Register now: FreedomFilmFest, and the top five films to watch

Written by
Wai Yeng Kong

Themed ‘What Lies Beneath’, the annual FreedomFilmFest (FFF) returns with reasoned assessments into one of the most gripping global issues of today: human rights. From August 20 to 27, the week-long film festival will showcase 30 honest-to-life stories and host the inaugural Freedom Talks Series as well as masterclasses by renowned filmmakers Marcus Vetter and Sean McAllister . Here are the five films you should look out for:

'The Borneo Case' by Dylan Williams and Erik Pauser

The Borneo Case (90 mins)
Dylan Williams and Erik Pauser, Sweden/Sarawak
Aug 20, 2pm
An unlikely cast of investigators dwell deeper into the ongoing destruction of the Borneo rainforest and the billion-dollar profit that have been siphoned into secret bank accounts and property portfolios around the world. Follow them as they try to make sense of what has happened in Sarawak for the past 30 years.

'Kisah Pelayaran ke Terengganu' by Amir Muhammad and Badrul Hisham Ismail

Kisah Pelayaran ke Terengganu (65 mins)
Amir Muhammad and Badrul Hisham Ismail, Malaysia
Aug 20, 7pm
Amir Muhammad journeys to the laid-back and conservative Terengganu, painting a story via a travelogue format, interspersed with quotes from the book ‘Voyage to the East Coast’ (1838). The latter is a work by Munshi Abdullah (also referred to as the father of Malay journalism), which contains scathing observations about the state and the men who live in it. The film will kick off the festival alongside two recipients of the FFF Grant 2016, ‘Unlocking Bengoh’, documenting the diverging paths of indigenous Bidayuh highland folk affected by the Bengoh dam, and ‘Stories from My Father’, a tale of a daughter’s discovery of her father’s dark past in detention without trial.

'10 Billion: What's on your Plate?' by Valentin Thurn

10 Billion: What’s on your Plate? (102 mins)
Valentin Thurn, Germany
Aug 27, 11am
Author and director Valentin Thurn travels the world in search of ecologically and economically responsible alternatives to the current food production systems to resolve the worsening food shortage problem in the near future. His adventure to India, Thailand, Germany, the US and the UK revealed that many people are in fact in favour of small-scale agriculture and eating locally produced food as often as possible.

'A Syrian Love Story' by Sean McAllister

A Syrian Love Story (75 mins)
Sean McAllister, UK/Syria
Aug 23, 4pm; Aug 27, 7pm
Grief and anger flood the screen as this documentary charts the heartbreaking story of a couple – whose relationship turns into shambles – as they flee the terrors of the warring Syria. Award-winning Sean McAllister met Palestinian activist Amer Douad in Damascus, who fell in love with fellow inmate Ragdha Hassan, a leftwing Syrian activist against the Assad regime. The duo toiled through hardships (including a suicide attempt) to seek the freedom they fought so hard for.

'We Don't Want to Forget How Our Ancestors Gathered Food' by Nadira Ilana

Big Stories Small Town
Nadira Ilana and Bindang Mantakag, Malaysia
Nadira Ilana and her crew ran film and photography workshops in Kampung Bongkud and assisted locals in producing films and images with a focus on their Dusun heritage, relationships and dreams. ‘Our Village Made a Sacred Oath’ and ‘We Don’t Want to Forget How Our Ancestors Gathered Food’ are products of her time in Kampung Bongkud. The former explains the pagan oath, over native land, made between two villages in Borneo in the 1970s while the latter sees a gang of tough men go hunting as a means of gathering food, but also to wind down.
‘Our Village Made a Sacred Oath’, Aug 24, 3.30pm, 7mins; ‘We Don’t Want to Forget How Our Ancestors Gathered Food’, Aug 24, 3.30pm, 4 mins.

The FreedomFilmFest will be screened at PJ Live Arts Theatre @ Jaya One, 72A, Jalan Universiti, PJ. Entry by minimum donation (complimentary passes for senior citizens above 60 and students with valid ID): RM20 for whole day; RM150 for all festival days. Register online or at the entrance 20 minutes before screening to reserve your seats. For full schedule of films, masterclasses and Freedom Talks, visit

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