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Malaysian Film Festival favorites break new ground

December 6, 2011 - Tianzi Harrison

2011 is a year to remember for Malaysian cinema. Clearly the country’s film industry is on the rise. Both its total number of screens and theater attendance have increased steadily from previous years. A new top grossing film was born, and a local blockbuster was sold to more than 60 countries worldwide.

These two films did extremely well at the 24th Malaysian Film Festival or FFM 24 too, which ran from Nov. 16 to 20 and was organized by the Federation of Film Professionals Associations of Malaysia (GAFIM). They dominated the award ceremony for their outstanding artistic achievements and unprecedented box office takings.

One of them was 27-year-old Syamsul Yusof’s KL Gangster. It is an adrenaline-pumping yet thought-provoking story of an uneasy relationship between two brothers caused who have conflicting views on a gangster lifestyle. It made over 10 million ringgit (US$3.2m) and topped the list of highest grossing films made domestically. The other was Yusry Abdul Halim’s CGI-packed film The Malay Chronicles: Bloodlines, which tells the epic tale of Malayan warrior Merong Mahawangsa successfully escorting a Roman prince to China to marry his wife-to-be.

The two films took 14 out of the 33 awards up for grabs, with KL Gangster winning in six categories and The Malay Chronicles: Bloodlines in eight. For KL Gangster, the categories were Best Editing, Movie Box Office, Best Supporting Actor, Best Screenplay, Best Sound Setup, and Best Director. For The Malay Chronicles: Bloodlines, they were Best Original Score, Best Costume, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Film, Best Poster, Best Visual Effects, and Best Theme Song.

To note, both directors Syamsul and Yusry come from families that have been established in the film or entertainment industries. Syamsul’s father Yusof Haslam is a renowned producer/actor/director in Malaysia. He worked alongside Syamsul as the producer for KL Gangster. Yusry, on the other hand, received help from his brothers Norman and Edry on producing and music. The three of them used to run a band but have turned it into KRU Studio now.

Edry (first left), Norman (second right), and Yusry (first right) / source: Bernama

FFM has certainly come a long way from its sorrier earlier years. New Straits Times reports that it used to have fewer than 20 nominations in the 1990s. In 2009, the number was 26; in 2010, it increased to 29. This year, there are 42. GAFIM also raised an impressive sum of 6.68 million ringgit to run the festival at the Putrajaya International Convention Center in Putrajaya.

However, despite its accomplishments, there are a few disappointing facts about the festival, which will hopefully get improved in the future. One of them is the festival’s official website, which does not seem updated to reflect this year’s events. Conflicting information about nominated films and winners is found on the website’s different webpages. Besides that, although 33 awards are listed for the festival, information can only be found on 29 of them (see link). The missing ones are Best Documentary, Best Short, Best Animated Feature, and Best Non-Malay Film. The absence of Non-Malay Film stands out especially because it is likely to bring on yet more grudges from non-Malays, who have already been speaking out against the discriminatory treatments by the National Film Development Corporation of Malaysia or FINAS on them. Last but not least, the festival can certainly use more audience members in the future, as this Facebook video will show you why.

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