Sunday April 1, 2012
Capturing real life on video
By HARIATI AZIZAN
Not all young people are making cats-doing-stupid-trick videos for the Internet.
ANDREW Ng is a lecturer, Joachim Leong a lawyer, Rahmat Haron a painter and Soh Sook Hwa an organic farmer.
What can these young (and young-ish) Malaysians possibly have in common?
The need to voice out their concerns about society, and thanks to technology, they have found the medium to document their burning issues video.
You would probably never see their names in bright lights on a marquee but trawl the Internet and you will come across one, or more, of their work.
It has also become the trend to have “private screenings” of these alternative video documentaries, complete with discussions on the issues.
One group that holds regular screenings is the Ipoh-grown youth arts collective Projek Rabak.
“We have been organising our own screenings of art and independent films as well as documentary films for our members at our arts space Menora, and the response shows that young people here want something different,” says Riduan A.dullah, one of the “founders” of Projek Rabak.
The collective started out as a group of six friends who are interested in writing but they slowly expanded to other arts.
Now there are around 40 permanent members comprising writers, musicians, designers, photographers and painters, among others, and some 1,200 followers on Facebook.
Lately, there is even growing interest among the young people here to make their own short films and documentary films, adds Riduan.
“Many want an alternative platform to deal with various issues concerning the community without any political agenda.”
So who says young people are not politically or socially clued on?
Director and producer Anna Har of Big Pictures Production, one of the people behind the annual documentary film competition Komas Freedom Film Fest, affirms that in the last few years, they have received an increase in the number of entries from people aged 30 and below.
“This is partly because the medium is so powerful and exciting but I think they are also looking for a platform to say things that they may not otherwise be able to express and explore, as well as reach out to a wider audience,” says Har.
True, with documentaries and short films now relatively easy to make and screen, many young people are going out armed with a video camera, some heart, and lots of energy to capture various social issues that touch them.
Rahmat Haron, for instance, made a documentary on the Memali tragedy of 1985 while other subjects that have fired up young Malaysians include native rights, electoral reform, radioactive and toxic impacts on the environment and society, student politics and alternative Malaysian history.
One topic that seems to surface from time to time, Har highlights, is identity and race.
“Many young people want to talk about what it means to be Malaysian and the race relations here.
“Most do not necessarily know how to or have the tools to understand and respond to it but I must say that they do not sound negative.
“Rather, they sound optimistic they want to make Malaysia the home they want to live in now and belong to in the future,” she notes.
Andrew Ng, 27, who is lecturing at a local private college, and his friend, researcher Evelyn Teh, also 27, are two who were compelled to explore the idea of Malaysian identity on video, but through the lenses of mixed marriage.
“The demography of typical Malaysian citizens are labelled and dictated by the racial group that they belong to, and the racial categorisation essentially places everyone under a mandatory assumption of practising a pre-defined lifestyle, culture and religion.
“The categorisation is straightforward, but what happens when the parents are from different racial groups?” he poses.
Their short documentary Searching for a Malaysian Identity also seeks to explore the degree of recognition of the country given to mixed-race individuals, the issues they may face due to their lifestyle of mixed cultures and their thoughts and aspirations about their identity in Malaysia, he adds.
“We want to stir up discussion through short-documentaries such as this, especially when topics such as race' and religion' can be very sensitive.
“Not many people want to talk about it. We want people to talk about their identity, a question about Who am I, really',” Ng tells Sunday Star.
“Anak Sarawak” (Child of Sarawak) Joachim Leong, with his friend Weng Yow, wanted to raise public awareness on the displacement of 1,500 residents by the building of the controversial Bengoh dam in Sarawak with his 20-minute documentary Ulu Bengoh Daarum Pin (Upper Bengoh under water).
“We chose this topic because we felt that we had to voice out concerns in rural Sarawak which seem to fall on deaf ears.
“Here in Sarawak, we have numerous dams being built all across the state and little to no attention is paid to the impact to the locals and the wildlife in the area.”
Leong says they also wanted to show other Malaysians the rural Sarawak perspective.
“Here in KL, for one, we know little to nothing about Sarawak, what more the issues faced by the people in the rural areas. We seem to take them for granted and prejudge them.
“East Malaysians don't really feel they are part of Malaysia at times, what more these are rural villages who are far from any road. The most coverage we get about East Malaysia is probably the weather reports!” he laments.
It was also a journey of discovery of sorts for Leong.
“I got to see a side of my home-state I have never seen before. Although I was born in Sarawak, I have never ventured out into the rural areas so this trip was an eye-opening and yet a humbling experience.
“Looking at how these people live off the land, it makes you realise how (despite having so) little you can survive, as the land would provide for your sustenance.”
Most of all, it was an experience to remember.
“I'll never forget crossing these long, narrow bamboo bridges which looked flimsy (compared with what we may be accustomed to) with the river a few metres below us! It was a scary yet thrilling experience crossing them!”
For Ng, his video-making experience has encouraged him to take his “film-making” hobby more seriously.
“Before that, it was just recording mundane stuff like birthdays of friends and family.
“Now, I feel the potential of ordinary people like me being able to produce short films with little money, (but) using the social media to the max!”
Deadline for film proposals extended