Malaysia’s annual film festival on human rights, the FreedomFilmFest, returns to Petaling Jaya in Selangor with 30 cutting-edge movies that offer fascinating and often rare views into gripping issues.

This year, there will be several movies that focus on the environment. The FreedomFilmFest runs from Aug 20 to 27 at the PJ Live Arts Theatre at Jaya One in PJ.

One movie looks at the widespread deforestation in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands for farming and the resulting floods and pesticide contamination. Festival patrons can also see how fashion is upcycled in Estonia to reduce the tremendous wastage generated as flitting trends come and go.

Be shocked at the craziness of jade mining in Myanmar or the harsh fate of people protesting deforestation in Cambodia. And examine whether logging in Sarawak has benefited the locals.

Finally, since being eco-friendly is about reducing consumption, there will be a hands-on session on how to cook delicious meals from food scraps. Other documentaries include fresh views into the war in Syria, Germany’s open-arms refugee policy, Indonesia’s six-religion administration and the role of women religious clergy in the United States.

There will also be master classes by filmmakers Marcus Vetter (from Germany) and Sean McAllister (Britain) as well as other filmmakers from South-East Asia.

Apart from that, there will also need a food workshop happening at the festival called The Good Food Revolution, where a Malaysian professional chef aims to dazzle visitors with his sizzling hot food and cooking tips in a live “show and tell” on creating healthy yet tasty meals from food scraps and low cost ingredients.

He will also share how to devise clever food and cooking plans so that food costs will not burn a hole in our pockets. Event tickets will include a special takeaway meal set cooked by the chef and his crew.

Movie List

The Disappearing Hills

Director: Yeo Kai Wen

Stern-faced soldiers wielding M-16 rifles stood guard as excavators mowed down rows of chrysanthemums, leaving behind broken stalks and fallen petals. At a distance, farmers stood by helplessly as they watched years of their hard work destroyed.

In recent years Cameron Highlands has been pressured by development. While this has created a secure and comfortable lifestyle for many farmers, it has also resulted in large swathes of forests being cleared to make way for farm expansion.

As a result, flooding has often claimed property and lives while contaminating rivers with garbage and dangerous levels of pesticides.

Disappearing Hills documents the human stories behind these environmental issues.

Also Read: A photo exhibition before the movie was made

Out Of Fashion

Director: Moest Väljas

This movie is about the upcycling of clothing by a fashion designer in Estonia.

We live in an era of ever-rising global consumption and it’s no secret that the fashion industry is at the forefront of this. But it creates huge amounts of waste.

Is there an alternative? Well, in this film, see how trash becomes fashion!

Unlocking Bengoh

Director: Nova Goh

Simo Sekam, Peluk Apeh and Sagen Adan’s families had lived in Sarawak’s Bengoh valley near Kuching for generations. But then they were forced to leave their ancestral home to make way for the Bengoh reservoir dam.

This story follows the director’s journey as he discovers the true cost of relocation that these families had to endure in the name of development.

Read Also: Examining the unusual floods that hit Kuching, Sarawak  

10 Billion – What’s On Your Plate

Director: Valentin Thurn

As the population of the world is set to hit a staggering 10 billion by 2050, is small scale agriculture the answer?

A best-selling author and filmmaker travels the world in search of ecologically and economically responsible alternatives to the current food production systems.

He visited India, Thailand, United States, Britain and Germany and found that many people were in fact in favour of small-scale agriculture and eating locally-produced food as often as possible.

Is this the only viable option in resolving food supply problems of the future?

The Borneo Case

Director: Eric Pauserr

This is a unique story filmed over 25 years! It tells the epic tale of how the rainforest of Sarawak, home of the last nomads, was logged. It also examines where all that money went to.

I Am Chut Wutty

Directors: Fran Lambrick, Vanessa de Smet

This is about an environmental activist in Cambodia who lost his life.

“At first, I didn’t expect them to target me,” says Chut Wutty in the movie. He was a quiet, charismatic environmental activist who was coordinating a network of protestors in Prey Lang forest, Cambodia, where deforestation was destroying people’s livelihoods.

When the military came, Wutty was thrown to the ground at gun point. But he was immediately rescued by the network. He was shaken but he kept going, determined to stop the destruction.

Five months later, at a logging site in the Cardamom Mountains, Wutty was stopped and shot dead. In the aftermath, people ask: who was behind the killing? And can the network fight for the forest without him?

So Close, So Far, The Ancestral Forest

Director: Doan Hong Le

The film shows how people’s lives are affected by development in Vietnam. An entire village of ethnic people was moved from the forest where they had lived for thousands of years.

They were transferred to a town because the government decided to build a hydro-electric barrage (like a dam) on their land. Their lives were changed forever.

In their new home, the three generations of the Hoi Lon family tries to find ways to adapt to their new lives.


Directors: Ko Jet, Htet Aung San, Phyo Zayar Kyaw

This is about the human cost of jade mining in northern Myanmar.

The images of hordes of freelance miners scrambling onto dangerous slag heaps to find a nugget of jade are both fascinating and appalling.

We Don’t Want To Forget How Our Ancestors Gathered Food

Director: Nadira Ilana

From time to time, Geluing and his gang of tough guys go hunting to wind down but also to remember how their ancestors gathered food.

Nadira Ilana made a short film in Sabah's Dusun language about how her ancestors gathered food.

Nadira Ilana made a short film in Sabah’s Dusun language about how her ancestors gathered food.

Our Village Made A Secret Oath

Director: Chief Bindang Mantakag of Kampung Bongkud

In the 1970s, a pagan oath over native land was made between two villages in Borneo.

(Both short films are in the Dusun language of Sabah, with English subtitles. They are part of the South-East Asia “Video for Change” forum that day.)

For more information and screening times/schedules, see freedomfilm