After a competitive selection process with over 100 entries, EngageMedia announces six selected filmmakers from the Asia-Pacific who will produce “Tech Tales”, a collection of films highlighting human rights stories in the digital age. Each fellow will receive up to USD 5,000 towards their films, which together showcase various ways in which online and offline technologies are impacting people’s lives — for better or for worse.
The selected filmmakers are as follows: Annisa Adjam of Indonesia, Chen Yi Wen of Malaysia, Andrew Garton of Australia, Richard Soriano Legaspi of the Philippines, Varun Kurtkoti of India, and Vijitra Duangdee of Thailand. The filmmakers will be tackling a range of digital rights issues in their work, from online censorship and disinformation, to privacy and digital safety.
“Tech Tales’ basic premise is that there are hardly any films that document and introduce digital rights and digital security issues in the Asia-Pacific region”, said EngageMedia Video Lead King Catoy. “Tech and educational institutions, film festival curators, and civil society and human rights organisations can expect a good selection of films that highlight and explore digital rights issues through engaging stories. With a thoughtful and talented selection of filmmakers directing the stories, we’re very excited about the possibilities”.
The Tech Tales film collection will also comprise a variety of genres, from short documentary and animated shorts, to hybrid narratives and storytelling methods. The collection, set to premiere in August 2021, will ultimately be used for rights campaigns, as well as for advocacy and training tools to increase civil society’s understanding of digital rights. The films will be available to watch on Cinemata, a platform for social and environmental films about the Asia-Pacific.
EngageMedia welcomes partnerships for Tech Tales screenings, talkbacks, workshops, and other collaborations. For more information on Tech Tales and partnership opportunities, you may contact us via the EngageMedia website. We are also accepting proposals from one filmmaker from Myanmar who will join the fellows.
Tech Tales Fellows
Annisa Adjam, Indonesia
Film Subject: Online Gender-based Violence and the Rise of Non-consensual Sharing of Intimate Images on the Internet
Genre: Hybrid Documentary
Annisa Adjam is an independent filmmaker based in Indonesia who believes in the value of Filmmaking for Change. She is an alumna of 2019 Kyoto Filmmakers Lab and the 2017 Raindance Directing Foundation. She earned a master’s degree in Filmmaking from Kingston University London. She is currently producing an inclusive feature documentary about Disability-Arts, which was selected for IF/Then South East Asia Lab by Tribeca Film Institute in 2020 and Yamagata Documentary Dojo in 2021. She also received a grant from The Indonesian Ministry of Education for this work. In 2020, She directed a documentary series on women empowerment for Djarum Foundation and produced two short films: West Love (Objectifs Short Film Incubator, Singapore), a film on urban land development, and Two Language and A Sausage, a film on healing from sexual trauma (4th Independent Film Festival of Chennai).
Annisa is a Tech-Arts enthusiast who is passionate about integrating “Cause Cinema” with social impacts. She teaches transmedia storytelling as a part-time lecturer at Multimedia Nusantara University, and has produced a Virtual Reality Documentary film within the Disability issue for Film Festival Dokumenter Jogja and Voice Global in 2019. Previously, she was trained as a VR Technician for Manduruku film exhibition by Greenpeace UK.
Chen Yih Wen, Malaysia
Film Subject: Social Media and Internet Censorship under the 1998 Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Act
Yihwen “Wen” Chen is a Malaysian documentary filmmaker and journalist. In the last decade, she has edited, filmed, wrote, produced, and directed international documentaries for History Channel, Crime and Investigation Network, and Channel News Asia. Her documentary on female circumcision won the 2019 Society of Professional Journalists Award (SOPA) for Excellence in Reporting Women’s Issues. She is also a Pulitzer Center grantee.
Wen is an alumna of IDFAcademy and American Film Showcase. She holds a master’s degree in Creative Media in Film and TV Production from RMIT University. In 2019, her debut feature documentary Eye on the Ball, about Malaysia’s blind football team, premiered in London. Currently, she is working on her second documentary about marginalised communities in Malaysia, Shh…Diam. The project is supported by the Hot Docs CrossCurrents Fund.
Andrew Garton, Australia
Film Subject: Digital Literacy and Data Sovereignty
Andrew is independent filmmaker, musician, and educator with a background in community access media. His work spans the genres of nonfiction filmmaking, installation and performance art, sound design for screen, stage, and radio documentary drama.
