Monday, January 1, 2018



The most recognizable failure of Finas as the national film agency which is entrusted to develop it, is its failure to recreate it in a new form and shape, more suited to the demands of the times and to raise and develop new talents from the university graduates and those with specific talent and qualification in film.

In other words, it has failed to enlist the right persons with the right qualification to help it to find which method and values to highlight and use them to recreate the film industry to raise it from the feet of the Old Malayan Cinema that had fallen, in so an inglorious state.

Because the Old Malayan Cinema was raised and developed by wealthy Shanghai investors who had the temerity to create it, and when the political scenario of Singapore and Malaya changed after the Second World War and before Malaya gained its independence from Britain and consequently with the formation of Malaysia on 16 September, 1963, its usefulness waned.

Its transfer to Malaysia with the establishment of Merdeka Studios in Hulu Kelang, Selangor did not manage to sustain its earlier claim to fame; with those who were engaged in the film activity not being able to cope with the changing times, with the ambush of foreign films from Hollywood, Hong Kong, India and even Indonesia.

Worse, Finas was never subjected to any form of research and study by the authorities; and worst, it was never an interesting subject for members of parliament to debate on simply because they are all not trained in film to know what they can talk about.

And the media too have been coy to deal with the subject as any attempt at studying the state of the industry and Finas was met with disdain from the editors who all suffer from their lacking in the understanding on what constitutes as healthy polemics involving filmmaking as an art or industry, and investment by the government that involves a huge sum of money.

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The National Film Development Corporation of Malaysia (Finas) was established under an Act of Parliament in 1981. It is going to be thirty-seven (37) years next year.

In the past Finas celebrated it’s establishment every year without fail on 26 July, by having a dinner function at five-star hotels but it was seldom full or lively. What was there for Finas to organize such a function when it was an agency that survived only due to government funding?

It would have been more appropriate if it has become an income-generating agency that all Malaysians could be proud of that has seen achievements by the country’s filmmakers. But this is not the case.

And till now, one can easily estimate that the government has spent RM1 billion or more on this agency.

Unfortunately, because there are no qualified filmmakers and analysts in Malaysia the matter has been allowed to go on till now. In fact, Finas has been lucky because the matter had not been taken by the opposition in parliament or their public forums or ‘ceramah’.

I also write this with a heavy heart. What the government had wanted to achieve when they allowed the bill to be passed by parliament which saw Finas being formed, has not been met with any measure of success, anyway one looks at it.

How many more billions of ringgit does Finas expect the government to give them before something happens?

I do not foresee this to happen in the future unless something drastic is done to ensure that something happens.

And what has Finas failed to achieve thus far?

Finas has failed to redevelop the film industry so that it could appear to be some sort of Cinema, The New Malaysian Cinema, whose real purpose is to promote New Malaysian Identity and the New Malaysian Unity, through this medium.

But because there is no one in Finas is qualified in film, and the public does not care, what has been happening with the allocation given to them, is for Finas to use the allocation and clout it has as an official government agency to simply prolong the influence of the Old Malayan Cinema that had died in 1967 when it was based in Singapore.

In other words, the huge allocation that Finas was given since 1981 was purely to promote NOSTALGIA – from P Ramlee to Jins Shamsuddin.  

There was no basis for Finas to get on the ride of the achievements of the Old Malayan Cinema then whose films that the two studios, Shaw Brothers’ Malay Film Productions based in Jalan Ampas and Cathay-Keris Film Productions, at East Coast Road in Singapore had other ideas on film.

Finas should have caused the creation of the New Malaysian Cinema so that a new group of Malaysian filmmakers mostly trained abroad could spearhead its progress and chart its course.

Ironically, if they managed to do just a bit of this, surely, the old generation of filmmakers from the Old Malayan Cinema era could also benefit greatly.

In the end, the old generation of filmmakers did not benefit much from the existence of Finas; and the young generation failed to do their part, because Finas’ plans did not include them and their potentials.

By right Malaysia could have a more vibrant film industry known as the New Malaysian Cinema that produces films for local and also foreign audiences, which is compatible with the new heights that the country had managed to put itself on in the world arena and dealing with films that reflect the foreign policy initiatives that the leaders have shown temerity to embrace and support wholeheartedly.

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And why has the opposition not being able to look at this issue and bring it to the fore and have a meal on it?

The problem is that there is no one in the opposition despite them trying to champion a cause of openness, human rights and what else, they still has failed to even bring this matter for any public discourse, much less in parliament for debate and to seek any possible outcome from it, and in the process managed to gain some brownie points that could serve them in whatever cause they claim to have.

It is also not easy for the government officials to take this matter up as none of them are qualified either.

In the end the industry had stagnated. And despite the many films that are produced every year, but they do not add up to help create any modicum of what many Malaysians want to call The New Malaysian Cinema.

So what has the more than one billion ringgit that the Malaysian government spent on Finas done? Nothing spectacular indeed. And thirty-six years have passed since the formation of Finas in 1981, and the film industry is still where it was then, today.