“In China, Star Wars: The Force Awakens isn’t released until January because they have a national policy which prioritises local films,” stated Jasmin Wahab, Head of Communications at the Malaysian Indian Creative Content Council.
Speaking in defense of local Tamil film Jagat — particularly in reference to how local cinemas who have found ways to remove the film from listings despite skim wajib tayang — Jasmin was unhappy with the way homegrown films are received by both the government and local audiences.
“We bring in so many foreign films that our local films don’t even have space. But do we know for sure that the buyers of all these foreign films have paid their 10% remittance to Lembaga Hasil Dalam Negeri (LHDN)?”
Jasmin pointed out to attendees at the press conference in Nagas Restaurant last week that every time a foreign film is brought into Malaysia, 10% of the total value of the film must be paid to the government in taxes. But like skim wajib tayang, she is unsure of whether or not this policy is actually enforced.
The biggest revelation to many in the room however was the fact that chunks of Jagat‘s box office collection does not go to its makers. Box office collection for local films are subject to a 20% entertainment tax on top of a 6% goods and services tax.
In Malaysia, film falls under entertainment as according to Akta Hiburan, and is therefore subjected to all restrictions and penalties as outlined in the act.
“To fight foreign films in the local market, we will need proper screenings. Otherwise, our future film students and filmmakers are not going to find an industry here in the future,” she lamented.
Local films have always suffered at the Malaysian box office when compared to international releases, but to put things in perspective, consider this: Jagat opened on 24 screens, the year’s biggest local film Polis Evo opened on 91, while latest international release Ip Man 3 has over 150.
According to Jasmin, Radio Television Malaysia (RTM) has a policy of screening 52 Tamil films a year. Unfortunately, a majority of these are selected by a handful of buyers who prefer Tamil films from India over local produce.
“These films from India don’t reflect the Malaysian identity,” explained Jasmin, “we are spoiling our youngsters; we have to stop this influx of films from India into our country. Just like how our automobile industry is protected, we need to give local Tamil films a proper chance.”
“India has had over 120 years to make films and become great at their craft, can’t you give us at least five to ten years to train our filmmakers and then have them compete fairly?”
Jasmin argues that giving local filmmakers a fighting chance will make sure money is retained within the worsening Malaysian economy. Otherwise, Malaysians will continue spending on foreign films.
“Diorang ikan paus,” quipped producer Siva Perianan, “kitorang ikan bilis.”
“Tapi ikan bilis pun nak hidup.”
In it’s second week of release, Jagat falls two spots down to #13 despite losing more than half of its screens, running on just 10 prints. It’s performance is bettered only by new releases Mat Moto and Isteri Untuk Dijual in terms of local content at the cinemas.
MICCC is a FINAS-endorsed organisation which aims to ensure the well-being and progress of the local Indian film industry. It operates in hand with the Malaysian Indian Creative Content Action Force (MICCAF), which has in the past carried out raids on production sets to ensure locally-commissioned content comply with rules and regulations.
Jagat opened on 17 December 2015. Read more about the film in our previous write-up.