According to the Malaysian Penal Code, rape is defined as intercourse with a woman against her will or without her consent. What does this mean for men who are victims of such crimes too? FFF2023 film grant winner, Joshua Inberaj Dewet explores this question in his film.
In the age of #MeToo, the focus on sexual violence has largely been on women. While the conversation around the topic has been on the rise, men’s perspective as victims and survivors of such assault has typically been put to the wayside. Sexual violence is a global issue that transcends race, age, socio-demographics, and gender – something Joshua believes is crucial to amplify
Joshua is not a filmmaker by training, but he was eager to find a storytelling medium that could also serve as an advocacy tool to raise awareness on the systematic shortcomings when it comes to addressing sexual violence against boys and men. Upon stumbling across the film grant, an idea for a short film began to brew so Joshua submitted a proposal that was deeply profound and secured a spot in the pitching stage.
Joshua pitched his story by sharing an emotionally moving animated trailer paired with eye-opening statistics on the issue, which ultimately lead the judges to unanimously deem his story as one that must be told.
Get to know Joshua
Joshua is currently developing and fine-tuning his project and we caught up with him to ask him some questions.
1. What was the pitching experience like? How did you feel when you won the grant?
The pitching session was nerve wracking, everything that I rehearsed beforehand was the opposite of what I wanted. To be honest, I almost wanted to quit, but then I thought “meh it’s not every day that I get to see a professional pitching scene, so I might as well show up and gain a new experience” and the rest is history. I didn’t know how to feel when the winners were announced, I was confused and quiet, but I knew that I have a responsibility to tell this story, and I was thankful for everyone who was present there that day who gave me an opportunity to tell my story.
2. Why do you feel this is the right time for you to tell the story?
I think that there’s never a right time, this story could have been told earlier or later, but how long until it…[continues] being swept under the rug? I have waited long enough.
3. Your film is intensely personal, and a difficult subject. How did you prepare yourself emotionally to tell this story?
To be honest I wasn’t prepared mentally and emotionally, but I had this sense of responsibility to do it, even if it scares me.
4. You are new to filmmaking, so what are some steps you’re taking to prepare yourself for the process of making your first film?
I’m reaching out to experienced filmmakers and trying my best to join the local filmmaking community. Building a network allows me to learn from experiences and potentially find mentors who can guide me. I’m immersing myself in books and online resources related to filmmaking.
5. You created your own animated visual for the pitch. Will you continue with this animated treatment?
Personally, I am a big fan of animation, especially 2d animation. Animation is an underrated medium that has loads of potential to make a big impact – especially to children. Since my target audiences are survivors, children, parents and teachers – I believe that animation is the right medium to convey the story.
6. What will your final film look like?
As of right now, it’s all in my heart and I cannot wait to bring it to life. I have tons of inspiration, but at the end of the day I want this documentary to be personal in the sense that the viewers are connected with the storytellers, as if they are in the same room as the storytellers. This documentary will be a combination of observational and participatory documentary.
7. What are your advocacy goals through this film, and who are you targeting?
I am mainly advocating for children- the vulnerable ones in the society, because sexual assault and sexual violence can happen anywhere and anytime- even from the comfort of their homes and spaces that are meant to be safe. This documentary is also intended to be used as a platform to advocate for policy changes and improvements in how sexual male violence is addressed in Malaysia. I hope that it sheds light on the existing legal framework, identifies gaps, and advocates for survivor-centred approaches within the justice system.
8. How do you see this story relating to the theme ‘Why Freedom?’
Why freedom for men? Is there a notion that men are not vulnerable to sexual violence? Sexual violence knows no gender, age, and race. Children who grew up to be men or men who continued life after sexual violence always has this sense of imprisonment within them, it’s time to give their voices back- it’s time for freedom.
Joshua’s film ‘Unsilenced’ will premiere at FreedomFilmFest 2024 along with two other films that received the grant.
What the FreedomFilmFest2023 judges had to say about ‘Unsilenced’
“Sexual violence on men is a topic much needed to be discussed in broader society, especially with shame and denial attached to victims. I am confident Joshua’s artistic approach can bring justice to the topic and support the voice of survivors throughout Malaysia.”
“There was a raw sincerity to his work, both beautiful and heart-wrenching, that crossed the line from him wanting to tell this story to us needing to hear it.”
“I admire his courage in sharing his story, and I anticipate that it will bring attention to the largely unexplored issue of sexual violence against men. This might serve as a catalyst for a wider movement on the topic.”
Every year the festival calls for proposal entries from interested filmmakers and activists across Malaysia & Singapore who have a story to tell. The two selected proposals will win a film grant of RM15,000 / SGD5,000 each to produce the film.
The selection was based on the 20th edition of the FreedomFilmFest theme ‘Why Freedom?’, answering the questions why freedom is crucial for us to be fully human? And what happens to our environment when our freedom is curtailed?