Cinemata, an online video platform for social issue films about the Asia-Pacific, is set to step out into the offline world with Cinemata Big Screen, a week-long program running parallel to the DRAPAC23 Assembly in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
From May 22 to 26, 2023, the on-site film screening to be held in partnership with Friends Without Borders Foundation will feature over 20 films from countries across the Asia-Pacific that address the challenges of living in an increasingly digitised world.
Check this page for the detailed program schedule and more information about the films.
On May 22, the regional film showcase opens with two major digital rights films tackling surveillance and the impact of social media. Terror Contagion (2021), a short film from the anthology The Everlasting Storm (2021) by multi-awarded filmmaker Laura Poitras, is a visual study of the investigation by Forensic Architecture into the Israeli cyberweapons manufacturer NSO Group and the use of its Pegasus malware to target journalists and human rights defenders worldwide. Reports by various activist groups and media outfits describe how the governments of Thailand and Bangladesh have used Pegasus to surveil activists on the ground and stifle dissent.
The short film is followed by Arden Rod Condez’s John Denver Trending (2019), a feature-length film set in the Philippines centred on the story of a young boy whose life was suddenly upended due to a viral video involving him and a classmate. A powerful and emotional film, John Denver Trending shows the far-reaching impact of social media on people’s perceptions and beliefs.
Cinemata Big Screen features daily film screenings centred on the themes of digital control, human rights challenges in the digital age, films produced at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and more. The program also features a talkback session with filmmakers, educators, and human and digital rights activists. Experts from the DRAPAC23 Assembly will moderate these sessions and serve as key reactors.
Filmmakers and Assembly participants are invited to join the screenings, which provide a much-needed opportunity to gather a broader range of digital rights allies to watch films that reflect their experiences, contexts, and advocacy.
May 23: ‘Digital Control’ and ‘Enduring Issues in the Digital Age’
The ‘Digital Control’ film screening showcases the films Shrinking Civic Space in Bangladesh (2022) by Zayed Siddiki and Hopes and Feeds (2022) by EngageMedia. The films reveal how governments effectively turned the internet into a battleground for political power through targeted disinformation campaigns, surveillance tools to monitor and control online discourse, and crackdowns on dissent in both online and offline spaces. A Q&A session with the filmmakers will follow after the screening.
Social, economic, and political challenges over land rights, inequality, gender, elderly care, labour, and human rights persist in Asia-Pacific societies despite multi-faceted efforts to address them. ‘Enduring Issues in the Digital Age’ is a collection of four films from Malaysia and the Mekong Region highlighting how these issues and digital rights crisscross. The screening includes Peon (2020) by June Wong, Shaiful Yahya, and Syaz Zainal, Grey Scale (2022) by Evelyn Teh, Multiverse of Mekong (2023) by Patiparn Boontarig, and Badman (2015) by Maitree Chamroensuksakul.
May 24: ‘Digital Natives’
The ‘Digital Natives’ screening attempts to show how the internet affects the current generation of young people. Five short films from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines highlight the diversity and complexity of today’s online youth. Watch the films The Secret Band of Thebes (2022) by Augustine, Shitpost (2020) by Wimar Herdanto, Dogs (2020) by Andy Darrel Gomes, Doble Kara: Online Influencer (2022) by Johner E. Zulueta, and Jiwa Pendidik (The Soul of a Teacher) (2022) by Rahmah Pauzi.
May 25: ‘Pandemic Times: Platforms in Film’
This screening features four films from Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines produced at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The films document persisting human rights issues and new challenges brought about by the pandemic – from labour rights violations and human rights abuses to issues of misogyny and discrimination. The films in this screening are The Boys Club (2021) by Yihwen Chen, Rasa Dan Asa (Flavors, Feelings, and Hope) (2022) by Okui Lala and & Nasrikah, See You, George! (2021) by Mark Moneda, and Roundtrip to Happiness (2022) by Claudia Fernando.
Screening on the same day, Hao Wu’s documentary People’s Republic of Desire (2018) tells the story of two live streamers who seek fame, fortune, and human connection in China’s digital idol-making universe.
Masterclasses and Community Engagement
Beyond film screenings, the event provides opportunities for community engagement through film and impact production masterclasses.
May 23: Storytelling for Advocacy Filmmakers
Picture People, a member of the Video4Change Network, will host a masterclass on ‘Storytelling for Advocacy Filmmakers’ to help changemakers tell emotionally-engaging stories that are effective in raising awareness for their advocacy. Picture People is a non-profit organisation that operates globally to empower activists and creatives with the skills, knowledge, and confidence needed to use visual media and technology to advocate for change.
May 24: Impact Production
Film is a powerful tool for creating social impact, especially on issues involving underrepresented or marginalised communities. EngageMedia will host a masterclass on impact production, inviting participants to strategise how their video initiatives can make real contributions to social change through a well-designed and executed impact campaign.
May 25: Masterclass for Tech Tales Youth fellows
EngageMedia invites Tech Tales Youth fellows for a masterclass that aims to support a new group of young filmmakers and visual storytellers in the Philippines and Thailand in producing short films about human rights in the digital age.
Building on the success of the 2021 film collection Tech Tales: Films about Digital Rights in the Asia-Pacific, Tech Tales Youth aims to broaden young filmmakers’ knowledge of how human and digital rights are intertwined and how their films can be used for social change.
Aside from film screenings and masterclasses, Cinemata Big Screen will offer opportunities for networking and solidarity-building with fellow filmmakers, activists, and changemakers from across the Asia-Pacific. Check out the full program here.
We invite interested participants to join the event and help build the solidarity needed for a creative digital rights movement that captures the popular imagination of the people in the Asia-Pacific.