PETALING JAYA: “Would you dance by language?” asks comedian and television host Harith Iskander, in making a point on the universality of art, when commenting on the controversy surrounding the upcoming 28th Malaysian Film Festival (FMM28).
Harith said that the decision by the organisers of FFM28 to move films such as OlaBola and Jagat from being nominated for Best Film to Best Film (non-Malay language) did not make sense.
“Categories should not be separated by language. Film is art. The art is the unifying language,” he told The Star yesterday.
He said the two films should be included in the Best Film category regardless of the language.
“A country is not defined by its national language,” he said, adding that in his opinion, the two films did not deserve to be segregated.
“I support anything that unifies us as Malaysians rather than divides us,” he added.
Yayasan 1Malaysia executive Ishak Sairozi said that the arts industry should aim to unite rather than divide, which has been done by the decision to disqualify Jagat and OlaBola from the Best Film category.
“The Malaysian arts industry is the most popular medium in creating unity in society,” said Ishak, adding that if such issues were not resolved, Malaysians would continue living as a divided society.
Ishak said the exclusion of the two films should not be taken lightly as there should not be such division in today’s society.
He added that it was sad that a high-quality film such as OlaBola, which served to unite Malaysians, was excluded just because it featured an English-heavy dialogue.
In a move applauded by many including banker Datuk Seri Nazir Razak and AirAsia Group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, comedian and filmmaker Afdlin Shauki announced that he would boycott the upcoming FFM, while Md Nor Kassim, a nominee for the Best Cinematography for the film Bravo 5, withdrew himself from the festival in protest.
Malaysian Artistes’ Association (Karyawan) president Datuk Freddie Fernandez, however, defended the decision to place the films in a separate category.
“The FFM is meant to support Malay language films as that is our identity and it reflects our country,” said Fernandez, adding that the Malay-language film industry had a legacy.
Fernandez said that having films such as OlaBola and Jagat in separate categories did not denote that the films were less qualified.
Following the public outcry, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak said he would discuss the segregation of categories based on language for the FMM28 Awards with the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas).
Salleh, who is in Tawau for the launching of this year’s National Month, said he would look into the matter when he is back in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow.
“I have communicated with Finas director-general and will discuss with him when I am back,” said Salleh.
DAP national organising secretary Anthony Loke contacted Salleh yesterday to urge him to intervene in the growing Best Picture award controversy following outrage over the segregation in categories based on language.
Finas director-general Datuk Kamil Othman explained that the decision to separate the categories based on language was simply a transitory compromise to reflect the diversity in the local film industry.