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FreedomFilmFest 2019: Harga Naik, Gaji Maintain The Fight for Everyday Survival


FreedomFilmFest (FFF), Malaysia's only human rights documentary film festival is back this year. With more than 30 diverse line-up of films from around the world, the festival is returning to PJ Live Arts, Jaya One in Petaling Jaya. Happening for one week, from 21 till 28 September, FFF will show the latest award-winning films, highlighting the best of local, regional and international filmmakers.


Malaysia once dreamed of achieving developed nation status in 2020. However, one year away from 2020, Malaysia is still trapped in middle-income country status. In fact, most Malaysians face a rising cost of living while wages remain low or stagnant. This economic reality inspired FFF to develop this year's theme: “Harga Naik, Gaji Maintain” (“Soaring Prices, Stagnant Wages”).  Through this year’s film selection, FFF hopes to provide insight into the root causes of inequality. The film festival goers can look forward to watching how the global community have found plenty of creative ways to respond to capitalism and other human rights issues.


FFF is also proud to present four Malaysian films that tackle this year’s theme in unconventional ways. The issue of urban child poverty is made concrete with Demi Paymitra, a film by Azreen Madzlan. While Albert Bansa’s Pengidup Aku, an Iban language film, looks at the struggle of a single father who must leave his young son behind in their longhouse to work in town. In Bila Kami Bersatu, Minxi Chua and Asyraf Abdul Samad document the untold and inspiring stories of women hospital cleaners from around Malaysia who unionised to secure their rights. Our fourth Malaysian film by Andrew Han examines the connection between environmental and income issues faced by fishing communities in Penang, in Doa Seorang Nelayan.


This year’s opening film Push, directed by award-winning filmmaker Fredrik Gertten, features Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing who investigates how global finance is fueling the housing crisis and making cities unaffordable to live in. Fredrik Gertten will be in Kuala Lumpur to present his film and will join a panel discussion on the movement for housing rights after the screening.


Youth Perspectives


This year’s festival will also put the spotlight on youth perspectives. There will be a showcase of nine student films from Malaysia and Singapore related to the theme. The best film will win our Student Film Award. 


Young festival-goers should not miss Everything Must Fall, directed by Rehad Desai, which documents the 2015 student-led #FeesMustFall movement in South Africa. This film demonstrates the power that comes from collective organizing that embraces intersectionality to create lasting change.



Another relevant film to the younger generation is the winner of the prestigious South by South West Film Festival 2018 Grand Jury Award for documentary feature, People’s Republic of Desire, by Hao Wu. The documentary takes the viewer into the lucrative and exploitative world of, a NASDAQ-listed Chinese social media site focused on live video streaming. According to Variety, the film is also “provocative and unsettling as it brings us on a guided tour through the digital marketplace for something resembling human contact.”


Gender Inequality


FFF 2019 will also feature films that center inspiring women fighting to overcome gender inequality and sexual violence. Mother, Daughter, Sister by Jeanne Hallacy tells the story of ethnic minority women in Myanmar, while A Thousand Girls Like Me by Sahra Mani documents a determined Afghan woman's fight to bring her father who raped her to justice, even as family members threaten to kill her.




FFF is also excited to add a thematic “Art Battle Malaysia” to our programming this year. Eight artists will have half an hour to paint their responses to the “Harga Naik, Gaji Maintain” documentaries in front of a live audience. On top of witnessing the magic of an art battle, the audience will have the chance to bid on the finished pieces! This event will take place on the opening day of the festival on 21 September from 1-2pm at The Square, on the ground floor of Jaya One.


Along with the screenings, audiences can look forward to workshops and talks by our international guests, which include filmmakers Sean McAllister (A Northern Soul) and Ben Randall (Sisters For Sale), and Impact producer, Marion Guth (Zero Impunity).  FFF2019 will also play host to a gathering of video activists from the region such as Indonesian film journalist Lexy Rambadeta, as well as activists from West Papua, Myanmar, Nepal and other countries.


A selection of films from the FreedomFilmFest will be screened in and around the Klang Valley, Kuching, Kota Kinabalu, Ipoh, Muar, Johor Bahru and Singapore. Full details will be out on our website soon.


For more information and updates on FFF2019, please go to:


Should you require any further information or to interview any of this year's filmmakers personally or via email, please contact:




The Freedom Film Network (FFN) is a not-for-profit body established to support and develop social documentary filmmaking within the context of freedom of expression and values contained in the Universal Declaration of Human rights in Malaysia. 


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