The best film prize at the upcoming Malaysia Film Festival will after all be open to all Malaysian-made films whatever their languages.
The Communications and Multimedia minister Salleh Said Keruak stepped in on Wednesday to reverse a recent decision that sparked a row within the film industry, splitting it partly along racial lines.
Following the Wednesday ruling, the best film, best director and best screenplay prizes will no longer only be linguistically defined. However, the ministry has asked the Malaysia National Film Development Corporation (FINAS) to create a new category for ‘best film in the national language.” FINAS said that it will hold a board meeting to enact Keruak’s changes.
The row erupted when the 28-year old festival and awards, set for Sept. 1-3, introduced new rules that made the three top categories only open to films made in Bahasa Malaysia. Malaysia has a mixed race population and increasing numbers of film makers are working in Chinese and Tamil. According to the now debunked rule change, films shot in these languages could only compete for a ‘best film non-Bahasa Malaysia prize.’
The row sparked charges of protectionism for poor quality films and accusations of self interest as members of the producers’ guild were among the festival’s selectors and had backed the recent change.
“Segregation only lowers the bar for Malaysia’s already mediocre/non progressing film industry. Competition is needed to spur growth and keeps everyone on their toes, director Hafiz Ibrahim, told local media. The row also pitched the producers’ and directors’ guilds on one side and the screenwriters’ guild in the opposite camp.
One newspaper, The Malay Mail, suggested that some of the festival’s co-organizers may now pull out, leaving the 2017 edition to be solely organized by FINAS.