Troubled Malaysian Film Festival's Co-Director Resigns

lorna tee - H 2013

Producer and consultant Lorna Tee's departure is the latest sign of uncertainty for the repeatedly delayed International Film Festival Malaysia.

The oft-postponed International Film Festival Malaysia was beset by another sign of uncertainty Monday, as Hong Kong-based producer and festival consultant, Lorna Tee announced she is resigning as the event’s co-director.

Tee, who was born in Malaysia, will also step down from her position as secretariat of the international advisory panel that was set up in 2012 to support and advise the Malaysian film industry.

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Malaysia’s plans for the country’s first major international film festival were announced at Cannes in 2012. At the time, the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS), said the inaugural event would take place in November 2012 and would be complimented by a new content market – the Kuala Lumpur Communications & Creative Industry Mart (KLCCIM). The events were later postponed to March 2013, a date many in the regional industry questioned, given that the more established Hong Kong International Film Festival and Filmart would be taking place just the week prior. Eventually, it became clear that the March debut wouldn’t be taking place either. FINAS has since been notably silent about the festival’s fate.

“Unfortunately the film festival [did] not take off as planned. There was a lot of goodwill and positive feedback and support by both the local and international film industry,” Tee said in a statement released Monday. “I am still supportive of any initiatives to grow and promote the Malaysian film industry,” she added.

Tee is said to have worked on a festival line-up including 60 films, five master classes and four international film panels, plus the possibility of a co-production market for South East Asian films. She said she is leaving because there still have been no new dates set for the festival and she would like to focus her time on producing new film projects. Tee has worked as a producer on numerous Southeast Asian films, including Malaysian director James Lee’s The Beautiful Washing Machine (2004) and Postcards from the Zoo, from Indonesia director Edwin, which premiered at the 2011 Berlinale.

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It was not immediately clear Monday whether Tee's co-festival director, Mohd Naguib Razak or the festival's previously announced artistic director, Dennis Lim, would be staying on with the event. FINAS could not be reached for comment. 

“Since the general elections are coming up, all government spending has been put on hold, and we’re not sure if [the festival] is going to happen this year anymore -- or even at all,” one Malaysian industry insider told The Hollywood Reporter at Filmart in March. “There have been a lot of internal problems and complications,” he added.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak dissolved the country’s parliament at the start of April and last week scheduled general elections for May 5. Najib’s ruling party, the National Front, has been in power for 56 years, but the opposition has recently begun to make gains, campaigning on a platform of ending corruption. So far, polls predict Najib will hold on to power with a narrow win.