A campus-wide documentary film proposal competition was recently organised by the School of Arts and Social Sciences (SASS) and the Social Economic Transformation in Asia (SETA) programme, a university funded multidisciplinary research platform.  

The theme of the competition was “Civil Society in Malaysia: Transformation from Below.” Four winners and a special recognition certificate for best documentary film proposals were awarded to five students. 

Judges Dr Joel Moore, Dr Hah Foong Lian and Jules Ong unanimously agreed that the best proposal came from Agnes Ong Han Ying Agnes, a first year student majoring in Communication and minoring in International Studies from the School of Arts and Social Sciences. 

Agnes Ong receiving her certificate from Dr Joel Moore

"I am honoured, and surprised, to be the recipient of the SETA grant… Given this wonderful opportunity, I aim to produce a worthwhile project, which I hope will be a meaningful story that delivers a poignant reminder of the irreversibility of environmental and cultural devastation done in the name of development,” says Ong. 

She intends to capture the story of the indigenous people (Orang Asli) who used to live in the vicinity of the Kota Damansara Community Forest as well as its current residents – their struggle to defend the patch of green and what it meant to them.

The SETA Documentary Film Proposal Award came with RM 3,000 production grant, while the three runner-ups received RM 2,000 production grants each from SASS. 

Sheril Bustaman receiving her certificate from Dr Yeoh Seng Guan

The runner-up winners were Sheril Bustaman, Boipelo Dlamini and Munira Mutaher and Jonathan Lim who both submitted a proposal together.  

Sheril’s proposal is on interracial marriages as a way to promote harmony in a multicultural society, focusing on her own parents, while Boipelo wants to investigate the challenges women face breaking free from traditional roles. Munira and Lim are interested to look at how religious festivals instill unity and stability in a changing society. Special recognition went to Sheetal Thaker for her proposal to document Rohingya refugee children in Kuala Lumpur. 

Filmmaker-in-residence Jules Ong

They will be producing their documentary films under the guidance of filmmaker-in-residence Jules Ong.