Saturday, October 29, 2005
An enlightening journey. The week a paradigm shifted once again.
Sitting in this hole in the wall i call a room in YOKOHAMA, with the tv blaring japanese commentary of a J league premiership match on one side and a baseball match playing on a field just outside my balcony, i think to myself....
"It is confirmed!...."
I (and i do believe, many of us are the same) don't know much about the world i live in.
Day in day out, i live in a world that is safe and familiar, thinking that i am the master of my sensibilities and the commander of my life path. Being here in Japan and being a part of the experts of the content industry seminar, i have learnt how small my goal is and how limited my vision is in the context of the world film market.
Our japanese counterparts are very much like us, except that they are in suits most of the time and their film and animation industry is a billion dollar industry . Although they have embraced many western sensibilities, they are to a large extent, still... ASIAN, wiith many inherent Asian values.
A warrior nation, not unlike Malaysia, who have learnt (the hard way) that to capture the world, war and violence is not the way. They now know that to be a leader and gain international respect, you have to beat the Goliaths of the world at their most prized and most championed playing field... the free market!...
or in my case, the global film market .
In the Global film industry, we all know that asians, as a people, have bought into the western value system after years of idolising Hollywood, so much so that many of us are actually practising it's subcultures and have rooted it deep into our consiousness. And here we say we want to champion our asian values to the world, but my question is, How do we fight or stop this seemingly unstoppable hollywood machine?, An industry which seem to have endlessly deep pockets to propogate and instigate almost anything.
Taking the japanese example, i think the only way we can beat them is by manipulating our diversely rich content ideas, this is because personally i think Hollywood has exhausted their content banks and are now churning CGI laden (excuse my French) crap!. Of late, they have been looking east, for ideas and this has become the best time for us to strike back due to their new found interest in our stories. BUT in order for us to be able to maximise our current leveraged position, we must be able to compete at their playing level. The Senarios, the anak mamis, the sembilus are all fine and great, for our film industry, but they would not be able to compete at the regional or world stage due to the localised nature of it's content. We need to come up with more brave and cutting edge content. We must maxime and embrace the richness of our socio and cultural heritage and display to the world, all of of the stories which make us who we are. MALAYSIANS. ASIANS.
In the context of Malaysia, IN ORDER TO DO THIS, we need to RELAX OUR CENSORSHIP LAWS. WE HAVE TO RELAX OUR CENSORSHIP LAWS. We must create a conducive environment for our 'karyawan' or artists to create content freely.
An example of this is while i was shooting BULI BALIK, i had to cut out a scene (at the last minute) because we had received a directive that we cannot show teachers in a bad light. The scene that was cut was a scene where the protagonist while in class screamed aloud when he was bullied by the antagonist. The teacher who had repeatedly warned his pupils not to make noise during his class had reacted in anger and threw the duster at the protagonist. Now, i am sure that many of us have experienced this at one point or another i our lives as this is a normal occurance at schools but to the powers that be, it is MENGHINA GURU-GURU or demeaning our teachers. My argument is, if it is demeaning to throw dusters at pupils, then showing the act in the film will further the cause and make people realise that they shouldn't be acting this way.
As is pointed out by my wife, we do not have stories of men raping and abusing children, but this situation is rampant in our society as is reported to us daily in the newspapers. Does one feel like going out to rape a child after watching a movie about a child being raped? If it does, then you need to go for an immideate check-up and commit yourself to the insane asylum straight away. These psychopaths who do what they do, are already sick individuals who will act based on their own set of warped sense of values and it has nothing to do with what happens in our cinemas.
Again i reiterate my point that recognising our problems, like our beloved Prime Minister did with his shakedown on the Malaysian cabinet (and UMNO for that matter) to address the issue of money politics and corruption, is a clear indication that we need to be more transparent in our daily dealings to be able to move forward as a nation and an excellent way to gain the people's trust at the same time.
Our prime minister's game plan as i see it is, RECOGNISE then ADDRESS. ADDRESS then FIX. FIX and then SOLVE.
