Freedom Film Festival 2011 weekend highlights

The recently concluded 9th annual Komas Freedom Film Festival openly addressed some of the most controversial taboos which still exist in Malaysian society.

These taboos are surprisingly (or not) commonplace, hiding in plain sight, such as divorce among Muslim women, who often fall victim to the law and those who interpret and administer it. Freedom film fest winner, Afiq Deen’s “Huruf J” was a divorce movie of wit and light which allowed the audience to appreciate the lot of the Malay woman divorcee, a legal system, and the society in which it is embedded.

Another winner, Liaw Pey Wen, produced “Lot, Umah, Am”, a film about the Orang Seletar, the diminishing ndigenous coastal dwellers (orang laut) who are trying to survive along the mangrove creeks of the Johor Straits. The film captures their way of life and how they are being threatened by rapid “development” in their area. It begs the question: development for whom?

The two-day weekend festival held at Wisma Bentley attracted a broad audience, says the Komas director Anna Har.

According to Tan Jo Hann, the submissions received this year showed the maturity of the Malaysian public in  dealing with social and human rights issues. The ability to express these concerns in film, to create awareness, has tremendously improved over the last eight years.

The Q&A session with the filmmakers proved that young Malaysians are no longer shy away from discussing serious issues and subjects which concern them.

Despite many threats of closure and raids faced by the Komas, the much-talked about festival continued this year with the support of the Selangor state government.

Again, ‘ordinary’ people used tools such as video cameras to highlight human rights violations. Komas empowers aspired filmmakers to transform social injustice into powerful stories through films and to engage with the public in open discussion, bringing these to light.

Produced by Indrani Kopal

Camera: Navinkumar Perianen