Yearender2018: Best of times for Malaysian films

  • TV
  • Sunday, 30 Dec 2018

Dolores O'Riordan. Photo: Reuters/Ferran Paredes

The entertainment scene in 2018 saw a renaissance of Malaysian movies and local stars making waves on the international front.

2018 was a great year at the box office for Malaysian films. The cumulative earnings of this year’s Top 3 films surpassed RM100mil, a figure that the local film industry has never seen before ... ever.

At the top of this list was horror film Munafik 2 with a box-office earning of RM43mil. The 10th film from director-actor Syamsul Yusof, broke all kinds of records too. It was the highest earning on its sneak preview (RM2.05mil) and highest opening weekend (RM5.2mil). In just four days, it earned RM21.6mil, thanks to screenings in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.

Mamat Khalid’s Hantu Kak Limah took second spot with RM36mil, and the horror-comedy was momentarily the highest-grossing film Malaysian film of all time, having earned RM20.5mil in just 11 days.

At No. 3 was Paskal The Movie which earned RM30.5mil and featured impressive action sequences on par with Hollywood productions.

Munafik 2. Photo: Skop Productions

Another big moment this year for the local film industry after a 12-year long wait was the release of Dukun in April, the horror thriller flick filmed in 2006 by director Dain Said starring Umie Aida. Meanwhile, Vimala Perumal’s Vedigundu Pasangge became the first local Tamil and most successful movie to pass the RM1mil with its final number of RM1.3mil.

Among Chinese films, among the big releases this year was biopic Lee Chong Wei, which drew 30,000 fans to the Bukit Jalil National Stadium for its premiere and did reasonably well locally and in overseas markets. Chinese New Year film House Of Happiness, starring 988 deejays, also did brisk business locally and abroad, even winning an award in Vancouver.

Speaking of awards, Malaysian films have also been making the rounds at international awards and film festivals. Director Quek Shio Chuan's Guang picked up two awards at the 13th Chinese Youth Generation Film Forum in September, while Namron's critically-acclaimed One Two Jaga was screened on the opening night of the 20th Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy on April 20.

Asian Success In Hollywood 

Photo: AP/Warner Bros. Entertainment

Crazy Rich Asians was a commercial success, raking in US$173mil (RM720.5mil) in the United States and US$237mil (RM987mil) worldwide, making it the sixth highest-grossing romantic comedy in the United States ever.

The movie was significant for Malaysians as well, as the movie starred two Malaysians in leading roles – Henry Golding and Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh, and large parts of the movie was also filmed here. Malaysians were also involved in various parts of the filmmaking process, from singing on the soundtrack, designing the costumes and dresses, and even providing floral arrangements.

The movie also scooped up two Golden Globe nominations – best motion picture, musical or comedy, and best actress in a motion picture, musical or comedy, for Constance Wu. Her nomination is a historic one as she is the first actress of Asian descent in over 40 years to be nominated in the category. What all this means is Asian actors, Asian characters and Asian-centric stories have a place in Hollywood.

Local TV Shows Get Gritty 


KL Gangster Underworld pushed the envelope this year when it let quite a few expletives fly – a rare sighting in local TV landscape. The creators of the six-episode gangster-set series on iflix, say the coarse language was used to give a more accurate and realistic depiction of the life of a gangster.

Online platforms aren’t the only ones breaking new ground. Traditional platforms like TV3 took a risk with the highly controversial and successful drama Nur, in May, about the relationship between a pious man and a prostitute, played by Syafiq Kyle and Amyra Rosli respectively.


Bundle Of Joy 

When Datuk Seri Siti Nurhaliza gave birth to baby girl Siti Aafiyah Khalid in March, fans all over the country rejoiced. Siti Aafiyah is the songstress’ first born, after an 11-year wait, having previously suffered a miscarriage in 2015.

“Aafiyah means ‘everything that is good’,” the singer explained the significance of the name at a religious ceremony held a week after her birth.

Fall From Grace 

The Chinese entertainment scene was shaken when mainland China’s biggest star, Fan Bingbing, 37, went missing for three months in July. Chinese celebrity host Cui Yongyuan exposed Fan for using yin-yang contracts (one declared and one secret) to avoid paying taxes.

She resurfaced in October with a lengthy public apology via her official Weibo account. Apparently, she had been detained at a “holiday resort” in Jiangsu province, after it was discovered that she had evaded taxes amounting to more than 140 million yuan.

To avoid criminal prosecution, Fan – and the companies she controlled – were ordered to pay taxes and penalties totalling 884mil yuan (RM532mil), including 288mil yuan (RM173mil) in overdue taxes, and 596mil yuan (RM358mil) in fines for tax evasion.

Cui himself pocketed a 100,000 yuan (RM60,173) whistleblower’s fee for exposing Fan’s transgressions.

Fan Bingbing. Photo: AFP/Loic Venance
Jacky Cheung. Photo: Star Planet

Keeping It Classy

Due to overwhelming response from Malaysian Cantopop fans, Hong Kong pop legend Jacky Cheung, 57, brought his A Classic Tour to Kuala Lumpur a second time in 2018.

The Hong Kong God Of Song first played his world tour at Axiata Arena, Bukit Jalil in January. After the show sold out, scalpers started hawking his concert tickets on secondary platforms at exorbitant prices.

To appease fans who couldn’t get tickets to his first show, he played again at Axiata Arena in October, making it a total of six concerts in Malaysia this year. Cheung will wrap up his tour with a 15-show grand finale in Hong Kong in January 2019, setting a new record of 220 concerts for a Chinese singer.

Final Farewell

Datuk Lai Meng. Photo: The Star/Raymond Ooi

There have been great losses this year in the entertainment industry.

Renowned Malaysian entertainer Datuk Lai Meng died in May at age 90. The Empat Sekawan star became a household name together with her other co-stars in the popular TV series that started in 1968 and spanned more than two decades.

She was actively acting well into her 80s, having earned Best Supporting Actress nomination at Taipei’s 45th Golden Horse Awards at 81.

Lai Meng was not the only local celebrity we lost this year. In July, actor Khalid Salleh died at 70 due to respiratory failure. The Best Actor winner at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival in Taiwan (1998) for Jogho was passionate about writing and acting, and performed both in films and on stage.

In November, we lost Spanar Jaya actor and comedian Zaibo, 62, to cancer, and exactly a month before that, Iklim frontman Saleem, 57, passed away after suffering massive injuries following a road accident in September.

Other local celebrities we lost this year were Blues Gang bassist Jim Madasamy, TV personality Datuk Mahadzir Lokman and 1980s comedian Acappan.

Korean actor Jeon Tae-soo.
Dolores O'Riordan. Photo: Reuters/Ferran Paredes

We also said goodbye to international celebrities like Minwoo of K-pop band 100%, TV personality Anthony Bourdain, Bollywood actress Sridevi Kapoor, Swedish DJ Avicii, J-pop superstar Hideki Saijo, Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, Superman actress Margot Kidder, American actor Burt Reynolds, Austin Powers actor Verne Troyer, Cranberries frontwoman Dolores O’Riordan, Korean actor Jeon Tae-soo, punk rock pioneer Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks, American director Penny Marshall, Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci, Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata, and Hong Kong director Ringo Lam.

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