Having championed environmental issues for some time now, Malaysian director/producer Mark Lee submitted his short film for competition in the Picture This Festival For The Planet. Last month, he emerged as one of the two regional finalists for his short titled Mr Garbage. The other finalist is Wally Tham from Singapore.

Picture This Festival is an initiative started by Sony Pictures Television Networks, in partnership with the United Nations Foundation in line with the goal to protect the planet and promote prosperity.

The festival aims to have emerging filmmakers worldwide showcase the positive future they see for the planet in a short film format.

In a press statement, Elizabeth Cousens, deputy CEO of the United Nations Foundation said: “The Picture This Festival For The Planet is an innovative new platform to connect global audiences to what is happening on the ground …

“By celebrating individual stories of people around the world, actively working to protect people and planet, Picture This will help inspire others to join the effort to realise these ambitious, and achievable, goals.”

Come July 29, Lee will be flying to Los Angeles to meet six other finalists, and also participate in the final round.

According to Lee, he will be there for 10 days and during this time he wants to find corporations to partner up with on the environment movement he started.

Lee – whose last film was Rainbow’s End (2017) – is also the founder of #Hugprojects, a digital storytelling platform focusing on environmental issues with the hopes of creating an awareness on both nature and community.

He believes one can make a positive change to the environment through films and other similar mediums.

Mark Lee

Mark Lee wants to inspire viewers with his short film.

“Saving the environment may sound huge. In essence, it is. But, there are many simple ways you can do your bit to help. Every little action counts.

“You don’t necessarily have to be an environmental scientist or outdoorsy type to work for the good of the environment,” he said.

That notion is showcased in his three-and-a-half minute short. Mr Garbage revolves around two residents in Pulau Ketam, a fishing village off the coast of Port Klang, Selangor, who are doing all they can to clean the island of accumulated trash. Chua Hock Boon is a fisherman-turned-technician, and Loh Keat Geok is an environmentalist.

Lee explained why he picked the location as his subject matter: “Like all other islands on the planet, the issue of waste management continues. What makes this 63sq km island different from any other island is that it is in reality a mudflat.

“The island has no roads, so there are no garbage trucks. Even if trash is collected, there is no land to dump it on, so the villagers created a dumpsite.

“However, the dumpsite can no longer sustain and accommodate the volume of waste produced.

“This location is a good place to portray what will happen in the mainland soon if there is no transformational change in how we use and reuse materials.

“Mainlanders are still lucky to have places to set up landfills. But, sooner or later, these landfills will no longer be able to accommodate the growing populations’ garbage disposal needs and more landfills would have to be created.”

As the short shows, these two people then decide to do something about the growing trash at their backyard. Lee shared that there are other residents who are following in their example.

“(But) what we are looking at is trash thrown into the sea for the past 50 or 60 years, including plastic that takes 400 years to degrade … it’s devastating.”

Nonetheless, Lee remains positive. “We hope this film will give people a sense of how one community that’s surrounded by trash is trying to help contain the problem.

“I hope it will inspire a change in our habits as consumers – to adopt more sustainable habits and products, wherever you live.”