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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Can Local Malaysian Stars Become Internationally Famous?

I've originally wanted to post more of my wonderful haiku I wrote yesterday but since I ain't using my comp, I'll just bring up another topic for discussion. Building upon an entry I wrote last week regarding the problems of the local film industry heard in the seminar, I now wonder wistfully how can our movies reach the international stage.

As I've said, a star system is important for a movie to do well commercially. Although I do agree that our Malay brethren have a much healthier, established and profitable filmmaking scene compared to the Chinese, and numerous have argued that they do indeed have their bona fide homegrown local stars, which I also agree, I still feel that the entire movie business has yet to reach the international stage.

A powerful star system is something we see in Hollywood, Bollywood, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Korea and Japan, where the appeal of their stars transcend barriers and culture. How can Korean and Japanese stars become so big over here when so few of us actually SPEAK their languages? How can it be possible that the posters of these stars are hanging on the bedroom walls of local teenagers, and not those of our own? What is this barrier that's making foreign stars more appealing than our own?

The emergence of Korean films in the international stage happened rather recently, but already, their appeal have swept through the entire Asia, becoming even more frantic than the Japanese, and also at the time when the Hong Kong industry was going downhill. Many of their stars have became household names in different countries. But why can't our stars become household names as well?

Was making it internationally part of the plan for Malaysian films? This is something I have been pondering for quite a while, or is it really meant to be a local-based business? I look at Singapore, and saw a film industry more impressive than ours even though one can say that their commercial cinema is pretty much powered by ONE person, Jack Neo. But already, films by him are already shown around various countries of Asia, he even scooped up some awards from Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards during the past few years.

What about us? Will a Hong Kong teenager ever put up a poster of M. Nasir in his bedroom? Will a Singaporean girl ever declare Ziana Zain as her role model? Will a Taiwanese boy ever attempt to collect every single film with Erra Fazira in it? Will a bunch of Hong Kongers wish to invite Tiara Jacquelina to star in their films like how they invited Japanese and Korean actor and actresses over? Wishful thinking, I know. But ten year ago, who could have expected the Koreans to dominate the consciousness of everyone so deeply today? Hell, even my Filipino maid is a Lee Young Ae fan.

I think for our commercial cinema to grow, we need to market our stars towards the other countries. Or has that actually been done already but I was unaware of it? Feel free to correct me if I am wrong. Are you flabbergasted by the lack of names I used in the paragraph above? (just four) Are you thinking that 'hah, this guy probably has very limited knowledge about the Malay stars', well, I tried asking a number of people on my MSN list, and those were the only names I can get. Perhaps many random moviegoers just don't know that much about our homegrown stars as well.

I am an independant filmmaker. Therefore it is unlikely for me to ever use major stars in my zero-budget short films for the time being (I wouldn't mind if some past winners of Astro Chinese Pageant offer to appear in my films, hehe), all I can do is to submit the stuff I've made to foreign film festivals, hoping against hope that I can receive some sort of recognition of my works. But it would be best if my cast members will be noticed as well and become famous in the end. Contrary to some accusations made against me after last week's entry, I do give a lot of damn about Malaysia's film industry, and I DO wish that someday, Malaysian movies can be competitive in the international stage.

And I repeat, if you're a former participant or winner of a beauty pageant, feel free to contact me, I shall put you in my film. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!