How Malaysia’s First Crowdfunded Film Defied Censorship and Won Online

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how malaysia's first crowdfunded film defied censorship and won online

Malaysia’s first crowdfunded film, Pendatang, has garnered more than 400,000 views on YouTube since its release on December 1, 2023, despite being rejected by the country’s film censorship board.

The film, directed by Zahir Omar and produced by Adrian Teh, tells the story of four friends who embark on a road trip across Malaysia to escape their personal problems. Along the way, they encounter various challenges and adventures, as well as discover the beauty and diversity of their homeland.

The film was made with a budget of RM300,000 (US$71,000), raised through a crowdfunding campaign on the platform Pitchin. More than 1,000 backers contributed to the project, which was also supported by the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS).

However, the film faced a major setback when it was denied a screening certificate by the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia (LPF), which cited the film’s use of profanity, violence, and drug references as reasons for its rejection.

The filmmakers decided to release the film online instead, hoping to reach a wider audience and spark a conversation about the state of the Malaysian film industry and the role of censorship.

“We wanted to make a film that reflects the reality of our society, without sugar-coating or sanitising anything. We also wanted to showcase the beauty of our country, which is often overlooked or taken for granted. We believe that our film has a positive message and a social value, and we hope that the viewers can appreciate that,” Zahir said.

The film has received mostly positive feedback from the online viewers, who praised the film’s cinematography, soundtrack, and acting. Many also expressed their support for the filmmakers’ creative freedom and their courage to challenge the censorship system.

“I think this film is a breath of fresh air for the Malaysian film industry, which is dominated by formulaic and commercial films. This film shows that there is a demand and an appreciation for independent and original films, which can also be entertaining and engaging. I hope that this film can inspire more filmmakers to pursue their passion and vision, and also encourage more viewers to support local films,” said Amir, a 25-year-old student who watched the film on YouTube.

The filmmakers said that they are grateful for the overwhelming response and support from the public, and that they hope that their film can pave the way for more creative and diverse films in Malaysia.

“We are very happy and humbled by the reception of our film. We want to thank everyone who backed our project, watched our film, and shared their feedback. We also want to thank FINAS for their support and guidance. We hope that our film can open up more opportunities and possibilities for the Malaysian film industry, and also create a dialogue and a change in the censorship system,” Teh said.

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