This then backs my point on the relaxing of the censorship laws, as by our Prime Ministers example, we know that we cannot address a problem, if we do not recognise that there is a problem in the first place. He champions the cause of transparency so why shouldn't our cinema be able to reflect this?
I think it is high time for our Government (whom i respect and love very much for all that they have done for the country and the film industry specifically) to free our content creators to CREATE our own unique take on these content, that so far has always received a foreign point of view. This will help our industry to formulate a Malaysian style of storytelling, which will then help in our country's Image branding as the content industry will be able to represent BRAND MALAYSIA to the world.
In asia many film industries have managed to brand their style of film making to their respective countries and these style has even been cemented into the minds of our little ones. Everyone knows BRAND BOLLYWOOD, BRAND JAPAN (with it's Horror and Anime), BRAND HONGKONG (with it's Martial art and violent movies), BRAND KOREA (Action and Special Effects movies) and more recently BRAND THAILAND (with it's new and explosive young cinema which encompasses Action and Horror) and coming up BRAND INDONESIA (with it's also alternative and interesting young films which deals with teenage issues). So, where do we fit in, in this equation?
In accordance to the point above, i must again strongly point out that there cannot and must not be DOUBLE STANDARDS when dealing with local and international content. Our censorship disallows local filmmakers to show V,H,S (violence, horror and sex) but they allow foreign films to have these elements.
We cannot ask the Americans, the Thais, and the Japanese to stop making films with V,H,S because these are the core ingredients of their pop cinema, so what do we do? .... RELAX OUR CENSORSHIP LAWS so that we can present our own unique views and stories with V,H and even S in them. Let us claim back our local market share of film revenue from the Hollywood machine by doing content as good, if not better, as them. Like what has taken place in KOREA right now. A country, which in a span of just 5 years after the government had relaxed it's censorship laws and pumped in 160 million USD into their film industry, has gained a 60 percent market share over foreign films, including the Mega hollywood blockbusters. Being apart of this industry, i believe and know that we have excellent creators, with the capacity to create world class content and this would be a challenge that will see them rise to the higher echelons of film making.
Examples of countries which have made an impact on the world film market are nations which have freed themselselves from the boundries of excessive censorship. These countries include KOREA and THAILAND, two countries which have taken the international filmmaking fraternity by storm and even the hollywood machine is snapping up their content for international distribution. The Thai film industry also took off when the censorship board relaxed it's regulations saving but one major rule against showing the royal family in whatever form. Fair enough i say. The most important thing is for the government to give us something more to create with.
I emplore the government to TRUST that your people are now educated enough to tell right from wrong and trust that we can make the right choices in our lives.
RELAX THE CENSORSHIP LAWS. Suppression creates interest and interest breeds recalcitrance and recalcitrance invites piracy/truancy to reign supreme.
After my trip to Japan and my experiencing the inputs from all of the 14 Asian country content industry experts in this ASIAN CONTENT INDUSTRY SEMINAR, i KNOW now what i have to do with my career. My new mission in life. To help put MALAYSIA on the GLOBAL FILMMAKING map! A tall order but i believe an achieveable one.
But in order to achieve this, i do believe the filmmaking fraternity in Malaysia needs more than just funding assistance from the government, but more importantly, the government allowing us to make more explosive and provokable content. Then our tagline of 'FILEM MALAYSIA DALAM ERA GLOBALISASI' has some semblance of meaning to it. Then we will not have our own people saying, "i don't watch malay movies!" and hear a new chant in the future, "I love Malaysian cinema!"
Let us make the difference you want us to make on the international stage. We are ready to make the difference and i believe that your people will choose to embrace this change in a positive way. Let our content creators have the choice, Let the people have the choice and i am confident (based on the case study of other countries success stories) that you will not be dissapointed. What do you have to be afraid of gentlemen and ladies of the cabinet, WE HAVE CHOSEN YOU (the government) over and over again haven't we?
EMPOWER THE PEOPLE