WHEN beloved Dato’ Kamil Othman left the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS) last Wednesday after completing a brief two year term as Director-General, his departure was sudden and quiet.
The former Director-General was best recognised for being personable and level-headed. His infectious enthusiasm and unwavering passion for films earned him the respect and support of many in the content creation industry, locally and internationally. He spent many years as a senior finance manager with Shell Malaysia before eventually becoming Vice President at MDeC. He always said that had he not been made to study accounting in university, he would have become a filmmaker too.
From Day One at FINAS, Kamil was the man with the plan, ready with blueprints to create a sustainable and lucrative Malaysian film industry. During his time as Director-General, the Content Malaysian Pitching Centre sprung up almost overnight, followed by other programmes and initiatives, which benefited hundreds of Malaysians in the film industry but it was the new generation of young Malaysian filmmakers, where he put hope in the most.
The kind of leadership Kamil exhibited is rare. He always thought of the future of Malaysian cinema and the possibilities it could hold. He emphasised on local stories with global outreach, as well as the role of the film industry as a contributor to the Malaysian economy. This was a true Malaysian, one of the most hardworking Director-Generals of FINAS many of us had ever seen and for a time, Malaysia was the envy of filmmakers from other countries for the support that its national film council gave us. As recent as October 2016, Dato’ Kamil was reinstated as Vice President of the Asian Film Commission Network in Korea, making it even more quizzical that his term as Director-General of FINAS was not renewed.
Earlier this week, a petition was circulated on social media to gather support for Kamil’s re-election as director-general. The petition titled Industri Perlu Kamil! outlines Kamil’s initiatives and adjustments to the industry. To date, it has gathered over 730 signatures and 270 comments. Kamil also trended on Twitter several months ago after members of the public threw their support behind him via the social media hashtag #KamiSokongKamil.
Taking into account his successes during such a short amount of time, his release came as a shock to many. At present, Kamil has more supporters than critics.His detractors claim the fruits of his labour are still not visible after two years in office, while his supporters insist that Kamil’s long-term measures require more time. By refusing Kamil another term as director-general, it is not just the plans he implemented at FINAS, but the plans of many film productions as well that may need to be recalibrated. As of now, the first batch of development fund grantees through CMPC, have yet to go into production.
The two-year term is not set in stone. Given that Mohd Shariff Ahmad had ten years as director-general while Mahyidin Mustakim did five while in FINAS. All things considered, many people in the film industry feel anxious in their silence, they can only hope that the Ministry has something in store for FINAS that could be better than the man who exceeded all our expectations.
Kamil’s departure from FINAS was unceremoniously quiet. It may have been submerged beneath the ruckus over Donald Trump‘s presidency and other distractions too. But ultimately, perhaps the industry has become hush because the man who stood up for us all has left the building and with him, some of that bright and beautiful enthusiasm that he planted within the Malaysian film industry, leaves too.
Kamil shared a few words with FINAS during his final hours as director-general. They’re mostly obligatory words of hope and gratitude, the sort that marks an end to any position of authority. But there’s one thing we hope holds true for the good of the industry.
“Alhamdulillah, benih telah saya semaikan,” he spoke on his last day, “semoga setiap perancangan, strategi, dasar, pelaburan, halatuju, mekanisme dan aspirasi dalam tempoh dua tahun sebagai ketua pengarah FINAS selama ini akan terus membunga ke arah kejayaan dan terus didukung bagi pembangunan industri yang lebih mampan dan berkualiti.”
We hope so too. Thank you, Dato’ Kamil Othman for your contribution to the Malaysian film industry.