Speech of KLEFF Founder, Yasmin Rasyid, At the Launch of the 11th Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival
It sure feels good to be here today, with this year’s festival partners, and to have the opportunity to speak at the launch of what is now the 11th installation of the Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival.
Now, allow me to share with you the humble beginnings of what is the first, and longest-running environmental in our country.
Back in 2005, when a small local environmental organization called EcoKnights was established, one of the key efforts of EcoKnights was to plan, develop and implement innovative and creative platforms to encourage the younger generation of Malaysians to be more ecologically conscious.
We were a small NGO with big dreams to pave the way to make a difference in this country and we were going to start with the young, and the most creative lot of them all.
Three years later, in 2008, and literally over a few cups of teh tarik, in a mamak, together with a young intern, we mulled over how we could excite the creative industry to take bolder steps for the environment. One commonality the intern, his name is Taqiuddin, and I had was that we both love films. And we share a common love for films that showcases nature, or documentaries that takes you from the comfort of the couch and plunks you in an imaginary world of natural ecology.
Additionally, films bring you outside your “zone”, allow you to travel outside your home, to see, understand and be moved by the strong stories people tell about the environment, the solutions and the inspiration that can be shared to a global audience.
And I guess that was the “a-ha” moment we both had! And on the spot, the birth of the first environment-themed film festival was born. In a mamak, over a cup of tea, and the rest is pretty much history.
Of course starting a film festival came with many challenges. For one, I had never had any experience organizing one, however as an audience, I have experienced a few in my lifetime. And I enjoyed it, the people, the vibes, and the impacts.
Secondly, I had no clue how I was going to fund this. But that was solved as I plunked myself in short consultancies, got paid, and channelled what I made to start the festival. Some people said I’m crazy to invest my own money on something which I have no experience with, and worse, with little understanding within the Malaysian context.
And thirdly, how do we communicate and find partners to drive the festival? Where are we going to host the festival? Will the media come?
All these questions bombarded me.
So many close friends felt that I can pull this off as a one-time effort, and none expected me to drive KLEFF annually. Today, I think I’ve proven them wrong, and more important than proving them wrong, is that KLEFF found a sense of belonging with the public. Without this sense of belonging, I doubt KLEFF would be able to be relevant today.
What made it easier for me to pursue this dream of organizing the first environmental film festival was that I believed that it would work, and I was truly confident that this wasn’t going to be a one-off short term effort, but one that would evolve, grow, mature over time, and slowly but surely, drive small changes to contribute to a bigger impact for society and the environment.
Fast forward to 2018, so much has evolved, changed, and progressed.
Of course the challenges still existed.
But the vision, mission and ambition of KLEFF was not going to be stopped by these challenges.
Hence, I am truly honoured that today KLEFF is gradually becoming a household name for your everyday Malaysian, and what’s more importantly, gradually becoming recognised as a national platform that brings communities from all walks of life together, in pursue or a common passion and love – the environment.
KLEFF today also attracts local and international film makers, brings civil society organizations and creates a platform for them to make bigger impacts, and most importantly, it connects people, people who are passionate about making that change in how the environment is today.
KLEFF is about encouraging the local and global citizen to showcase films that offer alternative or a different perspective on how we treat or view the environment, about hearing the voices of the people who are making sustainable changes in our planet.
Today we are very excited and happy to share with you the current strategic partners that we have on board this year.
The Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil or RSPO was a partner with us last year, and is now renewing their “vow” again with us. Last year RSPO collaborated with us to co-host a youth leadership forum on sustainable consumption and production. As you know, palm oil is in everything we eat and use, and with the current issues the EU has on how we in our country farm palm oil has taken a toll on the potential economic gain from this industry. But the reality is the palm oil plantation sector really needs to move towards a sustainable approach and that’s what RSPO is advocating for – a more responsible perspective on palm oil. So this year, we are launching a new film category with RSPO called “Responsible Shopping: I Saw-it”.
Our partnership with them is special. It would see the amalgamation of films and people in which the messages from the films produced under the special RSPO category aim to educate global consumers on being more aware on their consumption habits and pattern, and to be more observant on the impact of their consumer choices on the environment.
The second partner that we are celebrating today is Tanamera Tropical Spa Products. A long-time partner of ours, Tanamera is a Malaysian home grown company which focuses on traditional and natural plant-base ingredients in the development of their range of amazing and wonderful spa products. Working with Faisal, the managing director of Tanamera, has been a wonderful journey and he has become a great friend.
Between KLEFF and Tanamera, what we hope to send across is the synergy in our partnership to educate Malaysians to be more conscious consumers, to read labels, to be aware of the ingredients that are found in our daily products, and to be more responsible in how we consume these goods. This year’s partnership with Tanamera will also be strategically focused on our new CSR initiative called Tanamera Hearts.
Tanamera Hearts is a CSR initiative which aims to fundraise for EcoKnights the organization that organizes KLEFF, to scale up its public awareness and education programs on environment through KLEFF.
The third partner that is present with us today is River of Life (ROL). Am sure many of you have heard of the River of Life national effort to improve the Klang river basin in terms of water quality, riverfront value and also to bring back riverine green spaces to city centers and communities.
