What Nationality is my film?

Okay, I've pretty much finished editing my short film, 'Forced Labour', the only thing giving me fits now is the end credits. Having some problems as I realized that most of the characters (in fact, all but one) are nameless, so how the hell are audiences going to know if I put the names of the characters (yeah, they have names in the script) next to the names of my cast members?

Or perhaps I'll just stick with a simple 'Featuring', and then followed by names of my cast members? Decisions, decisions.

Have to get this done as soon as possible so that I can send it to this Internet film festival in Japan, followed by numerous other film festivals I can think of. However, there has been something that's been bothering me for quite a while.

Which country is my short film representing?

Is it a Malaysian film? Or is it an Australian film?

I have once asked James Lee this question back when I was in Malaysia last month. He told me that this is sorta decided by who's the one financing the film, or the filmmaking crew.

All right, 'Forced Labour' is pretty much produced by Justin and I, an American and a Malaysian as we are the ones splitting our money for most of our expenses. But since I'm the one spending more (I didn't charge him for the equipment and gadget used for the short film), it makes it more a Malaysian-financed film.

As for the filmmaking crew. Well, idea's developed by Justin and I, then he's the one who wrote the script, but after that, the ones behind the filmmaking are mostly Malaysian, or I would say, it's pretty much a one-man crew as I was the director, cameraman, editor, sound editor, props guy, occasional lighting guy and et cetera... soooo, the 'majority' of the crew would be Malaysian. *winks*

So, all these factors prove that this film IS a Malaysian film, and Malaysia should be the country I'm representing if I take part in film festivals.


I remembered James Lee mentioned something about the cast as well. And these questions bother me verily.

"Does a Malaysian film has to be ABOUT Malaysia and Malaysians?"

"If the main cast are mostly Malaysians, then this is easily a Malaysian film. But what if it's not?"

We'll look at the second question first. There are eight cast members in the final version of Forced Labour, one Malaysian, two Singaporeans, an American, four Australians. (and an uncredited cameo of this short film's very own Malaysian filmmaker)

Soooo, 50% of my cast members are Australians, wouldn't that 'Forced Labour' an Australian film? After all, it IS shot in Perth. Although this is not a film ABOUT Australians and Australia either. It's a gangster drama/black comedy, but none of the characters made any claims that they were AUSTRALIAN gangsters, and there weren't any notable Perth landmarks I inserted into the film.

Oh, the film's in English too. But I doubt that would help make things simpler.

Some of you might already feel that "all directions seem to point that this is a Malaysian film!" after reading what I've written above.

There had been this rather annoying misconception among the public that a Malaysian film has to display Malaysian characteristics. What Malaysian characteristics? An obligatory shot of the mamak stall? People speaking in Manglish mixed with Chinese or Malay? Some coconut trees? What else? A Malaysian flag in the background?

'Forced Labour' is a film mostly financed by a Malaysian, and made by a Malaysian, what is it? Can it still claim itself as a Malaysian short film even though it has NONE of the characteristics mentioned above?

But seriously, is it really true that a Malaysian film HAS TO have those that I've mentioned above? I remember asking the very same question to someone I met in uni, and the guy agreed. I paraphrase him: "OF COURSE! A MALAYSIAN FILM HAS TO SHOW MALAYSIAN CULTURE! IT HAS TO HAVE MAMAK STALLS AND EVERYTHING SO THAT WE CAN RELATE TO IT! WE HAVE TO SHOW OUTSIDERS OUR CULTURE!!"

What is 'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon'? It's financed by Hollywood, has a crew of people from either HK, Taiwan or China, directed by a Taiwanese director, featured a HK actor (Chow Yun Fat), an arguably Malaysian actress (our own Dato Michelle Yeoh), a Taiwanese (Zhang Zhen) and a Chinese actress (Zhang Ziyi). Til this very day, I've not heard anyone giving me a satisfying answer. However, most regard it as a Taiwanese film because of its director, just like how Hero is regarded as a China film because it is made by a Chinese director (despite being also financed by Americans).

You can't call Lord of the Rings an 'American' film either. Yes, it's financed by Hollywood, but it's made by a mostly (I think) New Zealander crew, based on a classic series of British books, and have a cast from different countries. A New Zealand film? A British film? A Hollywood film? Seems more likely the latter, but this is seriously confusing the heck out of me.

What is Malaysia looking for from its independent filmmakers? Films about Malaysians and Malaysia and Malaysian culture? Being patriotic and nationalistic is one thing, but what about films not about the above? Are they still Malaysian films? Or because they are not about Malaysia, Malaysian culture and Malaysians thus they cannot be regarded as Malaysian films?

Perhaps a film is easier to be categorized by having a nationality. But is that so important? This is still a rather ambiguous topic to me. And it's confusing the heck out of me, man.

Tasukete kudasai? Help?