Thursday, November 27, 2008

Speaking of change ...

The many hands behind the 30th Kancil Awards Festival were spotted with a pasted smile, keeping their spirits uplifted and convincing themselves 'it's coming to an end'.

Lining the walkways and entrance of the Sunway Resort and Spa Ballroom which will house the awards night tomorrow, were the entries of the finalists who will be awarded at tomorrow's event which is expected to draw a big, big crowd.

It was 9am and the beginning of the Speaker Series - an annual event organised at the Kancils - featuring local influential figures who would speak and keep to the theme of 'Change the Game' throughout the various industries in the country, including the world of politics.

Representing the field was former Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Chua Soi Lek (left) who did what he did best (I found myself nodding a lot) which was convincing the rakyat (constituents) of the change needed in the administration of the country.

The pattern is one that can seem to be very familiar with - especially when the general election looms (here, it's every four years). And yet, some of us would not be bored to tears listening to what may be rhetorics of the 'needed revamp of the system and the need to discard the ethno-centric mentality and get on with issue-centric administration idea'.

Bravely stating his opinion about how '
ketuanan Melayu' (Malay supremacy) - which is a sensitive term to be played around with or even mentioned by the Chinese, Indians and other races in the country - should be done away with, Chua said it was the solution towards making Malaysia a true melting pot.

Chua took to the podium first before Ho Yuhang (independent film director), Sirajudin Mydin (CEO of Kayu Nasi Kandar) and Carl Zuzarte (Head of Creative and Content MTV Southeast Asia) [pictured right to left] took the spotlight.

Before I get all political about today's event, the most prominent message was the fact that the advertising and creative industry had its own role to play in creating change in the country.

It took Yasmin Ahmad - Leo Burnett's ECD - to rattle the foundation with her benchmark work on Tan Hong Ming In Love.

Tan and his girlfriend Qazrina (a Malay) took international fame with even scoring Malaysia's first Cannes Lion Gold in the film category at the Cannes Festival.

In Malaysia, it was recognised as an effort to break away from the mode of racial cliques - even at the primary school level (Tan's seven) - as Yasmin recently said before being inducted in the 4As Hall of Fame.

"There is a dark side of advertising which is the same in the business of when a woman with a lot of flesh feels ugly and (other such instances).

"If the country can come out of this and in a gentlemanly manner, when we realise that people are people regardless of skin colour, size or race, I don't care if we never win another international award," she said.

This was further emphasised at the panel discussion, after lunch.

The two-hour discussion was moderated by renowned human rights lawyer who is also known as one of the most-hated Muslims in the country (because he was defence counsel for Lina Joy who lost a court case in a two-to-one decision that she could not remove the word Muslim from her identity card) Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, who is seated in the middle of the picture of the panel below.

Providing their voices and opinions with him were Datuk Seri Shazalli Ramly (Celcom Malaysia CEO) [first from left]; author and Asean issues consultant Karim Raslan [last from left]; theatrical figure and Instant Cafe Theatre artistic director and writer Jo Kukathas [second from left]; and the very quiet Benjamin Yong (CEO of Delicious Group) [fourth from left] who probably didn't feel like he fit in.

Each had their say - metaphorically or not - about the need for change as time ticks away and change is somewhat forced as it is part of evolution.

Shazalli who was recognised by Datuk Vincent Lee, President of 4As, as someone who did not recognise people by race but as another person, took a swipe at a recent festive season advertisement which centred on a particular race instead of emphasising on a multi-racial value of production.

"The most crucial point to do something different and build an insight is at the point of the brief where the agency is the one comes up with a clear idea," he said, daring the players of the industry who were present to an idea of a "Char Koay Teow Day or a Mee Rebus Day" that challenged the typical norm of "a one-race" focus in advertisements come festive seasons.

"I'd be more than happy to support anyone of you who can come up with one celebration day that does not denote the difference between races," he said.

The end message for the participants to take home were that advertising agencies have the power to change the game and it was possible for the industry to reflect values of a multi-racial society on behalf of their clients.

Personally, it's nothing new that's been said today - except the fact that the advertising industry may perhaps have to shoulder the burden of being forces of change in the country - but I'll go home knowing that there are still a handful of politicans who talk sense.

Then again, I wonder if they really mean what they say or they're just winning favour. It's all in the game but if you check your side of the court, you'd probably find the ball there.

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