FreedomFilmFest 2019 celebrates engagement and action on economic inequality


FreedomFilmFest (FFF) 2019: Harga Naik, Gaji Maintain wrapped in Selangor after a successful two-weekend run on 28 September 2019. Since its founding, the festival has seen steady growth and this year was no exception. Over 4000 tickets were sold over this year’s six-day festival. This year’s festival-goers had the chance to catch screenings and talks by 15 Malaysian filmmakers and 10 international guests

This was also the second time the Freedom Film Festival was organised since Malaysia’s historic change of government. At the festival, this meant more politicians were willing to participate and engage. The Deputy Minister of Housing, YB Raja Kamarul Bahrin, attended the opening screening, Push, a documentary about the global housing crisis.

YB Raja Kamarul Bahrin also stayed back for the Q&A and gave his two cents on the housing crisis in Malaysia: “I think the real power is in the political will. Planning is one part, implementation is another. [While] maintenance has always been a problem in Malaysia.” After the screening of Push, the Member of Parliament of Petaling Jaya, YB Maria Chin, joined Freedom Film Festival for a Freedom Talk on affordable housing.

Swedish director Frederik Gertten interacting with viewers after the screening of PUSH.jpeg
Swedish director Frederik Gertten interacting with viewers after the screening of PUSH.jpeg

YB Maria Chin’s office also co-organised FFF’s first-ever “Festival in the Community” screening. We were thrilled to take the festival to the People’s Public Housing (PPR) Lembah Subang 2 units for a screening of Demi Paymitra (For Paymitra). The community was invited to watch the short documentary, one of this year’s film grant winners, about a young Malaysian girl facing malnourishment. We had a great turn out, including lots of children who were kept busy colouring during the screening.

Another first for this year’s festival was the live “Art Battle”, which saw nine local artists competing for a prize. The artists had just 30 minutes to create a painting in front of a live audience inspired by one of this year’s films.

Sharmilla Ganesan from BFM joined us for a session of live art criticism too. At the end of the session, the audience voted for their favourite artwork. Eventually, that honour went to the artist FayFay, for her amazingly detailed painting inspired by the film A Thousand Girls Like Me

As the festival wound down, the excitement over the winners started to build. The FFF judges deliberated over the amazing films entered in this year’s competition and were pleased to announce the winners. This year the winners were: Day of a Doctor for Best Student Film with a special mention for Bridge Commuters; Push for Best Feature Documentary with a special mention for Sisters for Sale; Mother, Daughter, Sister for Best Short Documentary with a special mention for 50 Years of Silence.

The winner for this year’s IDFA Pitch, a platform for social and environmental justice film projects, was also announced. This year the IDFA Pitch went to Arul Prakkash for An Outsider Body. Arul won an all-expense-paid trip to the International Documentary Film Festival (IDFA) in Amsterdam and the opportunity to be mentored by award-winning filmmaker Lau Kek Huat.

One of FFF’s supporters and sponsors over the years has been the Goethe-Institut Malaysia. Every year, a special prize is given for Outstanding Film to one of the FFF Film grantees.

This year, the honour went to Albert Bansa for Pengidup Aku (My Life), an Iban language film that told the story of Tony, a single father who faces the pressure of a rising cost of living on his salary as a construction worker.

Along with the recognition, Albert won an all-expenses-paid trip to the Leipzig Film Festival in Germany.

After the festival drew to a close in Selangor, we brought a selection of our films to 9 other cities – Temerloh, Miri, Kuching, Singapore, George Town, Muar, Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu and Ipoh where we reached another 2000 audiences.

We would like to thank all our volunteers, partners, filmmakers, sponsors for once again making the festival a great success.  The festival may be over but our hope is that the discussion on the issues of economic inequality and human rights will continue.

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