“What moves me to cinema is to tell stories and give emotion, but it's true that there was something too simple in this revolution: I wanted to partake in a travail de mémoire (memory work) of the atmosphere, attitudes, fear and paranoia, and to show how everything was interwoven and complex, and how everyone was trapped.“
– Leyla Bouzid, Tunisian filmmaker

Film Grant Winners

Film Grant Winners

At Freedom Film Festival , we believe that by recognising filmmakers and giving them a platform for their talents through our film grants, we give voice to those who did not have an audience before and shine a bright light onto social struggles taking place all across our communities and our world.

However to truly nurture their talents and help them find their audience, the next step was figure out how we could grow that platform even bigger to provide guidance, technical know-how and critically funding for social projects that would not otherwise appeal to mainstream and commercial funders.

These conversations led to the creation of the Freedom Film Festival Film Grant Award that has seen us in the last few years provide both financial as well as technical assistance to budding filmmakers in their cinematic journey.

Call for Entries – Race : Human

So early in 2020 the Freedom Film Festival put out a call for entries year for film grant proposals and submissions of completed film entries that take inspiration from the festival theme, “Race: Human”.

It is common to identify ourselves as belonging to certain groups according to our gender, colour, race, religion, political or other opinions, national or social origin, birth or other status. Diversity should be celebrated, but often our differences tend to divide us rather than unite us. All over the world we have seen how this kind of division can lead to discrimination and the unjust, differential and prejudicial treatment of others. It has even led to some groups believing that they are superior to another.

This is contrary to the basic principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), whereby “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. Film Grant entries were encouraged to look at challenging discrimination and prejudicial perceptions and celebrating diversity and equality.

The Pitch

The FFF Film Grant Pitch took place online on 28th May 2020. Five documentaries were pitched and two were selected as Malaysian grant recipients this year. The judging panel comprised of human rights activist Adam Adil, award-winning filmmaker Las Kek Huat and In-Docs Program Director Amelia Hapsari.

Fever Pitch

Film grant proposals were submitted online with a deadline closing at the end of March. Shortlisted proposals were then invited for a final pitch at the end of May. In these remarkable times of course, the Freedom Film Festival Film Grant pitch took place online on 28th May 2020. Various filmmakers made their film proposals to our International Festival Jury comprising of Malaysian human rights activist Adam Adli, award winning Taiwanese-Malaysian filmmaker Lau Kek Huat and Indonesian filmmaker Amelia Hapsari, In-Docs Program Director and a Member of Academy of Motions Picture and Sciences.

And the Film Grant Winners Are…

At the end of all these pitched battles of various filmmaking ideas, ranging from death in custody to the struggle for citizenship rights, there were three clear winners – Meniti Senja (Twilight Years), a tale of the elderly abandoned to spend their waning years in old folks homes, away from loved ones; Shades of Love, a touching, intimate journey into the loves, lives and losses of three sex workers in Singapore; and Ayahku, Dr G (My Father, Dr G) about the use of medicinal cannabis and a daughter’s quest to seek justice for her father from a law that puts punishment before public health .

Stories of abandonment
Lily Fu, the 72-year old first-time director of Meniti Senja | The Twilight Years, and a senior citizen herself felt it her mission to tell the stories of these elderly abandoned to their fates.
Lily hopes to see her film push for policies to protect the elderly in Malaysia and create awareness about the fate of the abandoned elderly nationwide.

The film will be mentored by award-winning Taiwanese Malaysian filmmaker, Lau Kek Huat, who also served on the Festival Jury for FreedomFilmFest2020. The film started shooting in July and wrapped up production just in time for its premiere at the Freedom Film Fest.

The Lives and Loves of Sex Workers

Jessica Lee, another of three winners of this year’s FreedomFilmFest2020 film grant for Shades of Love, drew inspiration for her film from a random conversation during the pandemic on the largely untold reality facing sex workers who were putting their lives on the line that made her resolve to amplify their stories.

“I’ve always felt it’s important as a documentary filmmaker to use my work to shed light on the human condition, and the lives of those who may not feature in mainstream discourse. My hope as a filmmaker is that we understand the context upon which sex workers have chosen their profession, and more importantly, that they are more than just their profession. They are daughters, sisters, mothers, lovers, friends”
– Jessica Lee, filmmaker

Her documentary is a testament to the reality of the sex industry in Singapore the majority of whom are migrants who face routine discrimination, harassment and always the threat of or actual violence. Shades of Love is set to premiere at FreedomFilmFest2020 following completion of full production this year.


Tackling the Controversy Behind Medicinal Cannabis

Young Malaysian filmmakers Loh Jo Yee, Hidayah Hisham and Dominque Teoh, are the other winners of this year’s FreedomFilmFest2020 film grant with their film, Ayahku, Dr G | My Father, Dr G. The three were intrigued by the backstory of the terminally ill 58 year old Amiruddin Abdullah, a former army captain know as Dr G, who was arrested and charged with 36 counts of drug-related offences for treating terminally ill or mental health patients who went to him for CBD-infused confectionaries to treat their illnesses.

“The audience will get a closer look into the lives of those who have suffered and benefited from marijuana in Malaysia – specifically in Dr Ganja’s life. It’s a personal recount of survival when the odds are against you in every way, but his persistence is admirable – you can’t help but root for him despite his optimism against the set reality of Malaysia’s laws”.
– Hidayah Hisham, filmmaker

The three filmmakers hope their film allows viewers to see the multifaceted aspects of drug use and understand it from a widened and more nuanced perspectives encompassing legal, medical and even socially realities. Filming for Ayahku, Dr G began in July 2020 and it is set to premiere in FreedomFilmFest2020.


Film Grant Shortlist

The Festival Jury also recognised two other films, Petani Bukan Pemalas / Farmers Are Not Idlers on the plight of rural farmers in battling exploitation and price extortion and Di Luar Bayangan – Kisah Que Lin, about a human rights activist’s shadow play about death and abuse in custody, and the injustice that takes place behind and beyond the bars. Both films are set to premiere at the FreedomFilmFest2020.

Nurfitri Amir, shortlisted filmmaker for Petani Bukan Pemalas| Farmers Are Not Idlers, and Goh Choon Ean, shortlisted filmmaker for Di Luar Bayangan – Kisah Que Lin.