As you all are aware, the birth of Kuala Lumpur has a lot to do with the Klang river, and how over the years, it provided us with resources like water, ecological integrity, economic wealth through tin mining, ease connectivity by becoming a highway transporting people and goods from the upper reaches to the port.
Today we have seen the abuse of man on city rivers, and we have seen a severe degradation on our river systems. KL rivers are the most polluted, contaminated and unsightly. And many of us have experienced the wrath of the rivers today when they swell, and flood homes and businesses. Yes, the government can help in fact the government has been pouring billions to rehabilitate and reengineer the rivers but the fact of the matter is – people don’t care. We have deserted our connection with our rivers; therefore we are dissociated, detached and well, in short, just not bothered.
The River of Life film category aims to reverse that by becoming a stimulus to young local and international film makers, to produce stories that can bring back a strong sense of connection to our rivers. These films can be then used as educational tools for school children, to advocate for better river governance with local authorities and government agencies, and a great product for NGOs to use to mobilize communities to be empowered to be river stewards.
The fourth partner we are delighted to be partnering with is Publika who was one of the first few corporate entities, who back in 2013, helped the Festival grow from being a fair ground on a university compound to a more accessible, public-centric commercial space. Publika has helped us out in so many ways and strengthened KLEFF in terms of its brand, quality and assurance to our past and present donors and sponsors.
So naturally, 2018 is also the year KLEFF will be back in Publika utilizing Black Box for film screenings, White Box for nature-themed creative programs and activities, the indoors to promote sustainable consumption and production via the Green Market, and of course a festival is NOT complete without the injection of a high dose of local and international cultural diversity in the shape and form of dances, theatre performances, spoken poetry, you name it.
And then there’s the Kuala Lumpur Malay Chamber of Commerce or KLMCC, who is somewhat new as a partner, nonetheless have been a great supporter since 2017. As you can tell, the venue in which the launch is taking place today is the kind gesture of KLMCC in being a partner. But what’s more important than just being a venue provider is the potential growth and escalation of the festival through their global relationship and partnership with the film and film festival industry in the ASEAN region specifically.
This year’s partnership with KLMCC will see KLEFF bridging some really bold steps where we bring KLEFF to a strong ASEAN audience through film-related trade shows, the film festival industry and so forth. And we are also going to work hard to ensure that the Malaysian film makers, as participants of this year’s KLEFF, will have more exposure and opportunities to showcase their films to a more global audience.
This year’s KLEFF is looking for films with a holistic perspective, about the voices that remain unheard, about people or solutions that remain unseen and are not given any space.
People ask me, if this is all worth the effort.
I have given this extensive thoughts and my answer is ….YES.
I know that I am not just sitting in the office, and typing about my opinions on the environment while people watch and read. At least I know I am out there pulling all the resources I have to bring people together to thrive in a world of so many unsustainable elements to a world that’s more just, fair, and sustainable to all.
KLEFF, in the last ten years, had initiated and facilitated dialogue and forums between film makers, environmentalists, policy makers, corporate entities, public influencers and civil society organizations. KLEFF is here today to foster an open climate in which the diversity of environmental issues, solutions and stories is the greatest asset of the Festival. Malaysian policies must foster an open climate in which the diversity of environmental stories, the talented pool of environmentalists we have here, and the small successful green solutions that are making differences in the lives of people – these are the greatest assets of the country. But how can we as a nation achieve a state of governance that identifies all these different assets to be important in shaping a sustainable future? How can KLEFF ensure that the country has a robust, resilient population with a sustainable mind-set that maintains the continuity and quality of a sustainable future?
It’s through partnerships like the ones we are celebrating here today at the launch.
Partnerships with entities like RSPO, KLMCC, Publika and River of Live – are essential for the long term continuity of platforms like KLEFF and to ensure that the public is reminded, push, motivated, and inspired to adopt sustainable living.
As you can tell, KLEFF truly is a tapestry of many patterns and many threads, to be woven into something that works, that is sustainable. In this process, and with partnerships, we are gradually moving in to a more intensive phase to create content and activities that will empower change.
Finally, I would like to emphasise to our new partners today that together, we need to creatively leverage on your various positions and platforms to work to enable KLEFF.
It’s far too easy to just ask, “Hey what can an environmental film festival do to help make the world better?”
That shouldn’t be an option. Instead, we should be asking this, “Hey, how can “I” strengthen the goal of making the world a better place by participating, or creating a campaign, or learning from the workshops offered at KLEFF, or even just volunteering?”
If we had more people out there who see the value in the effort and impact KLEFF has made, quite simply, we need more of such vehicles.
So this year, at the Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival 2018, which will take place from 22nd to the 28th October, we would like to invite civil society organizations, companies, government agencies, student groups, and also community-based organizations, to come and talk to us and see how you can “plug” in your activities and program to KLEFF, and together, instead of ripples, we create waves of impact.
With these words I would like to thank all of you who have made it possible for us once again, for the 11th time, to gather here and kick off the launch.
And to RSPO, KLMCC, Tanamera Tropical Spa Products, Publika, River of Life – thank you for this collaboration.
And to all potential new partners out there, wishing everyone a great partnership in driving through such a noble platform and I hereby launch the 2018 Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival.