Malaysia’s leading annual human rights film festival, FreedomFilmFest (FFF), which will take place in Petaling Jaya from 29 September – 7 October 2018, has one goal in mind this year, to echo the mission statement of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which calls for all member countries to pledge that “No one should be left behind.”

As FFF fans will know, each year we award small film grants to filmmakers from Malaysia and Singapore who pitch their human rights documentary ideas to a panel of expert judges for consideration. A special thank you to this year’s Malaysian film grant sponsors, Penang Institute and MYDOCS.

This year we are proud to announce the awarding of four grants to four filmmakers who will also receive production support for their documentary to be fully envisioned and premiered at this year’s festival in Petaling Jaya. The festival will later travel to other key states in Malaysia including Penang, Johor, Sabah, Sarawak and also on to Singapore.

This week we highlight Malaysian filmmaker Putri Purnama Sugua, who won an FFF film grant for pitching her documentary – “Aku Mau Sekolah”.

Aku Mau Sekolah

Meet Putri Purnama Sugua – a 25 year old passionate filmmaker from Sandakan in Sabah, East Malaysia who hopes her filmmaking can be used as a platform to voice “the struggles of the powerless”.

Putri was selected as one of this year’s FFF film grant recipients for her upcoming documentary “Aku Mau Sekolah” (“I Want To Go To School”), which will focus on one of the many obstacles faced by stateless children residing in Malaysia – access to education. As well as focusing on the stories of the children, Putri’s documentary will shine a light on the brave and tenacious schools that are at risk of being shut down and demolished for providing the children basic language and maths lessons without a licence.

“They need to become mature and turn into an adult early”, says Putri. “They throw away their beautiful life as kids and need to struggle to maintain their daily life.”

Tragically, many of the students have turned their backs on education in Sandakan, where their future without documentation is uncertain. To survive the daily needs of family life some of the children have been left with no option but to work at the local dumpsite.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030 (this year’s theme for FreedomFilmfest) names quality education as one of its key objectives intended to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. The goals rightly point out that, “obtaining a quality education is the foundation to improving people’s lives and sustainable development.”

For Putri, her documentary is an important tool to affect change for the younger generation, “I focus on the children because they are the beginning and at the end of the day they are the future. Children are the beginning of a journey” she told us.

Putri says that she grew up in a rural area and felt like she didn’t have a voice as a child. Her motivation to work with and advocate for children through filmmaking stems from her personal experience. “Filmmaking is a powerful medium to influence people and as a filmmaker this is the time for me to make sure that no more kids have the same thinking as me before because I can be the voice for them through my film. Stateless children have always been the ones that motivated me to keep making films. Films about them. When I look upon these kids and their unlucky lives and how they are left out of society, it breaks my heart! I see how eager they are to improve their lives, I see that they really want an education. For me, they deserve to have a future!”

With a high dropout rate among the students in Sandakan, who are struggling to survive other areas of their life without documentation and a lack of funding for the schools supporting the children, drastic efforts are now being taken to keep the school gates open. Putri’s film aims to document these struggles and highlight why education must not be seen as a privilege for the few, but a fundamental right for all.

This year’s film pitches were selected by a panel of judges comprising of Malaysian filmmaker Tan Chui Mui, R.AGE journalist Elroi Yee and filmmaker/activist Arul Prakkash.

Despite the issue of statelessness having been highlighted in films before, Arul Prakkash felt the issue was important to be documented as the cycle of statelessness continued  to perpetuate in Malaysia.

“It is a main issue, especially in Sabah. We hear that there are a lot of people without documents. The cycle never ends. This story is important to bring up the issue of statelessness and access to education, especially for the children. The small change that we’re expecting is just don’t demolish the school. Hopefully this film will bring out that message.”

Putri’s final words? “Let’s together pressure anyone, the government or whoever to acknowledge these kids and give them their rights to education and the right to have a dream.”  Putri’s film is currently in the pre-production stage and she plans to begin filming for two-weeks in July.

“Aku Mau Sekolah” will be premiered at FFF 2018 at PJ Live Arts, Petaling Jaya from 29 September – 7 October 2018.

For up to date information on FreedomFilmFest 2018 and the other winning film grant recipients please visit:
Website: www.freedomfilm.my
Facebook: www.facebook.com/freedomfilmfest/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/freedomfilmfest
Instagram: www.instagram.com/freedomfilmfest

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