Cannes 2012: Malaysia Aims To Be Regional Film Hub

The country's film development body launches a raft of new initiatives, including a 30 percent tax rebate scheme for the territory.

CANNES – Malaysia has not traditionally been a cinema powerhouse. But with a raft of new financial and cultural initiatives, the southeast Asian nation is looking to become a film industry hub for the entire region.

Mohd Naguib Razak, the newly appointed director general of FINAS, Malaysia’s national film development corporation, unveiled a series of incentives at an event in Cannes Friday.

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Among them is a new 30 percent tax rebate scheme for foreign and local productions that shoot in the region. The incentive will require a local spend of at least 5 million Malaysian Ringgits – around $1.6 million – for foreign productions, or some $830,000 for local films and does not have a cap. Razak told THR he would soon launch a Film in Malaysia office, which will begin processing applications for the tax rebate starting in October this year. The scheme kicks off Feb. 1, 2013.

Razak also announced the launch of the International Film Festival of Malaysia, which will have its first edition Nov. 10-18 in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. The new fest will be run by Razak and producer Lorna Tee with New York Times critic Dennis Lim acting as artistic director.

Parallel to the festival will be Malaysia’s first-ever film market, the Kuala Lumpur Content and Communications International Market, which will run Nov. 15-18 and also bring together players from the television, music, gaming and fashion industries.

While not one of the largest Asian nations, Malaysia has a fast-growing cinema infrastructure. The country has gone from having 287 screens five years ago to some 651 now. Box office take last year was $194 million, double the level five years ago.