema Nusantara Melayu and New Islamic Cinema? 

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