Organised by the NGO Pusat KOMAS (Pusat Komuniti Masyarakat), the theme of the festival has always been about highlighting human rights issues in Malaysia. And the 2015 edition launched with a film that will probably set the appropriate tone for the rest of the festival.
Joshua Oppenheimer, the famed American documentary filmmaker who made the shocking ‘The Act of Killing’ in 2012 about the 1965-66 Indonesian killings of ‘communists’ which saw an approximate 500,000 people killed, offered up his latest film, the sequel, ‘The Look of Silence’, as the festival’s opening film on Friday night.
The film follows Adi Rukun, the younger brother of one of the alleged communists who was accused of being a communist and was brutally killed, going around the village confronting those who were involved in the killing. He’s meetings with them after more than 40 years, documented by Oppenheimer’s camera, are disturbing to say the least.
And as Oppenheimer’s films have open up frank (and sometimes heated) discourse in Indonesia, this is the hope that the 2015 Freedom Film Festival will also see local films that will create and encourage the same kind of discourse in Malaysia.
Festival director, Anna Har (centre), has helmed the Freedom Film Fest for the past thirteen years. - Photo by Astro AWANI/Zan Azlee
“The theme of this years festival is ‘Unseen, Unheard, Untold’. And we want these kinds of stories to be highlighted,” says festival director Anna Har.
After Friday night’s opening film, the festival is now calling for film submissions from filmmakers and the deadline for these submissions is 1 June and to be screened during the main festival betwen 15 and 20 September. The selected films will also be eligible for several awards - Best Malaysian Film, Best SEA Film, Best Long Form and Best Short Film.
Four film grants are also being given out to selected pitches to be made into reality. There will be three RM8,000 grants to be given for film ideas in Malaysia and one worth SGD5,000 for a film idea in Singapore. For those interested in pitching for the grants, the deadline is 4 April, and the completed films will be screened at the main festival.
Visit the Freedom Film Fest 2015 website for more information.