On 24 May 2016, Andrew Lowenthal, Director, and myself, Communications and Outreach Coordinator of EngageMedia, attended the 4th installment of Good Pitch Europe in Stockholm, Sweden. Good Pitch, which was originally developed by Britdoc and the Sundance Documentary Institute in 2008, aims to amplify the impact of documentary films that address social and environmental issues.
Good Pitch events are different to standard pitching forums where filmmakers ask for financial support and look for distribution avenues. The events forge partnerships between filmmakers and a wide range of stakeholders, including NGOS, philanthropists, social entrepreneurs, corporate partners, broadcasters, educators and policy-makers.
This was my first Good Pitch experience, which I’ve heard so much about over recent years through the global Video for Change community and through some of the acclaimed films it has supported, such as Citizen Four, No Fire Zone and The Look of Silence.
As Good Pitch2 is being hosted for the first time in Southeast Asia by In-Docs next year, and which EngageMedia is an outreach partner of, it was especially useful for me to learn from the organizers and participants, and witness the process first-hand. After groups of production teams had presented their projects, which were mostly 80% completed, foundations, media outlets, organizations and even companies such as Google and Vine pledged financial and distribution support. It would be amazing to see how we could get similar support for critical films from the region.
However, the one-day event itself is just a fraction of what goes into the work for Good Pitch. Leading up to March 2017, five films will be selected to receive mentorship such as impact and pitching workshops, outreach support which includes connecting the films to hundreds of potential allies that can help them reach wider (or more precise) audiences and ultimately aiding them to produce more real and lasting impact. And we’re looking very forward to being a part of making all that happen!
KITLV or Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Carribean Studies held a seminar on EngageMedia's Papuan Voices: video and empowerment on 27 November 2015 in Leiden, Netherlands. The seminar attended by around 20 people who were mostly researchers and PhD students, screened 3 films from Papuan Voices collections of volume 1 and 2. Fridus Steijlen, a senior researcher of KITLV who hosted the seminar opened the seminar with a brief description about EngageMedia and its Papuan Voices project. The films showed were Love Letter to the Soldier, Wam-ena, and Pearl in the Noken.
Hendriati Trianita, former Program Manager of EngageMedia and Ligia Giai, a Papuan origin and Master student in Global History at Leiden University were discussants of the films. Trianita talked about the process of making the films, and Giai talked about how she was impressed by the “Pearl in the Noken” film because it shows a success story of Papuans.
The discussion afterward was lively as there were many questions and comments from participants. All participants agreed that the films were very good, have strong messages about everyday lives and the fact that they were made by Papuans themselves added the values. The discussion went around three main themes; the content and relevance of the films (and the project) to the people, video as a tool for empowerment and how these videos are used by the communities, and the process of the film. As for the content, the comments were that “Love Letter” contains strong political message but described in a very subtle way, while “Pearl” is very good as it does not show a 'victim' that most advocacy films do. “Wam-ena, which tells a story about the importance of pigs in the life cycle of Papuans can consider not only as 'cultural story' but it shows more complicated socio-economics values of people in Wamena (and other parts of Indonesia). One of participants asked how these videos can reach the people where the films were made, whether they happened to talk about the films and how was their reaction. Trianita, who was involved in the second phase of the Papuan Voices project said that the films were screened in villages and communities and got positive response and feedback. She also explained about the process of the production, from story development workshop, shooting, editing workshop and editing phase.
It was a fruitful discussion and most participants were impressed by the films. It is good that advocacy videos like Papuan Voices are engaged more with academics. One of the researcher said that the films are something that researchers have been thinking about: how to engage their knowledge of ethnography into something that can directly reach (and then empower) people. (Nita)
note: all Papuan Voices films and its study guide can be downloaded from Papuan Voices website.
Following a previous screening of Papuan Voices, our collection of advocacy videos on West Papua, to students and academics at the Asia Research Institute, students from the Tembusu College at the National University of Singapore invited us to share at their self-organized screening of the films on campus in February.
The session began with EngageMedia's Seelan Palay giving a short presentation about the social and political context of the province, the goals and processes in carrying out the project, and the ongoing work for outreach, engagement and impact.
