FABulous Interview: From a Volunteer to Festival Director of Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival (KLEFF), Fadly Bakhtiar Opened Up about his 10 Memorable Years with KLEFF and EcoKnights.
Traditionally, the person behind the FABulous interview is the fabulous man himself, Festival Director, Fadly Bakhtiar. This time around, the table has turned wherein the interviewer becomes the interviewee. On 5th May 2017, our Knight, Fara Amina took Fabs (both are May babies, by the way) down memory lane to relive the good old days of KLEFF, which was initially known as EFF, short for Eco Film Fest.
Before walking down the road to KLEFF land, the well-rounded Festival Director was posed with the “difficult” question of, “Who is Fadly Bakhtiar?”
Here’s…the story of Fabs.
Fara: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Fadly Bakhtiar?
Fabs: Who am I? *chuckles* If I have to possibly find a word that could best describe myself, that word would be “adventurer”. I am an adventurer. I live my life on various kinds of adventure, be it physically or mentally, I am up for a lot of things and open to new possibilities that life has to offer. When I was a kid, I want to be the best among my siblings, either in academic or sports, I strive for the best – that would be the drive for me. However, if you ask me what drives me in life now, the answer would be “Purpose”, “Possibility” and “Hope”. These are the three things that I seek in life and I believe that we all have the ability to achieve greatness given that you have the right “drive” to pursue it.
Fara: You were involved with KLEFF, which was known as Eco Film Fest (EFF), back in 2008. How did you cross path with EcoKnights and what made you want to volunteer in this organisation?
Fabs: I was working for a Motorsports company and at the time, the company was engaged with EcoKnights in one of their events. That’s when my journey with EcoKnights began. They just launched the EFF and my colleagues (from the Motorsports company) and I thought that it would be a great idea to help out and promote the festival. We were on board with the whole volunteering idea as it allowed us to unwind and be outside of the office in exchange *smiles*.
Fara: When you mentioned colleagues, did you mean these people? (Photo 1)
Fabs: Yes! These were the people who volunteered.
Fara: What did you do back then?
Fabs: I helped with the promotions of EFF at various universities and I was the Head of Volunteer for the music session. The session was called XPlugged – since we partnered with XFresh – and my task was to look for performers, bands and musicians. I managed to get about 15 to 20 bands to perform for free which included Zee Avi, One Buck Short, Pesawat, Stonebay, Mia Palencia and many more.
Fara: That’s a pretty amazing line up, how did you manage to get all of these people to say yes?
Fabs: I think one of my biggest influence in life is music. I was in a group back in my school days and I went to a lot of gigs, rock concerts and roadshows. I was personally involved with music – I was a deejay myself – and I thought that it was probably an area in which I can manifest my full potential. I feel that it was safer for me to choose an area where I can perform, and music was a language that I was comfortable speaking. Some of the performers were great friends of mine and that gave me the confidence to reach out to other local musicians.
Fun fact: Fabs’ all-time favourite bands/singers are Butterfingers, Too Phat and M. Nasir.
Fara: When was the turning point in which you switched lane from being a volunteer to Festival Director?
Fabs: Wow, *deep breath* okay. Well of course, I have to climb from one ladder to another. I was the Head Volunteer, Festival Coordinator, Festival Manager before I became the Festival Director. I think the turning point was when both Yasmin (President of EcoKnights) and I realised that I knew about the festival from A to Z. I was getting more involved with the planning, coordination, fund raising and every other components of the film festival. I was also willing to take the role and continue doing the festival with the support from everyone else.
Fara: You have been with EcoKnights and KLEFF for 10 incredible years. What improvement or ‘transformation’ can you see in yourself from when you were a volunteer till the present time, being the Festival Director?
Fabs: Well the part of me that is still the same is my risk-taking behaviour and adventurous personality. I was a risk-taker then and a risk-taker now. Perhaps a little bit more calculative and analytical in my thinking now as I have to analyse all of the elements of the festival. In terms of transformation, I think I was a bit more reserved back then and as the years pass I learn to grow and build my confidence. I see myself improving in both of my speaking and cognitive skills as I try to understand things on the fundamental levels. 10 years ago I was a volunteer and only had to handle one component of the festival meanwhile now, I am the Festival Director (and also the Programme Director of EcoKnights) so I have other projects and programs to lead. I have to be in the loop of all of the programs and I think that’s the biggest improvement that I can see in myself – being more detailed and involved in the whole process.
Fara: What was the biggest challenge and achievement?
Fabs: The biggest challenge would be to build a platform such as this film festival and getting people to comprehend the real reason for such festival. We want to create a platform whereby people understand the importance of getting the latest environmental issue and information. In order to make such event a successful one, one has to have a well-thought-out plan as the whole planning and execution process require a sheer amount of details and hard work. As the Festival Director, I play a small but important role which is to ensure that everything gels together and that the master plan goes as seamless as possible. The biggest achievement would be the learning process that I’ve gained from this whole journey. In fact, not just me but everyone who is involved and has worked to make this film festival a success. Some of them – the previous volunteers, interns and staff – are able to replicate the things that I did back then so I can see how they learn and grow with one another. It is also a motivation for them to make each year a success. I want them to know that they can and last year, I invited a few of the previous interns to help me with KLEFF 2016. All of my team are in their early 20s – it is not as if they have 5 to 10 years of experience. Most of them probably have only 3 to 6 months of experience at EcoKnights. I have trust in them and looking at last year’s KLEFF, they wouldn’t have believed that they have the ability to lead and coordinate a film festival such as this. From my part, I want them to know that they can do and achieve anything.
Fara: That’s amazing. Since this year is KLEFF’s 10th anniversary, do you have any last words for the readers?
Fabs: 10 years is an accumulation of every single person that we have met since 2008. It is all of them. It will not be a success because this year is the biggest, no, it will be the best because of all the people that have continuously supported us for the last 10 years. Perhaps after KLEFF 2017 we will find different ways or a better approach to encourage Malaysians to take action on sustainable living. We probably have touched thousands of people’s hearts throughout this whole journey – people of different races, nationality, age, gender – from all of the roadshows and programs that we have organised under KLEFF. My last word to you is, to everyone who have known us for the past 10 years, from 2008, and who still know us now in 2017 – either through corporate engagement, public engagement, from a friend of a friend or a family member, please come to this year’s KLEFF and join the fun with us. Sincerely, Fabs.