“Unseen, Untold, Unheard” was the theme of PUSAT KOMAS’ FreedomFilmFestival 2015 held in PJ Live Arts, Petaling Jaya, Selangor from Sept 11th – 2oth, 2015. Over 2,000 people participated in the film screenings, master classes, video activism workshop and award ceremony.
Among the participants of this year’s festival were filmmakers, festival organizers, partners and fellow activists from Southeast Asia countries namely Indonesia, Singapore, Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines and Thailand.
This annual human rights film festival started in 2003 and now in its 13th year, showcased 26 carefully selected and well produced documentaries and human rights films from Malaysia and other South East Asian countries. There were also films from other regions such as Africa, Latin America and Europe. The films were organized under different human rights thematic concerns rarely covered by mainstream media such as ‘Livable Cities'; ‘Ageing and Dignity'; ‘Interfaith and Multiculturalism'; and Sports and Squander.
“I am glad these themes were well received and proved to be popular with the audiences who filled the screening hall
every night despite the bad haze and their respective busy schedules,” Festival Director Anna Har said and added, “this shows our festival and the films are meaningful to the Malaysian public and also brings new awareness and knowledge about human rights in the country.”
Film screenings were followed by facilitated 20-minute discussion sessions where the audience were able to dialogue and exchange with invited filmmakers and relevant resource persons. Post screening discussions are essential and powerful practice of the FFF and is crucial to draw out some of the core issues and questions from members of the audience who found it very meaningful and informative.
“Our local programme partners and even those from other countries feel this is an effective and useful approach towards enhancing human rights education and raising awareness among the general public. They have also expressed interest to adopt this winning formula in their own respective film festivals and screenings in their own countries,” founder and Director of KOMAS Tan Jo Hann said.
Almost all the Malaysian and South East Asian filmmakers were in attendance to interact directly with their audience after the screening of their films, whereas directors of the international films were on Skype to speak to our audience from as far as Holland, Sydney and Chile.
KOMAS’ FreedomFilmFest has been providing a platform for the Malaysian public and civil society organizations to discuss issues and even to advocate for particular concerns such as violence against women, media freedom and awareness about Alzheimer disease.
Some festival highlights included the film screening of “Portraits of a Mosquito Press” by JL Burgos on media freedom in the Philippines during the Marcos regime which was followed by a special forum on media freedom participated by the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) Malaysia, Gerakan Media Marah (Geramm) and filmmaker JL Burgos. The session ended with the launching of the Malaysian Media Monitoring Report 2015 prepared by the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) Malaysia
Other events incuded masterclasses to help facilitate exchanges and dialogue among filmmakers and to develop capacity among first time film makers learning from their more experienced counterparts. Among the speakers were renown Indonesian filmmaker Hanung Bramantyo who directed ‘Question of Faith’ and Senior Producer of Al Jazeera’s ‘101 East’, TC Chan.
A ‘Video Activist Forum’ was carried out on the last day of the festival to bring filmmakers from the SEA region and others together for exchange of ideas, sharing of resources and building linkages among video activists in the region.
The festival culminated in the Awards Ceremony where winners were presented with the Justin Louis trophy and a special certificate from KOMAS
Each year in conjunction with the film screenings, the festival also holds a film competition where winning film proposals are given a grant of RM8, 000 to produce their films which are premiered in the festival. This year’s film proposal grant winners are as follows:
- David Buri for “Viral, Sial!”
- Nizam Andan for “Sindiket”
- Chan Seong Foong & Victor Chin for “Memory as Resistance: Grandma Kong defending her Village”
- J Arrivu Jacob for “Di Sebalik Runcit”
- Jason Soo for “1987: Untracing the Conspiracy”
Besides the film proposal competition, there were also awards given to winners of completed films under different categories as follows:
- Best Short Film: Living In The Drains by Marcel Simok (Sabah, Malaysia)
- Best International Feature: I Will Not Be Silenced by Judy Rymer (Australia)
- Best SEA Feature: 1987: Untracing The Conspiracy by Jason Soo (Singapore)
- Most Outstanding Human Rights Film: Malaysian Film Grant Winner: Viral, Sial by David Buri (Malaysia).
The winner of the Most Outstanding Human Right Film also received a trip to Leipzig International Documentary Film Festival in Germany, sponsored by Goethe Institute.
The festival was organized with the cooperation of the Delegation of the European Union to Malaysia, Petaling Jaya City Council, Penang State Government and Selangor State Government. Other sponsors for the festival are the Penang Institute, Goethe Institute, Movies that Matter (Netherlands), MyDocs (Malaysian Documentary Association), PJ Live Arts. Pusat Khidmat ADUN Selangor and Royal Netherlands Embassy.
FreedomFilmFest will continue its festival tour to 6 major cities in Malaysia namely Pahang, Penang, Sabah, Sarawak, Johor, and Perak from 4th of October till 21st of November and will also hold film screenings in Singapore and Melbourne on the 3rd of October and 14th of November respectively. Please visit freedomfilmfest.komas.org for more information on the screenings
For further information about the festival and also those interested to organize film screenings/festival, contact us at [email protected]