SABAHAN Puteri Purnama Sugua was one of the younger filmmakers who took part in the 2016 Kota Kinabalu International Film Festival (KKIFF), but that didn’t stop her from winning it.

Her short film Dream To Fly won the Golden Kinabalu Award, even though she was up against more experienced filmmakers from across the region.

“The main reason I make films is to tell stories to a wider audience, and winning this award it gives me the opportunity to tell Sabah stories to an international audience,” she said.

Puteri added that the competition was tougher this year as the festival is now open to entries from across South-East Asia.

“But I saw it as a good thing because it made me want to strive for more with my film,” said Puteri, who recently completed her degree in filmmaking at Universiti Teknologi MARA.

Puteri Purnama Sugua at Kota Kinabalu International Film Festival 2016

Puteri’s short film about the life of a poor child in Sandakan, Sabah won the prestigious Golden Kinabalu Award. ― Photos: CHEN YIH WEN/R.AGE

KKIFF was established in 2009 and has grown to include screenings, workshops, forums and a competition to honour the best fiction and documentary films in the region.

The festival is part of the Kota Kinabalu Arts Festival that takes place every June and July to highlight performing arts.

KKIFF is also known as Borneo’s longest-running film festival, and one of its primary objectives is to help link young talents to the vast industry of filmmaking, said festival manager Mohd Hazli Ali Zapar.

“When the festival started, it was just some great friends getting together to enjoy international films, and today it has gone beyond that,” he said.

“KKIFF is definitely a place to highlight local film content before they move on to other film festivals.”

One element of the festival is the Sabah Film Academy, a gruelling week-long programme where internationally-renowned mentors train a handful of selected participants to produce short documentaries.

One of the mentors this year was Charlotte Lim, a Malaysian filmmaker who was assistant director in movies like Hong Kong espionage thriller Lust, Caution, and Singaporean film Ilo Ilo, which was named Best Debut Feature at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

Kota Kinabalu International Film Festival 2016

The KKIFF festival is Borneo’s longest-running film festival.

Lim said film festivals help develop the region’s filmmaking scene, as it encourages filmmakers to network and learn from each other.

“There isn’t a huge film industry in Sabah, so the young filmmakers here are always very hungry to learn more,” she said.

“The lack of resources makes them more passionate, so when there are screenings and workshops at KKIFF, they will take part.”

She strongly encouraged budding filmmakers to participate in local film festivals because they could learn different, more professional ways to make films.

“The only way to make good films is to watch more good films, and at festivals you’ll also get to know more people who will share their experience.”

Puteri concurred, saying this won’t be the last time she participates in KKIFF.

In fact, she hopes there would be more opportunities for young filmmakers like herself to prove their mettle.

“I’ve yet to meet my goal which is to join the Sabah Film Academy, which is really hard to get in,” she said.

“I hope there will be more festivals as I feel they’re the most effective way for young filmmakers to gather the necessary contacts and experience.”

R.AGE documentary on human-elephant conflict wins at KKIFF.

IT was a story the R.AGE team stumbled upon almost by accident, but it still managed to win an award at the Kota Kinabalu International Film Festival (KKIFF)!

The Elephant In My Room, a documentary about the escalating conflict between the orang asli and wild elephants in the jungles of Perak, bagged a Silver Kinabalu Award at KKIFF recently.

The team was actually in the Royal Belum State Park in Perak to film another documentary, The Curse Of Serawan (which won an Asian Media Award), but when the village they were staying at was attacked by an elephant, they started investigating.


They found that the elephant population had doubled in less than five years due to the Wildlife Department’s elephant translocation programme, and the elephants were increasingly turning to orang asli villages as a convenient source of food.

“This win means a lot to us in many ways,” said R.AGE senior producer Elroi Yee.

“But most of all, we are glad as the award allows the issue to gain more traction and create more awareness, which is a win-win situation for both man and beast.”

Filmmaker and KKIFF judge Hassan Muthalib said the message of the documentary was conveyed “very tastefully”.

“It told a good story and was cleverly done, without pointing any fingers.”

Jagat director Shanjhey Kumar Perumal, also one of the judges, said the documentary was relatable and made a big impact on him.

“It was a film that depicted very clearly what was faced by the orang asli,” he said.

“It is an example of good investigative journalism in Malaysia.”


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