Kuala Lumpur fest spotlights Malaysia

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SINGAPORE -- In a year when Malaysian films have enjoyed a bit of the spotlight at international film festivals, the inaugural Kuala Lumpur International Film Festival is hoping to promote Malaysian films at home as well as overseas.

"We're hoping that Malaysian filmmakers will benefit from interaction with the international film industry participants who are coming to attend the festival, and we also want foreigners to understand that our industry is growing," festival director Wafa Tan Sri Dato' Abdul Kadir said. "In 2000, we only had eight to 10 films locally produced, now we have about 23-24 annually."

The appetite for Malaysian films has been growing on the festival circuit. In January, the International Film Festival of Rotterdam featured six Malaysian films; in March, the Deauville Asian Film Festival had a special focus on the movies of Malaysian director James Lee; and in October, the Pusan International Film Festival ran a special section on Malaysian films.

The five-day festival, put on for 4 million Malaysian ringgit ($1.2 million), will screen more than 50 international films, including 22 that will compete for the KLIFF's five Perdana Awards, presented to films that best encapsulate the value of the festival's theme: "Celebrating Cultural Diversity."

The awards are granted to the best films coming from five world regions: Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and South America. The best overall film award will be given to one of the five Perdana Award winners. Malaysia only has one film in competition: the period piece "1957: Hati Malaya."

For all the talk of diversity, Hollywood's presence is sure to be felt. On Thursday, Disney will screen its new "Enchanted," while Terry Thoren, CEO of Los Angeles-based animation studio Thoren Entertainment, will speak about co-productions with his Malaysian partners.

Seminar topics include visual effects, 3-D, digital cinema, co-production, film funding and distribution.
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