‘Statements on VAT 69 were personal opinions’
BINTULU: A recent statement by Sarawak’s first Dayak independent film maker with regard to the omission of Sarawak Rangers and Iban trackers from a TV documentary on VAT 69 aired by Astro’s History Channel does not reflect the opinions of other production houses and film makers in the state.
“Our co-founder Benny was expressing his personal opinion about Dato Sri Dr James Masing’s statement which wrongly blamed Astro regarding the production of VAT 69.
“Even though both Benny and I were part of Allen Tinggie Trading Sdn Bhd which produced the first Iban feature film, ‘Saloi the Movie’, that does not mean our opinions reflect the company in any way.
“In fact, we stressed that we are no longer with them for quite sometime and so there’s no reason for anyone to point fingers at the owners of the company or even to say that we represent other production houses in Sarawak,” Monita Jeff said.
She said as an active player in the local film industry, they were saddened by the fact that the minister had jumped to a wrong conclusion and blamed Astro and Finas.
“I can say that we have no political or personal agenda,” said Monita who is currently directing her first Iban mini drama series in DVD, ‘Aloi & Empangup’.
She stressed that they were just unhappy with Masing for blaming Astro and Finas.
“We have to say our piece because our hope of securing funds from Finas and jobs from Astro in the near future could be jeopardised,” said Monita.
Monita, who is a professional TV drama and film scriptwriter, believes that the fault of omitting the roles of the Sarawak Rangers and Iban trackers in the documentary should be shouldered by the scriptwriter and the director as they were responsible for the contents.
“I’ve written numerous scripts and I know how tough it is to get the correct information for a historical documentary or movie production. This is what most Dayaks don’t understand.”
According to Monita, normally a scriptwriter pitches an idea in the form of a synopsis to a production house which later presents the ideas to a TV station.
If the TV station accepts the idea, then the production house has a project.
That’s how certain documentaries are made.
Monita, who has also directed the first Iban documentary, ‘Ngintu Pengerai Enggau Cara Homeopathy’, believes that so much misunderstanding has happened due to the VAT 69 documentary.
“Yes, I believe that VAT 69 documentary should have included the roles of the Sarawak Rangers and Iban trackers, but then again, we don’t know the idea of the scriptwriter, and therefore we cannot jump to the wrong conclusion.
“If so many people want to highlight the contribution of our forefathers and warriors in the fight against communism, then why not produce a documentary about it? Don’t just sit and talk nonsense,” Monita said.
She also questioned why certain individuals must get angry with Benny’s statement.
“It should have been taken as a positive rebuke. We may be a small fish but Borneo Film Makers Group has a pool of talents who have genuine interest in film making.
“That’s why we feel hurt by a wrong statement that can cost us a chance to promote Dayak films or documentaries to a TV station such as Astro. Our career as film makers depend on TV stations and assistance from Finas,” she said.
According to her, currently, they are self-funded and certain projects are funded by wealthy individuals who believe in creating more and more mini films and documentaries in local dialects such as Iban.
“To date, we have three products — a mini drama series and two documentary projects. BFG doesn’t just talk, we walk the talk even though we do not have big funding like other production houses in the country,” she said.