'Lack of funding should not deter independent filmmakers'

Kolkata, Nov 12 (IANS) Using Hollywood blockbuster "Gladiator" as an example of a simple yet effective idea, Malaysian filmmaker-animator Hassan Muthalib Tuesday urged independent filmmakers to not be afraid of making indie films in the face of a dearth of proper funding for such alternative genres of filmmaking.

"Indies should not be afraid. If they can't find funding, they should get their friends to act, and get them to participate. They can also get a mainstream actor to act in an indie film for free," said Muthalib.

He was speaking at an interactive session on indie films as part of the 19th Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) that began Sunday.

Explaining his concept of getting popular actors to act in indie films, Muthalib said: "They will enjoy it... as they are probably fed up of the routine films and might be interested in doing independent films."

Also a celebrated writer on films of southeast Asia, Muthalib is the former president and current member of the Animation Society of Malaysia.

He spoke about "Gladiator" to show how even cult hits can be created from simple ideas.

"In 'Gladiator', the idea was about the man's longing for his family and homeland and that became such a hit. So one of the most important features that indie films must incorporate is a solid theme. They must have something to say and must show culture."

Credited for being the "father of Malaysian animation", Hassan directed the country's first animation feature film.

He advised young filmmakers to "go with the small things" and not get lost in over-the-top concepts.

Echoing Muthalib, Singaporean indie filmmaker Chen-Hsi Wong, whose debut feature film "Innocents" was screened at the festival, felt indie filmmakers over the world face the same problem-lack of funding and poor audience response.

"It is difficult to get the audience to respond to different kinds of films. Since we have to depend on government funding, we feel like beggars to the government sometimes. There is no adequate private funding," said Wong, whose next movie, a short film will boast of a mainstream actor.

"In conclusion, struggle is important... the root of it all... the more anger... the better your film. Fight for what you want to do," asserted Muthalib.