Liew Seng Tat‘s Lelaki Harapan Dunia has officially been submitted as Malaysia’s entry to the 88th Academy Awards (more affectionately known as the Oscars).
Lelaki Harapan Dunia won big at Festival Filem Malaysia ke-27 earlier this month, scooping up Best Film, Best Director, Best Original Story, Best Art Direction and Best Child Actor. Starring Wan Hanafi Su, Soffi Jikan, Azman Hassan and child actor Raykarl Iskandar, the film is a dark comedy revolving around the lives of Malay villagers.
We spoke to Liew Seng Tat himself recently to find out his thoughts about having his second full-length feature sent to the Oscars.
“I don’t think about achievement that much; it’s good to be recognised but it’s more about making other people happy,” he sheepishly stated.
“I would bring an award home to my mum and say, look I won an award here!“.
Among films from Asia competing this year to get into the Academy’s Best Foreign Language Film category include Hou Hsiao Sen‘s The Assassin, Lee Joon-Ik‘s The Throne, Jerrold Tarog‘s Heneral Luna, and Dante Lam‘s To The Fore.
Seng Tat believes that being given all these accolades motivates him to set a standard which he has to continue upholding. He however is slightly skeptical about his chances, judging from his competition.
“Hou Hsiao Sen is a big master. If you study the history of cinema, these names are all there in the book.”
“Who am I [to be compared with them]? And suddenly I’m being picked by Malaysia to be in the same category,” he tells us, incredulous.
Director-General of FINAS, Dato’ Kamil Othman, recalled his promise earlier in the year about seeing a Malaysian film at the Academy Awards in two years during the announcement last week.
At the beginning of the year, I promised amongst other things that FINAS will change its direction to focus on quality rather than quantity, and to position Malaysia cinema to the world. Hence, today we have made our submission for the Oscar.
Winning is not our main concern as it is more about telling the world that there is a vibrant Malaysian cinema waiting to tell Malaysian stories to the world.
Lelaki Harapan Dunia was chosen by the newly-established Oscar Selection Committee, an initiative by the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS) which decides which local film is worthy of submission to the Oscars.
Historically, Malaysia has only submitted two other films to the academy, namely Saw Teong Hin‘s Puteri Gunung Ledang (2004) and Dain Said‘s Bunohan (2012). Both did not make the shortlist, with Alejandro Amenabar‘s The Sea Inside winning the race in 2004 while Michael Hanneke‘s Amour took home the award in 2012.