Sarawak opens its door to filmmakers

Abdul Karim (ninth from left) snapping the clapboard to soft launch AIFFA 2019.

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Jan 25: The Sarawak government is prepared to offer incentives to filmmakers to develop, shoot and produce their films and documentaries in the state.

Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said: “For those interested to film in Sarawak, we encourage them to come and talk to us (state government). We are ready to consider and assist you,” he told a press conference after soft launching the Asean International Film Festival and Awards (AIFFA) 2019 here today.

“If we are able to give good subsidies to airlines to come to Sarawak, what more to say local filmmakers. If you want to come down here and make Sarawak the centre stage of your shooting, we welcome you.”

Abdul Karim emphasised that opening Sarawak as a filming destination could help promote the state’s culture, history, beauty and also its tourism industry and related economic activities.

Abdul Karim showing the souvenir of a mini AIFFA Award trophy as (from left) Snowdan, Livan and Lee look on.

To be portrayed in movies properly, he reckoned, could raise the visibility of the destination into tourist attractions, such as New Zealand’s Hobbiton, which registers about 4,000 visitors daily.

“So, movies do play a part in boosting tourism. We are willing to sit down and discuss with the filmmakers and other players in the film industry on what we can offer, such as support in logistics and accommodation.

“We cannot look at ourselves as isolated. We must look at ourselves as part of the Asean region,” he stressed.

On AIFFA, Abdul Karim said the festival, which is held biennially, had been accepted in the state’s tourism calendar of events.

“If we are able to host this event in such a manner, it can be a mega event in the future. But it depends very much on the players and the people behind it. If we can push it to the next level, it can become one of the big film festivals in the Asean region,” he said.

He shared that AIFFA, from its humble beginning in 2013, had been getting good support from the film industry in Asean.

“As such, it is our responsibility, as the host, to make sure it lives up to its mark,” he said.

On another matter, Abdul Karim revealed that the state government had approved some RM12 million to RM13 million to upgrade Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV) and the telecommunication infrastructure around the area.

“The venue where the Rainforest World Music Festival is held is now too packed. It is time to think of ways to expand the location to include a viewer area as well as improve telecommunication coverage there.

“The international and local media covering the event had questioned this before because they were not very happy with the connectivity. So, hopefully, we won’t face this problem this year,” he said.

The 4th edition of AIFFA will return to Kuching, Sarawak, from April 25 to 27 this year.

The film festival brings 10 nations together through the language of films. It provides opportunities for Asean member countries to see each other’s stories and compare notes.

Sarawak multimedia students are fortunate as they will be able to take advantage of the festival to have firsthand knowledge and to network with industry players when the festival is on.

This year’s AIFFA is expected to welcome some 400 delegates and international media to Kuching. ‘Movies Under the Stars’ — the welcome party — will be held at Kuching Waterfront, while the gala night will be held at Pullman Hotel.

Festival director Livan Tajang also announced the creation of AIFFA apps for Asean film buffs and locals who wanted to keep up to date with the events, film entered, and movie screening ties.

Among those present at the soft launching were Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin, Assistant Minister of Youth and Sports Datuk Snowdan Lawan, Batang Sadong MP Dato Sri Nancy Shukri and AIFFA 2019 president jury U-Wei Hj Saari. — DayakDaily