Citizen Journalist Marcel Simok’s short documentary titled Living in Drains picked up the best short film award at the recently concluded Freedom Film Festival.
The film follows the story of undocumented illegal immigrants with no citizen rights in Sabah.
Marcel documented the struggle of Aliudin, an undocumented migrant from Philippines, who came to Sabah to seek a better life. Aliudin and his family live in constant fear of authorities, have no legal protection, unable to educate their children, and fall prey to corruption and graft.
“As a Native Sabahan, I just want to document the other side of the truth of stateless illegal immigrants for the world to see even though their presence are not welcome,” said Marcel during an interview.
The presence of undocumented illegal immigrants in Sabah is not a new issue as the state has geo-political zone closely connected to Brunei, Philippines and Indonesia and migration between these zones is fluid and boundaries established by previous colonial powers have no bearing.
This has led to various social issues and the population of Sabah has been ever divided over the status of the undocumented illegal immigrants.
Marcel, a former civil servant turned freelance human right activist, also said that the main challenge he faced was to give the protagonists the confidence to speak up and share their true story while also worrying concern if they will be repercussion from the authority.
In the film, Aliudin described the agony of having to part with his hard earned salary when ever he is stopped by police at a roadblock or randomly.
“If I get caught twice in a day, that’s already RM700. My daily income is so little. This has forced me to stop working because my kids began worrying,” said Aladdin.
Apart from the constant harassment by the authorities, the undocumented illegal migrants barely has any citizen’s rights. Their children are forced to stay home and learn on their own as they cannot be admitted into schools due to their status.
“My kids would always say to me, I want to go to school, but we can’t send to school. We don’t have the necessary documents,” said Aliudin in the documentary.
Marcel, who has produced documentaries that focusing on the human rights issues of undocumented children of immigrants in the state said that the least the state can do while coming up with a solution on the undocumented illegal migrants is to allow the children to get basic education.
“It saddens me that being a country that is moving towards a developed nation status, we can’t even give a basic education to children irregardless of their status,” said Marcel.
“Have we stooped this low? Denying the fundamental right to any children… A basic education,” asked Marcel.
Marcel is no stranger to activities empowering the natives of Sabah while advocating human rights. Previously, he had produced a documentary titled ‘Lynn: A traumatised and stateless child’ for Citizen Journalists Malaysia after receiving a small grant from the Netherlands Embassy in 2013.
“The more we stay blind to the problems faced by the undocumented illegal migrants, we create more problems in Sabah. Everyone will take advantage of the situation without regards for the betterment of Sabah,” said Marcel.
Marcel’s film was also selected by the Sabah Film Academy and screened at the Kota Kinabalu International Film Festivals in 2014 and won the Mentors Award.
FFF has been organized since 2003 has created a vital platform for social filmmakers and human rights activists to showcase their films and advocate their causes.
The FFF’s annual film competition, video workshops and film screenings bring us outstanding human rights films that are otherwise unseen by the public due to little commercial backing and control of mainstream media. FFF harnesses the power of films as a medium to exchange experiences and sharpen our analysis and understanding of social and human rights issues.
Watch the trailer of ‘Living In Drains’ here.