Published: 23 July 2019 Hollywood Reporter
In the wake of the multi-billion-dollar corruption scandal, Malaysia’s new government-appointed film chief is working to boost transparency and revamp the incentive scheme at the country’s flagship Iskandar Malaysia Studios, while local film festival organizers are showcasing the growing achievements of their industry.
It’s been four years since Malaysia’s multi-billion-dollar 1MDB corruption scandal first broke, but its shadow still looms large over the domestic film industry — and indeed the country as a whole — no matter how hard those in power might pray that it goes away.
“If we’re going to continue looking back, we’re not going to move forward,” says Hans Isaac, who was appointed as the new chairman of the National Film Development Corporation of Malaysia (FINAS) in April.
But there’s no escaping the scandal’s imprint in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, as one of the pet projects of now disgraced former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak — the 1,600-foot, 106-floor Exchange 106 Building — remains under construction, an imposing presence over the city’s downtown districts.
The building, which will be the country’s tallest upon completion, was originally one of the signature developments instigated by Razak’s 1MDB fund — until the money started vanishing. Too much work had been done by the time Razak was voted out — and later charged with over a dozen counts of corruption — for the project to be scrapped. So now, as the scandal continues to drag on Malaysia’s economy and international reputation, Razak’s legacy still towers over the heart of the city like a giant middle finger.
Local investigations into the estimated $5 billion stripped out of the 1MDB fund continue, and have reached deep into Hollywood, thanks most recently to charges of money laundering laid on July 4 against Razak’s stepson, Riza Aziz.
Aziz was co-founder with Joey McFarland in 2010 of the L.A.-based Red Granite Pictures, co-producer of the 2013 box office hit The Wolf of Wall Street. Aziz is suspected of funneling tens of millions of illicit funds from 1MDB into his studio to bankroll its brief, h