Film & TV News

The 29th Malaysian Film Festival is a step forward for the underdogs of our film industry

With Adiwiraku winning Best Film Award and Sangeeta Krishnasamy winning Best Actress at the 29th Malaysian Film Festival, there seems to a glowing light at the end of the tunnel for aspiring filmmakers and young practitioners.

No more language categories

The Malaysian Film Festival, like any other award ceremony out there, was not without its controversies. In the previous installment, a lot of flak was thrown by the community when some categories were divided according to language. Both sides of the argument threw many claims against each other, most prominent of which is the protest by PENULIS (Persatuan Penulis Lakon Layar Kuala Lumpur dan Selangor) (our article on it here) Many issues were discussed including representation, upholding the status of our national language and fairness in artistic evaluations.

Regardless of one might think about the argument, Malaysian Film Festival (known in Malay as Festival Filem Malaysia or FFM) scrapped the language category list. In a multicultural Malaysia vying for unity & tolerance, it seemed ridiculous to have a Best Film category divided into ‘Bahasa Malaysia’ & ‘Not In Bahasa Malaysia’.


The underdog film about underdogs

The 29th Malaysian Film Festival
KUALA LUMPUR, 23 Sept — The director of Adiwiraku, Eric Ong, giving a speech after being given the award for Best Film

After all the hullabaloo, a lot has changed for the better this year. Sangeeta Krishnasamy symbolizes a hopefully inclusive future in an otherwise Malay-centric film industry and made history by being the first Malaysian-Indian to win Best Actress. Sangeeta humbly said that she felt she didn’t “deserve to win Best Actress“, but truly she gave a stellar enough performance in Adiwiraku to win against heavyweights like Sharifah Amani who was also great in Pekak.

Adiwiraku itself is a testament to a nice change in the film industry. Award ceremonies such as FFM are often accused of favouring big budget productions and established producers or actors, but Adiwiraku winning the Best Film category has proven that wrong. Adiwiraku is a film based on a true story about Cheryl Ann Fernando’s journey as a teacher in SMK Pinang Tunggal who pushes her students to join a choral speaking competition despite their struggles with poverty and proficiency in English. Adiwiraku also won Best Original Story given to Jason Chong.

It was shot beautifully despite its low budget (RM600,000), beating multi-million ringgit ventures like J Revolusi, Desolasi & Interchange. The underdog film about underdogs has touched the hearts of award panelists, proving that it’s not always about box office revenues and endorsements.

Adiwiraku Trailer

Zizan Razak’s snarky remarks

Speaking of endorsements, Zizan Razak does a good job in making fun of some of the symptomatic problems about our industry in his jokes. Although his attempt at following in the footsteps of sarcastic and cynical comedians (ala Ricky Gervais, Amy Poehler, Seth MacFarlane, etc) in other award shows is slightly clumsy in execution, we give him props for having the audacity to make jokes about the grantings of Datukships and the deletion of negative comments (*cough* censorship *cough) in the presence of Menteri Komunikasi & Multimedia, Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Salleh Tun Said Keruak. He has since apologized for his remark, although we think he only suffered in delivery but not content *winks*.

Zizan Razak’s snarky remarks shown here


A bright future

Many other wonderful talents were also given due recognition. You Mean The World To Me, a Penang Hokkien film by Saw Teong Hin

Tunku Mona Riza wins Best New Director with her film 'Redha' - (Source:
Tunku Mona Riza wins Best New Director with her film ‘Redha’ – (Source:

, won Best Screenplay for its gripping dramatized autobiography about family. It’s masterful use of story telling and its sorrowful yet engaging music score also bagged the Best Music Score Award (Koon Wei Gee). It also brought awareness to the fading use of Hokkein that Penangites have moved away from as the years go by. Although Interchange received its fair share of criticism, the mythical world it created was beautiful and glorious, thus deserving of accolades for Best Cinematography (Jordan Chiam), Best Art Direction (Zaharah Nakibullah) & Best Director (Dain Iskandar Said).

Other highlights include the nominations and awards given to the film Redha (known also as Beautiful Pain), a heartfelt picture about two old parents taking care of a boy with autism. Nam Ron‘s powerful depiction as a father unwilling to accept his child’s uniqueness has earned him the Best Actor Award. Tunku Mona Riza winning the Best New Director Award is an amazing feat, thus paving the way for many more bright film directors in the local scene.

A screenshot from You Mean The World To Me, winner of Best Screenplay
A screenshot from You Mean The World To Me, winner of Best Screenplay

Festival Filem Malaysia has certainly come a long way since its formation in 1980.  We’ve evolved from an industry that applauds grand actions film such as  Abang Long Fadil 2 (which won the Box Office Film Award)  & J Revolusi, towards an audience that appreciates films with deeper context like Jagat (2016) that invokes the more emotional aspects for what it means being a Malaysian.

In a Malay dominated industry, it is truly a step towards a more culturally diverse film scene in terms of language and race. From the winning of best actress going to the first Malaysian-Indian actress to Hokkien films making it to award-level grounds; there certainly has been a gradual change in the country, and we only hope to see more talent being recognized; not for it’s huge budget, or star-littered cast- but for stories of all voices to be given the recognition they deserve.

The following is the full list of FFM29 winners:

Best Film: Adiwiraku

Best Director: Dain Iskandar Said (Interchange)

Best Actress: Sanggeeta Krisnasari (Adiwiraku)

Best Actor:  Nam Ron (Redha)

Best Editor: Nazim Shah (J Revolusi)

Best Art Direction: Zaharah Nakibullah (Interchange)

Best Child Actor: Harith Haziq (Redha)

Best New Actress: June Lojong (Redha)

Best New Actor: John Tan (You Mean the World to Me)

Best New Director: Tunku Mona Riza (Redha)

Best Music Score: Koon Wei Gee (You Mean the World to Me)

Best Supporting Actress: Diana Danielle (Hanyut)

Best Supporting Actor: Shaheizy Sam (Interchange)

Best Original Story: Jason Chong

Jury’s Special Award 1: Desolasi

Jury’s Special Award 2: Shuttle Life

Jury’s Special Award 3: Pekak

Best Screenplay: You Mean the World to Me

‘Penggiat Belakang Tabir’: Johan Ariffin Ibrahim

All-Time Laureate: Datuk Yusoff Haslam

Box Office Film Award: Abang Long Fadil 2

Best Costume: Hanyut

Best Sound Direction: Hanyut

Best Cinematography: Interchange — Source: Bernama


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