A selection of five films addressing issues ranging from environmental preservation to healthcare to women's rights were shown, specifically Mama Mariode, Save the Karon, Pearl in the Noken,and School of Papua from the second volume, and the award-winning Love Letter to the Soldier from the first.
During the lively discussion afterwards, most of the students' questions revolved around the methodologies we used in developing the project and making it participatory. One of the Indonesian students in attendance expressed how upsetting it was that they, as concerned citizens about the situation in West Papua, felt powerless to do anything about it.
There was a lot of appreciation for the work that we're doing, and we were equally inspired by the enthusiasm of the students. We look forward to presenting more our of projects there.
After we screened our first screening at Yangon on 26 Oct with Phanteeyar , we forwarded moving on our next screenings at Mandalay and Sintgu ( Lat Pan Hla ) on Nov 10, 11 and 12 with Metta Campaign and Rainbow Organization Sintgu.
Over 300 audiences for 3 screenings at Mandalay & Sintgu make more effective discussion times with filmmaker Lei Lei Aye for her women rights film “My Mother is Single’ and her awarded film of & Proud Film Festival ‘Soul Mate’. We also screened our top documentary film “Sound of Silence ‘’ which won in Spain Gerona Film festival and ‘’I wanna go to school’’, awarded film of Human Rights & Human Dignity Film Festival.
“This screenings has revolutionized our thoughts about minorities,” said Transgender woman, Ma Phyo from Rainbow Organization Sintgu. “Through these video interviews, we get a deeper understanding our right and can know peace building more effectively with current Myanmar situation.”
With the New Year season quickly approaching, we have a plan to move on for our two final screenings at Yangon on Dec 14 and 15 and so that you can visit and discuss with our filmmakers & our engagemedia team.
Ready to watch Minority and peace film?
One morning, Suu Sha Shinn Thant, a transwoman, was woken up with news that her photos were uploaded to an adult site, along with an offer for sex work–without her consent. Not knowing who was behind the act and without any policy that could protect her from such cases, Suu Sha Shinn Thant has not taken any legal action. As these photos are continuously being shared to several social networking groups up until today, she is learning to live with the fact that she can be harassment anytime online because of her gender.
Her experience mirrors that of Ma Ma May Htwal, a photojournalist who was sexually harassed through her Facebook account; and Zay Lin Mon, a Punjabi student-activist who were threatened, defamed and accused of being part of the terrorist group ISIS because he proudly wears a turban.
Suu Sha Shinn Thant, Ma Ma May Htwal and Zay Lin Mon’s stories show us that any person who uses the internet can be a victim of online harassment in Myanmar. As part of the minority, they have expressed deep mistrust in these online platforms that do not acknowledge their basic human rights. Apart from the controversial Telecommunications Law, there is no effective policy that protects them and penalises harassers.
It’s Time to Talk is a 9-minute film that features Suu Sha Shinn Thant, Ma Ma May Htwal and Zay Lin Mon’s struggles as members of the minority in their own country. The film takes us on a day in their lives and how they respond to the never-ending instances of online harassment. It also sought the guidance of the International Commission of Jurists and Myanmar ICT for Development Organisation to outline effective action plans for those who have had similar experiences. It seeks to archive and feature the current internet situation in Myanmar. Finally, it calls for solidarity among civil society to demand a safer and more accessible internet to everyone in Myanmar.
It’s Time to Talk premiered last 15 December in Yangon and was screened at the Myanmar Digital Rights Forum. Under a Creative Commons license, the film is available for download for any purpose whatsoever.
After publishing an “incriminating” poem involving a former president, Maung Saung Kha was arrested for online defamation and criminal insult on 5 November in 2017. The poem took the attention of a staff member of then-president Then Sein, who immediately ordered his arrest.
Myanmar has a stringent history of denying its citizenry their freedom of expression through its policies. In fact, Saung Kha’s arrest was made possible by the Article 66(D) of the 2013 Telecommunications Law.
Eventually, due to numerous protests, along with the old promise of freedom by National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the Telecommunications Law was revised in 2016. However, these revisions still fall short of the freedom the Myanmar people were hoping for.
Are You Ready is a 2-minute animated film that provides an overview of the Article 66(D) and its impact on the freedom of speech of the Myanmar people. Providing a short historical review of the past cases under the article, the film aims to showcase how the article is prone to abuse by authorities who would want to avoid and repress dissent. Moreover, it hopes to reiterate that while the article has been used to penalise dissenters, its ambiguity can also be used to target ordinary people.
Are You Ready premiered last 15 December in Yangon and has been screened at the Myanmar Digital Rights Forum. Under a Creative Commons license, the film is available for download for any purpose whatsoever.
Watch the video here:
Download a high resolution screening version with English subtitles from here (123mb).
EngageMedia is seeking short film submissions to include in a video-based interfaith and minority rights outreach and engagement project across Myanmar via online and mobile platforms, and through screenings in Mandalay Division and Yangon.
The initiative will work with local and national partners to deepen understanding of minority rights and interfaith issues, provide minority communities and activists with video engagement tools, and directly support campaigners seeking to draw attention to these critical issues. The outreach and engagement program will take place from October to December of 2016.
Rules & Regulations
- The film addresses issues relating to minority rights, religious tolerance, land grabbing, war and violence, including sexual violence in Myanmar or Southeast Asia
- Duration of the film should be 5-10 mins
- Copyright to the film should belong to the filmmakers themselves (The films will be published as a DVD collection, will be screened in Myanmar, as well as used for other outreach in Southeast Asia)
- Must include English subtitles if the film is not in English
- HD quality
Deadline for submissions is 5 November 2016.
Please send a short synopsis and a link to your film to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Based on MCMAHT’s reports, the area is home to many who become migrant workers in neighborhood countries like Thailand and Malaysia. We found it fitting then, to screen films from Crossroads, our collection of advocacy videos on migrant workers, refugees, and stateless people in Malaysia.
Beginning our Journey
At 10am on a Monday morning, I, Kyalyi from EngageMedia, and MCMAHT volunteers departed from Yangon by bus and we arrived at the town of Zeekone at about 4pm. Kwin Sann village is located in the vicinity of Zeekone, but we had to travel for two hours on motorcycles to get there. We arrived safely at Kwin Sann at 6pm.
Most of people in the village are of Catholic faith, Karen ethnicity and speak the Karen language. Thankfully for me, one of the characters from a film of mine is a Karen girl, so I was familiar enough with their language.
On Tuesday, I visited the village leader’s home to get permission to screen our films there. I was delightfully surprised that they chose to screen the films in the area where they congregate to pray, called “a Holy Place for Mary”.
The area faces a sever lack of electricity and the people there can only get power from small solar generators. We faced an issue in making our projector work and finally we had to think of an alternative. Some of the villagers have small TVs with 14-inch screens, but I decided that it would be better to screen the films from my own laptop which has a screen of almost 16 inches.
I’ll never forget how much I worried about the battery life of my laptop for the screening the next day. But by a stroke of luck, using one of the small solar generators somehow worked out.
The Screening Day
At 5pm on Wednesday, after candlelight prayers, the MCMAHT volunteers and I started began the much-anticipated screening. We opened with the filmed, ‘In Search of Shelter’, a film about Myanmar refugees and migrant workers in Malaysia. In this video, a Karen man talks about the issues facing migrant workers in hopes that villagers who often “export” such workers would better understand them. We also showed the films, ‘Here to Help’, ‘Polis Pao’, ‘Siti Got Cheated’, ‘Trap’ and ‘Forsaken’.
The audience, which consisted of men and women aged 10–74, engaged in a lively post-screening discussion and answered a questionnaire on the issues raised in the films. A resource person from MCMAHT spoke in further detail with the villagers about official documents and how individuals looking to become migrant workers can better protect themselves.
One of the villagers who came back from Malaysia said that he is really afraid to ever go to Malaysia again because of the police there. He shared that was always staying and hiding in the darkest corners of the factory in which he worked for only three months before returning to Myanmar.
His account served as a stark reminder of the realities faced by migrant workers throughout the region, and we were glad that the screening of films from Crossroads helped to spark such dialogues in remote locations where even watching television is considered a luxury.