Delving deeper into social issues


Source: NST Online

SINCE 2003, the Freedom Film Festival (FFF) has provided a solid platform for social filmmakers and human rights activists to showcase their films and tell stories of lesser-known human rights issues.

Organised by non-governmental organisation Komas (Pusat Komunikasi Masyarakat), the annual event this year is said to be its biggest edition yet. With the tagline, Dare To Document, the theme for this year’s FFF is What Lies Beneath.

The organisers will dig into the investigative side to highlight underlying human rights or environmental topics.

Anna Har, director of the FFF 2016, says: “Often, news headlines on the internet are very sensational but they don’t help you get to the bottom of issues. We want to dig deeper, and this is where we challenge the filmmakers.”

The video medium is a powerful tool for social documentation and film making. Har says visuals give a different feel and viewers get to know issues from a deeper angle.

As in previous years, the public was invited to submit proposals for films. Komas received 250 local and international submissions as well as a few sourced by Har herself.

Of these, 30 will be screened at the week-long festival beginning today.

The FFF 2016 panel of judges also selected two local filmmakers, Ashleigh Lim from Johor and Nova Goh from Sarawak, for this year’s winning film proposals. Both were awarded a grant of RM8,000 each to assist them in the production process.

Their works, Stories From My Father — Kisah Ayahku (Lim), and Unlocking Bengoh (Goh) will premiere at the festival.

International works will also be shown, such as A Syrian Love Story (Syria), When Women Fight (Indonesia), Birthday (Thailand) and Among The Believers (Pakistan).


Lim’s short film is about a daughter (Lim) who tries to make connections between her seemingly ordinary life and her father’s past as he shares with her his experiences as a detainee without trial from 1968 to 1974, under Malaysia’s former Internal Security Act (ISA).

He was jailed for his involvement in the Labour Party which was subsequently outlawed because of its pro-communist leanings.

The film shows a glimpse of him after detention, and his continued friendship with other ex-detainees, as well as life with his family.

“It’s a very personal story. I want to understand the difficulties my father had gone through,” says the first-time filmmaker.

Lim, 40, the eldest of three siblings, recalls being aware of her father’s history from a young age; however the topic was not something her parents talked about openly at the dinner table.

In the film, Lim gets somewhat emotional while talking to her father and listening to him tell his side of the story. It was her first time too learning about his past in such detail.

So what is the underlying issue that she wants to highlight?

“That people should value the freedom of speech. If we live in a democratic country, different ideas and opinions should be allowed, at a moderate level,” she says. “We have to fight for the truth and we must stand firm in our beliefs. Don’t be afraid of the oppression.”

The production crew took less than two months to work on the film, shooting in two locations: Johor and Perak.

There is also a hint of animation. “I did the animation myself, as I am an animator by profession,” says Lim, who admits she had sleepless nights trying to complete the animation.

“The challenge was in arranging the structure of the story and deciding on the message I want people to receive.”

She says that after completing the film, her relationship with her father has grown stronger.

“Before the film, we weren’t that close. We don’t outwardly express love, but I do take care of him. He never thought his story would be told. He was very cooperative,” she says.


Goh’s film is about families which had lived in Sarawak’s Bengoh Valley for generations until they were forced to relocate to make way for development.

The film follows the director’s journey as he discovers the true price that these families have had to pay for relocation.


Lena Hendry, festival manager for FFF 2016, says: “This year, we will be launching a series of Freedom Talks. This sessions are an extension of the 20-minute Q&A segments we usually moderate after every film screening.

“We’re going for a deeper discussion this time. For every session, there will be two or three speakers who are experts in the relevant areas.”

The Freedom Talks, to be spread over the week-long event, will cover a discussion on religious radicalisation (Education The Believers, tomorrow), refugees (Refugee Phobia, Aug 23), film censorship issues in Southeast Asia (Dealing With Cut, Aug 26), green ways of eating (Good Food Revolution, Aug 27) and how everyone can work towards social change (Everyday Activism, Aug 27).

FFF will also host a South East Asian Video For Change Forum over three days from Aug 24, which provides a platform for sharing experiences and filming techniques.

“On top of that, master classes will be given by international award-winning documentary filmmakers, Marcus Vetter (Germany) and Sean McAllister (the UK), so look out for that too,” says Har.

Beginning next month, FFF 2016 has planned screening roadshows in Johor Baru, Muar, Penang, Ipoh, Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Kuching in Sarawak and Singapore.

Details on films, masterclasses and Freedom Talks at


When: Today till Aug 27

Where: PJ Live Arts, Jaya One, Jalan Universiti, PJ

Admission Entry by minimum donation (complimentary passes for senior citizens above 60 and students with valid ID).

Details at