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“Pendatang,” Malaysia’s first crowdfunded film, set to premiere on YouTube on December 21st

Malaysia’s first crowdfunded film, “Pendatang,” premieres on YouTube this December 21st. It portrays a local narrative emphasizing cultural depth over profits.

The film’s successful crowdfunding circumventing the censorship by Malaysian authorities signifies a breakthrough for creative independence.

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MALAYSIA: “Pendatang,” Malaysia’s first entirely crowdfunded film, is set to premiere on YouTube on 21st December.

The film, produced by local filmmakers at Kuman Pictures, achieved its crowdfunding goal in October last year, reaching the target with only two days to spare.

Surpassing its initial target of RM328,614 by two per cent, the project raised a total of RM335,981 (US$70,178) through its campaign on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.

A week before the deadline on 6th October 2022, the project had only reached 49 per cent of the required funds.

At that time, Kuman Pictures founder, Amir Muhammad, humorously suggested that Malaysians tend to leave things to the last minute.

The crowdfunding campaign had six tiers of donations, ranging from US$10 to US$10,000, each offering different perks or benefits to contributors based on their chosen tier.

“Pendatang” depicts a dystopian thriller set in a racially segregated country. The movie’s screenplay was penned by Lim Boon Siang, and it is slated to be directed by Ng Ken Kin.

Pendatang is not made for commercial gain — it is a Malaysian story by Malaysians for Malaysians and audiences worldwide, and its measure of success will be its reach and the conversations it encourages, not monetary profit,” said Amir.

With the crowdfunding amount exceeding RM400,000, Amir Muhammad and director Ng Ken Kin hosted a sharing session at the SeaShort Film Festival held at Central Market, Kuala Lumpur, last Saturday (21 Oct).

They expressed their excitement about the successful crowdfunding, highlighting the significant support from Malaysians, and underscoring the widespread enthusiasm for the film.

Jo Kukathas lauded ‘Pendatang’ success amid Malaysia’s film censorship

Jo Kukathas, a distinguished Malaysian theatremaker and director, shared her thoughts after watching the preview of the film at the recent Seashorts Film Festival.

In her post, she quoted Amir Muhammad’s words, “It’s not important to be the best, but it IS important to be the FIRST,” praising his trademark upbeat attitude.

“No one can take that away from you. But the preview looked very good; the dystopian Malaysian thriller has an edgy compelling premise thanks to the vivid imagination of writer Lim Boon Siang. No one can take that away from you either.”

Recalling the Q&A session, Kukathas highlighted Amir’s humorous anecdotes about the highs and lows of crowdfunding, from the reluctance of potential investors to the last-minute surge of support.

Amir recounted how an influential friend’s endorsement of the project during the screening of “Mat Kilau” in July last year had catalyzed a significant boost in the Pendatang Indiegogo campaign.

According to Kukathas, Amir emphasized the significance of supporting creative projects, emphasizing that every contribution, no matter how small, fosters a sense of connection and propels artistic endeavors forward.

Kukathas also praised the cinematography directed by Ken Kin, noting the film’s expansive scope.

Unconventional storytelling as ‘Pendatang’ bypasses traditional film circuits for public impact

“So why YouTube? Because that was the crowdfunding promise. Because also, why not?”

“Film is not about the prestige of opening in the cinema or Netflix, said Amir, it’s about finding ways of getting your story out to the public unscathed by officialdom. Not his exact words, but you get the gist. “

She prompts an introspective question regarding the conflict between moral and legal obligations in a society where certain laws might be perceived as unjust or outdated.

“I guess the question we have to ask of ourselves is do we choose to break a moral code or a legal one? This country is full of bad laws. What is the moral imperative to obey them? Not much, I’d say.”

“Law is law, others might say. That is probably going to be the source for much of the tension in Pendatang. “

Reflecting on Malaysia’s past instances of art industry censorship

The success of “Pendatang” through crowdfunding bypassed the requirement for Malaysian Film Censorship Board approval, illustrating a significant achievement for the film industry’s creative autonomy.

Previously, Malaysian director Amanda Nell Eu voiced her disappointment over the modified version of her award-winning film “Tiger Stripes” presented to the local audience, emphasizing that it diverged from her original creation.

“I do not stand behind the cut that will be shown in local cinemas […] the film that will be shown in local cinemas is not the film that we made, and it is not the film that won the Grand Prize of the Critics Week in Cannes,” said Eu in a statement.

With eight different regulating bodies, including the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Film Censorship Board (LPF), and the Federal Islamic Authority (JAKIM), Malaysian governments, regardless of their political affiliations, have a lengthy history of censoring both local and international films.

Their rationales range from concerns about religious sensitivity and societal harmony to a strict anti-LGBT stance and the safeguarding of the state’s international political relationships.

Malaysian thriller ‘Pulau’ faces ban in Terengganu over racy scenes, while ‘Mentega Terbang’ draws accusations of religious pluralism

In January, an official trailer of a Malaysian supernatural thriller film ‘Pulau’, directed by Eu Ho was bombarded with comments from local social media users, mostly condemning the sexy scenes ― actresses wearing bikinis to a few milliseconds of kissing and love-making scenes.

The movie was banned from screening in Terengganu despite the Malaysian National Film Development Corporation (Finas) permitting a premiere nationwide.

Another movie, ‘Mentega Terbang'(Flying Butter), which has been available online since 2021, has been accused of containing elements of religious pluralism, with objections from Muslims in the country. The police received eight reports in connection with the film.

The case is being investigated under three different sections of the Penal Code and the Communications and Multimedia Act.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission(MCMC) has stated that the Viu platform took down the movie on 27 February.

The Islamic development department (JAKIM) also reviewed the content of the film and found it to be against the Islamic creed, according to Religious Affairs Minister Na’im Mokhtar.

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