7 Thought-Provoking Films About Malaysia You Should Watch At Freedom Fest Festival 2017

These films will give you an in-depth look into issues such as the impact of rapid development on the environment to issues surrounding our political climate and the plight of Rohingya refugees.

Cover image via Freedom Film Fest

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."

Focusing its attention on the UN Declaration of Human Rights, Malaysia's leading human rights film festival - FreedomFilmFest - will be making its return next month with a bold line-up of 40 must-see documentaries.

Image via FreedomFilmFest

The weeklong festival is set to kick off at PJ Live Arts from 2 to 9 September, showcasing thought-provoking documentaries from the best filmmakers across the world, all focusing on social issues such as environmental degradation, ageing, food activism, and countering extremism.

In addition to the screenings, the festival will also feature interactive workshops, talks, food-tasting events, and musical performances.

Seven films stand out in particular, as they touch on issues that concern and will definitely strike a chord with Malaysians. Here's a brief rundown of the films:

1. The Hills and the Sea

What it's about: The impact of rapid development on the flora and fauna in Penang. The story will focus on Mohd. Ishak, a coastal fisherman, and Joleen Yap, a wildlife researcher as they struggle to find a place amidst the state's ambitious development.

Film director: Andrew Ng

Language: English with Malay subtitles

2. Selfie with the Prime Minister

What it's about: Ziaur Rahman, like any other millennial in Malaysia, loves to take selfies and is active on social media. However, he is no ordinary youth. He is a Rohingya refugee who grew up in a refugee camp and was trafficked seven times by human traffickers. In the quest for freedom of his people, he turns to activism. Despite having no rights as a refugee living in Malaysia, he finds an unlikely ally for his cause, the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Film directors: Nor Arlene Tan & Grace Cho Hee Won

Language: English with Malay subtitles

3. Diari Untuk Prasana (Diary for Prasana)

Image via FreedomFilmFest

What it's about: You've probably heard about Indira Gandhi's continuous struggle to reclaim custody of her children, which has made headlines in the past few years. This film will give viewers a glimpse into the life of the Hindu mother, who has not seen her child for the past seven years since her Muslim-convert husband took away her daughter, Prasana, when she was merely 11 months old.

Film director: Norhayati Kaprawi

Language: Malay with English subtitles

4. Saving Malaysia

What it's about: Former political enemies Dr. Mahathir Mohamad (Bersatu) and Anwar Ibrahim (Pakatan Harapan) have come together to form a coalition in a bid to "Save Malaysia" from BN's long-time rule. This film will explore whether the coalition, made up of Bersatu leaders as well as PKR, DAP, and Amanah's key people, can work together to convince Malaysians to vote for it in the 14th General Election.

Film director: Sheridan Mahavera Shakir

Language: Malay with English subtitles

5. Ke Raya Padi (Journey to Raya Padi)

What it's about: It’s been years since Ewok last set foot in the Temiar village he once called home. The highland communities there made national headlines when they built several blockades to stop deforestation. Ke Raya Padi follows Ewok's journey home for the Temiar celebration and the Semais and Temiars he meets along the way.

Film directors: Ewok Perai & Nik Jassmin Hew

Language: Malay with English subtitles

6. Dawai Dawai

What it's about: In Sarawak, “the ones who live upstream” are the first affected by the deforestation. The Penan, once a nomadic community, are caught today in the eye of the storm: how to go on living when the landscape, which brought meaning to existence, disappears and with it the language, the customs and the spirits?

Film directors: Caroline Parietti and Cyprien Ponson

Language: English and Malay

7. EVICTED! (Year 1)

What it's about: The first instalment of a multi-year short film project, 'EVICTED! (Year 1)' follows four neighbours in Penang who are evicted as the town is increasingly gentrified. Mr. Teh ran the Sky Hotel that his grandfather started and points out that the tourist boom in George Town benefits the rich. Vayshu is a transvestite sex worker who doesn’t know where she can go if she is kicked out. 91-year old Mr. Ong opened his chemical retail store shortly after the Korean War but closing his business is primarily an emotional loss, not a financial one. Mrs. Lian operates a one-lady newspaper recycling business, whose eviction could mean she is again dependent upon her husband.

Film directors: Ryan Anderson

Language: English

You can catch these films at FreedomFilmFest 2017, which will be held at PJ Live Arts from 2 to 9 September. Make sure to register as a Friend of the Festival to secure your screening passes!

You can register online here or from the venue on the day of the screening.

For more information and the full schedule of activities, check out Freedom Film Fest 2017's official website and Facebook event page.

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