From the late 1980s to early 1990s, Garton helped to establish the first independent ISP in Australia, Pegasus Networks, as well as many Southeast Asia pre-Web internet services. Andrew also worked in collaboration with PacTok, Interdoc-Asia Pacific, and the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), and served as an APC Council and Executive Board member during this period.
In the 2000s, Andrew worked in management and creative production positions with Toy Satellite, Open Channel, EngageMedia, the ABC, and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. Among his projects were the production of Australian and international installations, and sound works and video focusing on the increasing dislocation of indigenous forest communities, and the threats to community broadcast media.
Andrew’s most recent films of note include Higher Ground – the Bidayuh of Upper Bengoh (2014), Ocean in a Drop – Broadband Impacts on Rural India (2017), Stupendous – Dancing through Parkinson’s (2018), The Archivists (2018), This Choir Sings Carols (2019), and Forged from Fire – the making of the Blacksmiths’ Tree (2019).
Andrew has a Master of Arts in Interactive Media and is an Adjunct Industry Fellow and Lecturer in Media and Communication, Swinburne University of Technology. He is a member of the post-punk fusion trio Rat Kangaroo, with whom his lifelong passion for original music making continues.
Richard Soriano Legaspi, Philippines
Film Subject: Social Media and Disinformation
Richard completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of the East, majoring in Advertising Arts. In 2007, he studied filmmaking at the Asian Film Academy in Busan, South Korea. His films have been officially selected in more than 150 international film festivals. In 2013, Legaspi received the prestigious UNESCO Laureate artist recognition in 2013. Legaspi was also a resident artist of the Università delle Idee in Italy where he also won the ILLY DESIGN PRIZE – Art for Social Change.
Legaspi is a two-time awardee of the Gawad Cultural Center of the Philippines for Alternative Film, a winner at the 62nd Carlos Palanca Awards for Literature in 2012, a nominee for the Gawad Urian award in 2013 and 2015, National Commission for Culture and the Arts Competitive Grant winner 2009 and 2012, Cinemalaya and Cinema One Film Festivals Jury Prize in 2009 and 2012, and International Photography Awards (IPA) 2017 – Silver Prize winner for moving images. Film Development Council of the Philippines acknowledged Legaspi as one of Philippine Film Ambassadors of 2017 in Kingston, Jamaica.
Legaspi was the first Filipino artist featured in a retrospective of Monsoon Asia Film Festival 2016 in Taiwan. He received the Taiwan prestigious grant in 2018 for ASEAN art visionaries for his documentary project Halfway Home (In Development). In 2019, he was selected for a workshop and forum in the Kota Kinabalu IFF for another documentary film, Place, Displace, and Replace.
This year, Legaspi will release his new short film Bakit Ako Sinusundan ng Buwan?, a competitive grant winner of NCCA’s Values Short Film Festival. Legaspi also recently received a script development fund under the Film development Council of the Philippines CreatePHFilms Fund first cycle.
Varun Kurtkoti, India
Film Subject: India’s Personal Data Protection Bill and Digital Safety
Varun is an interdisciplinary artist, primarily working with visual and aural narratives. He has worked with a range of media, including animation, illustrations and painting, fiction and non-fiction filmmaking, music video making, theater, and music. Varun’s work concerns individual memory in relation to the collective, the politics of identity and death. He received a National Geographic Young Explorer fellowship (2017) for his work on storytellers and sufi musicians in Kutch. He received a PSBT-Doordarshan Film fellowship (2018) for his non-fiction film Door/Home, which premiered on Doordarshan’s Open Frame programme and showcased in numerous film festivals. In 2016, he developed a short play with the Sandbox Collective-Goethe Institute’s Gender-Bender Fellowship 2016. Varun co-founded Mandali, the student theatre group of Srishti Institute of Art Design and Technology, Bangalore. He studied MA in Applied Anthropology and Community Art at Goldsmiths University, London (2019-21).
Vijitra Duangdee, Thailand
Film Subject: Biometric ID Systems
Vijitra Duangdee is a Thailand-based producer/reporter. She worked as a reporter and presenter on Thai TV andr Reuters’ TV in Hong Kong, and as a stringer and reporter for AFP news agency, South China Morning Post (SCMP) and Voice of America (VOA). She also produced and directed short films (SCMP Films) about one of Thailand’s richest people as well as about a brilliant, transgender campaigner -to reflecting modern Thai society and the issues impacting in Thailand.
(Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect the replacement of David Verbeek (Taiwan) with Andrew Garton (Australia).)