Visual Documentary Project 2017 Winners

We received over 100 wonderful documentaries from across Southeast Asia for this year's Visual Documentary Project 2017. And we are happy to announce that out of these works that explored the theme "Urban Life in Southeast Asia," the 5 below have been selected for the screening in Kyoto and Tokyo this December. We will be inviting the directors and team members of these 5 documentaries to Japan for a talk and discussion with commentators. Click on the flyer below for the details!

White Egret

White Egret focuses on the Orang Seletar, an indigenous people who lead a life afloat in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Focusing on Ain and Nasir, a couple, the documentary draws out how their move from the sea to a coastal village has affected their lifestyles and livelihoods. The couple describe both the resilience their community has shown, as well as the uncertain future they face, in a period of rapid social transformation.

Loh Yoke Ling (Malaysia)

Loh Yoke Ling is an independent Malaysia film director and made short films and documentaries for alternative channels. She has 7 years of experience in the drama and film making industry in Malaysia before she went on to further study in the field of screen studies. She is passionate about the power of storytelling through aesthetic media.

Chee Wei Hsing (Malaysia)

Chee Wei Hsing is a student who graduated with a Diploma in Journalism and is current studying for a Bachelor Degree of Mass Communication at the Southern University College. She has participated in student projects such as the publication of newspapers, documentary filmmaking and event organizing and worked as a photographer. She is passionate about filmmaking and spreading stories through media.

Produced in Malaysia

What were your reasons for making your documentary and how did you come to focus on the topic?

In March this year, I moved to Johor Bahru from Kuala Lumpur another big city in Malaysia. I would always see a couple selling fish beside the road on my way to work. I asked my sister who are these people who selling fish and sea products just beside the highway. She replied that they were Orang Seletar an indigenous people living nearby our house in Masai. I was so surprised that there was still an indigenous people in this big city. This became the impetus to discover what is the life beside the highway. 

In urban Johor Bahru, there is a group of people who still relies on the sea for their livelihood. This is something unique and uncommon in the 21st century. The lifestyle of the Orang Seletar, an indigenous people on the coast presents a very big contrast to urban life in Johor Bahru City. Yet, no matter how much technology advances, they insist to live on their own terms in the present. Although they are facing oppression in life, they are still content with it as they are with their family and that’s enough. They ask for little, but the only one thing they need is that their family is by their side and that they can have a healthy life free from misfortune. This film aims to present their unique lifestyle in the urban life of Johor Bahru to the audience and also to embody the carefree life they have. This film was by no means made for people to pity an indigenous people, but merely to reveal how they use a very optimistic mind to overcome difficulties in urban living which totally different and contrasts to the lifestyle they pursue.


Nostalgia Senja [Reminiscences of the Dusk]

This documentary offers a sensitive portrayal of Mr. Gohyong reminiscing about his former days as a successful performer with a Gambang Kromong. Nostalgia Senja foregrounds one man’s lifetime dedication to preserving music in the present, and highlights the pressures some traditional arts face in contemporary Indonesia.

Fazhila Anandya (Indonesia)

29 years old, Fazihila Anandya is a videographer and filmmaker. In 2010, he studied at the Jakarta Institute of Arts and completed the Bachelor of Arts in 2015. The short documentary “Nostalgia Senja” was his final project at the Jakarta Institute of Arts. It has been nominated at the Indonesian Film Festival 2015 and XXI Short Film Festival 2016 as best short documentary and was also shown during Indonesian Movie Week 2016 in Syria and made it into the movie compilation in Cilect 2016.

Andrew Saputro (Indonesia)

25 years old, Andrew Saputro is a professional Re-Recording Mixer, Sound Designer and Sound Mixer based in Jakarta, Indonesia. He has been working in the audiovisual and film industry for over 4 years and worked on many shorts, web series and commercials as a sound recordist and sound designer. He completed the Bachelor of Arts in 2015 and “Nostalgia Senja” was his final project with Fazhila Anandya (Director) at the Jakarta Institute of Arts.

Produced in Indonesia

What were your reasons for making your documentary and how did you come to focus on the topic?

Age is not an obstacle to work and creativity. Age is only a measure of the time of existence of an object or subject. It is our destiny as human beings to undergo multiple processes. Yet, in living the process of life we will not always experience good things as sometimes we can encounter the worst, and also meet people who have experienced much. There are many good and bad things that they will have experienced. Starting from our interest to know more what has been experienced in the later years of life, we met Mr. Oen Sin Yan, also fondly known as Mr.Goyong. He is a musical artist of the Tehyan (a Betawi musical instrument). At present, usage of the instrument has become rare, and we only occasionally get to hear it played at Betawi cultural events such as the Gambang Kromong show, Ondel-Ondel or Lenong Betawi. And even more rarely do we meet people who can play string instruments with these two strings. Generally, Tehyan musicians are old, just like Mr. Goyong and it has become hard for him to continue playing the instrument. With these issues at hand, we, as filmmakers, were challenged to bring his story to others. We did to contribute to this art of music, maintain its existence, and popularize the Tehyan so that it is not forgotten.



I don't know much about ABC

This documentary offers an intimate portrayal of a relationship between a father and his son, and the challenges of homeless life on the streets of Phnom Penh. Drawing out the importance of education in opening opportunities to improve one’s lot in life, it traces the everyday challenges that Ron Dara faces raising his son.

Norm Phanith (Cambodia)

Norm Phanith was born in 1989 in Battambang, Cambodia and is passionate about media. He studied the visual arts for four years and 2D animation for two at Phare Punleu Selpak. After graduation, he applied to work at a studio as an assistant in animation. In 2011, he was promoted and became an animation teacher. He has produced various short animations focusing on education, human trafficking, migration among others. He was selected to join training on a filmmaking program with the Bophana Audiovisual Center for one year. Through this he produced the short documentary film, titled Don’t know much about ABC, his first achievement. He has also been a cameraman for others film such as Sorrow Factory, Guide Boy and the Hunter.

Produced in Cambodia

What were your reasons for making your documentary and how did you come to focus on the topic?

I had no idea what documentary film was until I had a chance to learn it. It was a great experience and great learning process. It made me aware of real life stories which are outside of my comfort zone with real social actors happen in a real place in Cambodian society.
Phnom Penh is the Capital city that many people travelled from various provinces to settle their life, looking for a job for their livelihood. Some of them don’t even have accommodation or relative in Phnom Penh. They rent inexpensive rooms (with unhealthy conditions) to live in. They struggle to earn a daily living and in some cases, they even cannot afford to rent accommodation. They work all day long and at night time and stay at any place that find suitable for them such as in front of someone’s house or shop.
Homeless people can be found everywhere around the world especially in the capital city of each country. Through this film, I wanted to express a small part of the reality of Cambodian society and focus on a homeless single father who earns a living collecting garbage in the capital: a person who cannot fulfill his basic needs. This particular case is very similar to other homeless people in the country. Yet in Ron Dara’s case, he takes his full responsibilities to be a father to look after his son till he can send him to school. This movie shows that the future of poor children is heavily dependent on the way their parents think in the present.
Overall, I made this particular film because I wanted to showcase how a homeless, poor man struggles for the future of his son. He is poor in wealth but not in mind, meaning that he has a long-term perspective. He doesn’t want his son to live in a difficult life like him. As such, he tries to find different ways to support his son’s study because he believes that studying is a way to a better future.


Yangon, the city where we live

This film offers a unique window onto Yangon, a city undergoing immense change. Living in harmony is the art of living in life. A city’s attractions can be irresistible and enticing. Yangon, is a safe fortress for the migrants where all live together. Through a unique mixture of narrated poetry and juxtaposed images from Yangon’s urban landscape, this documentary depicts a city that holds the hopes and aspirations of a diverse population, struggling and enduring in the hearts of all who live within it.

Shin Daewe (Myanmar)

Shin Daewe is one of Myanmar’s documentary pioneers. Born in Yangon in 1973, she began writing articles and poems during her studies at university. When Myanmar’s universities were closed in the wake of student protests in 1996, she joined the Yangon production company AV Media where she soon discovered her passion for documentary filmmaking. In 2006, she took up studies at Yangon Film School (YFS) where she quickly became one of the School’s most prolific filmmakers. Many of her works – such as her portrait of the Burmese painter Rahula, An Untitled Life, and Now I am Thirteen, about a young girl living in Myanmar’s dry zone – have screened to acclaim at numerous film festivals around the world. Several films, including A Bright Future about child-centered teaching and Take Me Home, about internally displaced person (IDP) camps in Kachin, have also won awards. With 10 short documentaries to her credit, she is currently developing a feature-length documentary about opium farmers in Shan State as part of the Yangon Film School’s Fellowship program. She is also a regular directing mentor on YFS courses and a member of the School’s Steering Committee.

Ko Oo (Myanmar)

Ko Oo is a photographer and his main interest is in the reality and portrait of Burmese people. He married Shin Daewe, a pioneer documentary filmmaker in Myanmar. Since they married in 2006, they have made a number of short documentary films together.

Produced in Myanmar

What were your reasons for making your documentary and how did you come to focus on the topic?

Cities are the masks of modern civilization and capital cities the hearts of nations. A city is a center of fascination for the people living in a nation. Most cities are vibrant, new and magnificent. They may not only prophesize the future, but also showcase the past as museums. In the late 19th century, Yangon used to be the heart of South East Asia, in other words, it encapsulated a past replete with the most beautiful city in the region. Nowadays, the future of Yangon is all-inclusive reforms through democratization. I believe that this is the best time to document the poetic lives of those living in Yangon.


Timbre [Tip-off]

Ever since the Duterte administration rose to power, nightly killings have terrorized the Philippines in an all-out government endorsed war on drugs campaign. This documentary follows the plight of a family who recently lost a loved one in this war, offering a stark personal perspective on the current political crisis in the Philippines.

Edrea Camile L. Samonte (Philippines)

Edrea Camile L. Samonte (Philippines) Edrea Camille L. Samonte is an aspiring documentary filmmaker based in Manila, the Philippines. She graduated Cum Laude with a degree in Mass Communication Minor in Broadcast Journalism at St. Scholastica’s College. Her work primarily focuses on socio-political issues, indigenous peoples and human rights. Her thesis film, Bulabog (2017) received the Best Thesis Documentary Award at the St. Scholastica’s College Mass Communication Department. In August 2017, her student film Timbre (Tip-off) won 3rd place under the Documentary Category of the 29th Gawad CCP Independent Film and Video Festival. Currently, she works as a full-time television news segment producer and does freelance jobs as a field producer, researcher and production assistant to various local and international documentary filmmakers.

Nicole Pamela M. Bareo (Philippines)

Born in Manila, Philippines in 1995. Nicole Pamela M. Bareo graduated with a degree in Mass Communication Minor in Broadcast Journalism at St. Scholastica’s College. In August 2017, her co-produced student film Timbre (Tip-off) won 3rd Place under the Documentary Category of the 29th Gawad CCP Independent Film and Video Festival. Currently, she is working as a Production Coordinator in SDI Media Philippines.

Produced in Philippines

What were your reasons for making your documentary and how did you come to focus on the topic?

My classmates and I decided to make a documentary on extrajudicial killings because we noticed that the government's war on drugs doesn’t seem to be killing the drug lords, but low-level users mostly from poor urban communities. We want to speak out for the voiceless victims in the darkest corners of the Filipino society and challenge the perspective of the people about the brutal killings. Many people kept silent and have turned a blind eye out of ignorance. Our hope is that, as we shed light on the untold stories of the affected families left behind by those who were killed in President Rodrigo Duterte’s War on Drugs, many will be educated of what is really happening. This campaign knows no age, gender and circumstance, and even innocent people have been caught in the crossfire. It’s also depressing to think that there is now a growing callousness among our nation as many Filipinos have become desensitized to these brutal killings. I hope this documentary film will serve as an eye-opener and a challenge to Filipinos to be critical and question the supposed noble intentions of this war.