Redha is Malaysia’s pick for Oscars

PETALING JAYA: The National Film Development Corporation (Finas) has announced that Redha will officially represent Malaysia for consideration as a potential Best Foreign Language Film nominee at the 89th Academy Awards (Oscars).

The movie directed by Tunku Mona Riza, and produced by Current Pictures Sdn Bhd, is about a couple dealing with the struggles of having a child who is autistic, and the sacrifices they have to make for the good of their child.

The movie stars Nam Ron, June Lojong, Nadiya Nissa, Remy Ishak, Ruminah Sidek, Susan Lankester, Izzy Reef and child actor Harith Haziq.

Redha opened in local cinemas on April 14 this year, receiving much acclaim from critics and moviegoers in general, especially for its realism on the issue of autism. However, it did not qualify for this year’s 28th Malaysian Film Festival (FFM) awards held on Sept 3 as it was released after the cut off deadline to make it to this year’s awards ceremony. It is touted to be nominated for next year’s FFM.

The movie may not have had an exceptional performance in the local box-office – raking in RM498,000 (source: Finas) – but the producers say this is normal for a movie that does not fall under the more commercial genres, such as horror, action-thriller and comedy.

But where it lacks in commercial appeal, Redha’s quality is evident in the impact it has made on the international front, winning the Best Actress award (Jun Lojong) and a Special Festival Prize for Humanism in Film at the World Premiere International Film Festival Philippines earlier this year.

Last month, at the 12th Kazan international Muslim Film Festival, Redha was a nominee in the main Best Picture category, and though it did not win, the Malaysian film took home a Special Prize Award by The President of Tatarstan for Humanism in Cinematography, a Special Prize Award by the Russian Film Critics Guild, and also the award for the Ensemble of Actors for Best Actors (Namron, Harith Haziq and Izzy Reef).

Redha director Tunku Mona was naturally elated at the announcement by Finas.

“When Haris, my husband, broke the news to me, I just went completely silent. I could not believe it. I was in tears. Alhamdulillah,” said Tunku Mona, who is a first-time feature film director.

Tunku Mona’s husband, Ku Mohamad Haris, who is also the Executive Producer for the film, was a bit more forthright of Redha’s chances at the Oscars.

“There is still a long way to go to pass through the stages. It’s a very very long shot to win.

“The Oscars are very prestigious, so even a top five nomination at this pinnacle of world movie awards, would be quite an achievement. We are hoping that our universal theme film will help take us as high up that ladder as possible,” he said.

The movie-making couple also thanked Finas for its continuous support.

“We have been blessed that many in Finas, especially its director-general Kamil Othman, have been supporting our journey because of the quality and theme of our film,” Haris said.

He also shared the good news he and Tunku Mona had received from the organisers of the Los Angeles Awareness Film Festival last month.

“We had submitted Redha for their attention, and they eventually sent a letter notifying that our film was chosen to receive the Merit Award in Awareness.

“Unfortunately, we cannot receive the award in person at the event which is beinng held later this week,” Haris said.

He added that he is also in talks with a Hollywood-based agent on distribution rights for the US market, but nothing is finalised as yet.

Redha will also be in competition for the main category in two more film festivals – Casa Asia in Barcelona and the Asia Pacific Film Festival in Brisbane – next month. For the latter, Finas had submitted a few other Malaysian films for consideration as well, but the organisers chose Redha for competition.

According to Academy Awards rules, to be in contention for the 89th Oscar ceremony, a film must be first released theatrically in its respective country between Oct 1, 2015, and Sept 30, 2016.

More than 80 countries are expected to send their nominees for consideration in the Best Foreign Language Film category and after further shortlisting, five films will be announced as the official nominees in the category for the main Oscar ceremony.

The 89th Academy Awards will be held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Feb 26, 2017.

Finas has previously submitted Puteri Gunung Ledang (2005), Bunohan (2013) dan Lelaki Harapan Dunia (2015) as Malaysia’s nominee for the same category.