Ahad, Julai 18, 2004

Great expectations

petikan The Star Online 18 Julai 2004

IT’s not just the film-makers who are hopeful and excited about Puteri Gunung Ledang.

Dr Wan Zawawi Ibrahim, a professor at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Malay and Civilization, for one, is rooting for a movie can stand on par with, say, Thailand’s best, the critically-acclaimed epic, The Legend of Suriyothai.

He also views PGL as a refreshing change from the 90% of Malay movies that are “like variety shows”.

Film studies and scriptwriting lecturer Hassan Mutalib, “really hopes this is going to be a film that will be noticed by the world like Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, which won the grand prize in the 1951 Venice International Film Festival.’’

Film critic Saniboey Mohd Ismail says many of the 16 movies released this year so far, like Bicara Hati and Bintang Hati, were very poor fare.

“Kuliah Cinta was also bad. But people wanted to watch that kind of stuff and it made RM4.1mil. I teach film-making in UiTM and if you are talking about aesthetics, that is not the kind of movie that you want to use as a good example of film-making. U-Wei’s Kaki Bakar has aesthetic value and it was shown in Cannes but Kuliah Cinta will not go anywhere outside Malaysia.”

Having seen PGL, albeit not fully completed then, at a private screening over two months ago, Saniboey is in a position to give his impressions: “Technically, the movie is one of a kind. I have never seen a Malay movie done like that. It is like watching Musa (the South Korean historical epic) - very serious and grand.”

However, Saniboey adds that he “could not feel the love between Puteri Gunung Ledang and Hang Tuah.”

Still, he believes the audience may overlook that aspect because they would be amazed by the film’s technical wizardry.

Dr Wan Zawawi, who also writes on Malaysian films, says moviegoers will look forward to PGL because it is the first big budget Malay movie. But he is unsure whether it will make money. He gives the example of Paloh, which was produced at RM3.5mil, but earned only RM142,645.

“The quality was good. But it was hard to understand as it played with themes that are not commercial. And Malaysian audience do not like to be challenged. They don’t go for thinking movies,’’ he says.

Executive producer Datuk Shazalli Ramly, the executive producer, is confident the Enfiniti Productions’ debut movie will make money.

He explains how the budget of RM7mil was increased 100%. “We increased the budget after I went to Rome in early 2002. Our original plan was to make a movie for Asean consumption – Malaysia and Indonesia – but when I was discussing the concept (in Rome) I realised that there was an opportunity for us to go for the international market.”

But that meant doubling the budget to give the director the means to improve the cinematography, which Shazalli says is key to a film’s success in the international market.

Enfiniti has worked out the math: it expects to recoup RM7mil from the box office takings in Malaysia and Indonesia. And the parent company of Enfiniti, Encorp Media Group, which has a controlling stake in ntv9, a television station, will use its contacts with television stations around the world to sell Puteri Gunung Ledang.

“I am in touch with 1,200 TV stations CEOs and if I can sell the movie for US$20,000 (RM76,000) to each station ... you do the calculation,’’ says Shazalli, who is also CEO of Encorp, adding that ntv7 spends RM80mil a year buying programmes.

“I bought an Iranian movie for US$20,000 so similarly somebody in Iran has to buy my movie now. It is an advantage for us to have a TV station.

“Malaysians have to understand that to go into something like this, you need a business plan. Our returns should not be based on the collection of one box office (in Malaysia). We are global now. And we can sell to the world the TV rights, cinema rights, VCDs and DVDs of Puteri Gunung Ledang,’’ he adds.

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