Malaysian Film Student's Documentary About Inmates Wins Award At Cannes Film Festival

Initially intended to be a graduate project, Indrani Kopal's documentary 'The Game Changer' has since gone on to receive widespread acclaim in several international film festivals.

Cover image via Indrani Kopal's Facebook

Aspiring filmmaker Indrani Kopal definitely made Malaysia proud when her documentary film 'The Game Changer' bagged the Best Student Documentary Award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival on 19 May

“It still feels SO surreal that we won! Such a special evening,” says Indrani on her Facebook page that is flooded with congratulatory messages.

She was also quick to thank her college professors. “I’m so humbled and really want to thank everyone at Hofstra for all the support, encouragement and experience. This has been a wonderful and sweet journey for me.”


Already widely-acclaimed, her film won the honor at Cannes’ American Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase, which highlights films from students and young filmmakers. Kopal’s work was among just 22 films chosen to compete from among 500 submissions. The film was also selected to screen at another Cannes session, the Short Film Corner.


Indrani's documentary - made on a budget of US$3,225 (RM11,500) - was originally intended to be a student piece.

'The Game Changer' has since received critical acclaim from 13 international film festivals and was recently awarded Best Short Documentary at the 9th Harlem International Film Festival in New York.

Image via Indrani Kopal

Prof. Aashish Kumar, who is currently overseeing Indrani's thesis work, said, "Indrani’s achievement in Cannes is just phenomenal. It’s a testament to her ability to get the film’s subjects to trust her so she could tell their story and advance the message that even though they were ex-convicts they were able to reinvent themselves as artists."


The award-winning piece follows dancer and choreographer Susan Slotnik’s work in New York's Woodbourne Correctional Facility, where she teaches male inmates dance under a social project called Rehabilitation For The Arts

Image via Indrani Kopal

The film follows Slotnick, who initiated the dance rehabilitation program in a New York state prison seven years ago, as she continues to mentor six released inmates in a specially-formed dance company called Figures in Flight Released.


Indrani is also working on a sequel to 'The Game Changer' called 'The Incarcerated Rhythm', which will focus on the inmates' life after prison

Image via Natalie Ivis

According to Indrani, 'The Incarcerated Rhythm' will attempt to answer the million dollar-question, "What's life after dance?" for released inmates.

"Dance was a big thing. It brought the inmates closer to society. It gave them purpose, confidence, and a support group. Dance helped other people accept them, because they weren’t “formerly incarcerated men” anymore; they were dancers," she said.

"When these guys perform, they receive a standing ovation every single time. Dance gave them a new identity as…artist[s]. It gave society a context to accept them. But when you’re not dancing, who are you in the world? How are you behaving in the world? How do you function as an artist and former prisoner in society?"

She further added, "The Incarcerated Rhythm focuses on life after prison. The opening piece will be a dance, and then the film will ask each of the former inmates, “What are the challenges for you?” They’re all in their forties, and life is very different from when they first went into prison. How are they coping with this change?"

"So I just want to capture the challenges that these men are going through. That’s what The Incarcerated Rhythm is about. It’s about the rhythm that has been incarcerated for too long, like a bird in a cage, and is now out and about."


For those of you who'd like to have a peek of Indrani's work, a screening of 'The Game Changer' will be held on 29 May (Friday), 8.00pm at Malaysiakini HQ

More information about the screening here.

Meanwhile, here's a trailer of the award-winning documentary:

Indrani, a former multimedia journalist for Malaysiakini, is currently pursuing her masters in Fine Arts, specialising in documentary studies and production at the Hofstra University, New York on a Fulbright scholarship.

These homegrown talents are also making waves in the Malaysian film industry in their own special ways:

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