The Komas FreedomFilmFest (FFF2014) – the country’s premier human rights-themed film festival -- kicks off on Saturday with the screenings of 37 films from 20 different countries, with freedom as its main theme.

“Freedom as a theme is very simple. Whether it is personal freedom or any kind of freedom, everybody is involved. It is a very relatable word.

“In the bigger picture, freedom is not something you should take for granted. It did not come on a silver platter. Like the country's independence, it was fought for by our forefathers. When we were born into the world, we tend to forget and take it for granted,” said Anna Har, Executive Director of Pusat Komas, a human rights non-governmental organization (NGO).

The festival will feature films from both established and first-time filmmakers from the region -- including Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, and the Philippines -- as well as several European countries and the United States.

Har said each filmmaker will bring in his or her own interpretation of freedom and various issues including freedom to the land and identity, price of freedom, freedom to belong, gender equality, and right to shelter.

“All the movies had personal questions that they (the filmmakers) wanted to answer to. It might be personal stories but can still resonate with Malaysians,” Har said.

The screening -- which will take place at PJ Live Arts, Jaya One, Petaling Jaya -- will be followed by a 20-minute discussion.

“We want to start a new discussion about Malaysia and the role of the rakyat. It is about getting more people involved in discussing and debating the issue. There is social media but the synergy is different.

"When you have a festival, you get 300 to 400 people coming together. It’s very exciting. It’s very inspiring to watch a film and listening to people talk about it. Films don’t change life overnight, but it stays with you forever. Their perspective might change after watching a film,” she said.

In short, she wants her audience to not just be entertained.

“Look for other things. Don’t just eat your popcorn and be happy for the next half hour. Films do a lot more than that. You just need to change that mindset.

“It should enrich you in your own way, whether it relates to you or whether it raises certain questions. Film makes you think. That culture needs to be inculcated,” she said.

Har said the event has been curated not just for activists or those that are aware of political and social issues.

“I have chosen films about bullying, women, children. It is stories of ordinary people and their life shown in a dramatic and beautiful way. It is stories of ordinary people but we celebrate their strengths and struggles,” she said.


A film which is expected to garner a lot of discussion is Wukan: Flame of Democracy from China for its take on democracy.

It is a story of how villagers in rural Wukan, a village in communist China’s southern Guangdong province, paid a heavy price for democracy in a bid to weed out greedy officials who were stealing their ancestral land.

Jalanan, a feature film from Indonesia, tells an honest portrayal of the gritty realities of Indonesian life through the lives of three street musicians or “buskers” who make a living belting out their own songs on the city’s dilapidated mini-buses.

Anur Nak Sekolah, is a Malaysian documentary-drama revolves around the parents of Anur who seek to lay claim to her right to formal education. Anur is a child with celebral palsy.

Their cause unpredictably takes them on a journey where they not only fight for the rights of Anur, but for all disabled children.

The screenings in Kuala Lumpur will take place from September 6 until September 13.

FFF2014 will also take palce in other states: Johor (September 19), Sabah (September 20), Perak (October 4), Pahang (October 11), Sarawak (October 19), Penang (October 24-26). For more info on the screening schedule, visit the FreedomFilmFest 2014 website.