Muslims to learn digital film technology to produce animated movies in Malaysia

Islamic authorities in a Malaysian state said Wednesday they have opened a center to help Muslims learn digital film technology and produce religious themed animated movies for an international audience.

The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, an opposition party that governs northern Kelantan state, believes that Muslim film lovers would be happy to watch films such as portrayals of key figures in Islamic history, party Vice President Husam Musa said.

The party on Tuesday launched a 1.5 million ringgit (US$450,000; EUR 340,000) academy in Kelantan that is expected to instruct 300 students annually starting next March in courses on high-tech film technology, especially animation, Husam said.

The center is part of the state's efforts to provide people with entertainment that conforms to Islamic sensibilities. The center will be inviting Muslim filmmakers from Iran and other countries to screen their works at an International Islamic Film Festival in Kelantan sometime after July 2007, Husam said.

"We want students at the center to be able to create great animated movies, which include morally suitable commercial entertainment as well as movies with a clear Islamic image, that can be exported to other countries," Husam told The Associated Press.

The opposition party's efforts are likely to have a greater emphasis on religious values compared to training provided for some 2,000 animation students each year at MSC Malaysia, a decade-old information technology industry hub overseen by the country's secular government.

State officials will fully subsidize fees for the first batch of students in the course, which will also be open to non-Muslims who are interested in studying digital film making skills, Husam said.

The center's graduates will eventually get the help of a Malaysian film production company to use their skills to make movies, Husam said, adding that officials might consider setting up an "entertainment village" comprising studios and other facilities in Kelantan.

Possible projects include animated movies depicting the lives of Iskandar Dzulkarnain, an 18th-century Malaysian state sultan famous for building ambitious mosques, and those of prominent Middle Eastern Islamic scientists, Husam said.

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