Malaysia is known as an outspoken nation.
Whenever controversial topics surface on the internet, netizens are the first to give their two cents and while it has engendered numerous polarising debates on everything under the sun, conversations are important in cultivating understanding and improving our relationships with each other.
With that said, it is a shame that our passion for sparking debates cannot be reflected in our art due to inundating censorship.
It’s no secret that the country is adamant on remaining hush hush on taboos even if it can only benefit us to talk about them openly.
Instances such as the probe on filmmakers who depicted police brutality in a short film as well as the ban on Singaporean drama, Fundamentally Happy that details sexual abuse and grooming only scratch the surface when it comes to just how iron-fisted the Malaysian film industry is to censorship.
While the country likes to pride itself on making strides, we still have a long way to go which is why Freedom Film Network (FFN) feels like it must intervene.
Holding on to the objective to reconsider the impact of censorship on socially relevant films in Malaysia, FFN’s newest mini-film festival “Pesta TUT” or Pesta Tak Usah Tutup-Tutup (‘No need to censor’ Festival) will feature a curated showcase of Malaysian films that surround topics such as atheism, abortion, racial and religious sensitivities, government, alcoholism, drug abuse, and homosexuality.
All films on the list have faced official and unofficial censorship from the board of FINAS.
According to Brenda Danker, co-founder of FFN, “We want Malaysians to reflect if there’s really a need to censor content that reflects critically on ourselves. Is there space for filmmakers to tell honest stories about Malaysia? Where is the freedom for audiences to choose and consume content of their own choice without the intervention of the state?”
In addition to the showcase, discussions will also be held via Borak TUT on Twitter Spaces which allows filmmakers and film lovers to engage and talk about films, censorship and the future of Malaysian cinema.
Since film isn’t the only form of art that is being censored, artists, researchers and activists are invited to reconsider the state of censorship in the Malaysian arts landscape in, “Menapis, Menepis dan Menari” or “Dancing with Censorship”, which is a discussion with artists and filmmakers on their creative approaches and ways to defy censorship.
Danker adds, “We hope to engage and gather feedback from all stakeholders and share it with policy makers and also the Home Ministry that regulates many of the laws affecting freedom of expression and censorship”.
Malaysians are avid consumers of art. Within the ambit of film, we even have aspirations to one day grace the Oscars with our presence and maybe even take home the golden statue.
But how is that possible if we are not able to integrate the one thing that makes a film truly spectacular: The truth.
Walking on eggshells neither gives us the creativity nor the liberty to truly express our messages through our art and until we are able to portray the full truth, we will forever be left behind.
Premiering from November 26 to December 5, you can register to watch these films here.