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Upset cinematographer returns two FFM awards

PETALING JAYA: Cinema­tographer Mohd Noor Kassim (pic) returned two of his Malaysia Film Festival (FFM) awards to the organisers because he could not accept their explanations over why the upcoming edition had to be divided into Bahasa Malaysia and non-Bahasa categories.

After a #TanyaFinas session held by the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas) on Monday night, Mohd Noor handed the trophies over.

Mohd Noor walked up to Finas director-general Datuk Kamil Othman and handed him the trophies in a black plastic bag. He had won the awards for Best Cinematography in 2009 for Setem and 2011 for Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa.

“Kamil told me I didn’t have to return them. I have said earlier that if the non-Bahasa Malaysia category is not removed from this year’s FFM, I would return my trophies.”

Finas held the session to provide clarification over the language divide in three major categories – Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Film – in the 28th FFM on Sept 3.

“At the end of the two-hour session, it was still not clear to me why the divide was necessary. So I stood my ground to boycott this year’s FFM and decided to return the trophies I’d won previously,” Mohd Noor said when contacted.

When the FFM nominations were announced last Wednesday, acc­laimed films like OlaBola and Jagat were put up for awards like Best Film and Best Director in the non-Bahasa Malaysia category.

Only films that met the 70% Bahasa Malaysia requirement are eligible for the main Best Film and Best Director categories.

Mohd Noor said he saw racial elements in the divide.

“Why should films made by locals be categorised according to language in a national-level competition? Aren’t we all Malaysians? Don’t we have the same identity card? I believe we should encourage healthy competition ins­tead of making room for division,” he said.

Mohd Noor is also pulling out of this year’s FFM competition where his work in Bravo V is nominated for Best Cinematography.

On the issue of Mohd Noor’s boycott and returning the awards, Kamil said: “Every individual has the right to voice his opinion. Some just need time to see the whole picture.”

A Finas spokesperson added: “Finas is open to all opinion, criticism and feedback as we are all working towards the betterment of the industry.”

Separately, MCA vice-president Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun said the rules and regulations of the FFM should be amended.

She added that the policy of the awards to only promote local Malay films was wrong since it was named “Malaysia” Film Festival.