Running parallel to the DRAPAC23 Assembly from May 22 to 26, 2023, the regional film showcase Cinemata Big Screen features over 20 films from countries across the Asia-Pacific that address the challenges of living in an increasingly digitised world.
The films cover various digital rights issues, such as online freedom of expression, surveillance, digital labour, data justice, online gender-based violence and more. Beyond film screenings, the event also includes masterclasses on filmmaking and impact production, talkback sessions with the films’ directors, and networking opportunities between filmmakers and digital rights changemakers.
Read the opening remarks delivered by EngageMedia Video Lead King Catoy below.
EngageMedia produced its first digital rights films under the Myanmar Digital Rights Film Project five years ago. An animation and a documentary: one film showed how Section 66d of the 2013 Telecommunications Act silenced government critics, and another was about online harassment experienced by student activists and transgender people on Facebook.
Soon after, the Myanmar Digital Rights Films provided the momentum for Tech Tales, a collection of films from Australia, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Thailand. From online gender-based violence, disinformation campaigns, data privacy and online freedom of expression, the collection of eight films showed digital rights stories from those countries.
Produced in the middle of community lockdowns, the filmmakers we worked with overcame limitations through creativity and discovering ways to make films under challenging circumstances.
Two years after its public release, the eight films remain relevant and continue to be screened by film festivals and institutions.
Tech Tales is now in pre-production for part two. The new edition has more grounding with its focus on digital rights issues from Thailand and the Philippines and its particular emphasis on the ‘Digital Natives’, the current generation of young people who grew up with the internet and social media platforms.
The eight young directors from Thailand and the Philippines are here today as DRAPAC23 fellows seeking knowledge and insights from digital rights advocates and experts like you.
Please mentor them so they can pass valuable information to their peers through the films they’ll make.
The impetus and opportunities I mentioned became possible because of human rights defenders, freedom of expression champions, campaigners, progressive journalists, technologists, and artists who’ve taken on the arduous task of digital rights advocacy. Because of your research papers, articles, media engagement and other ways of raising awareness, more people are becoming conscious of digital security, Big Tech capitalism, disinformation, and digital authoritarianism.
Digital rights films are becoming in demand because of advocates like you.
Cinemata Big Screen: Stories of Solidarity reflects the small triumphs we had in terms of awareness-raising. A week-long program parallel to DRAPAC, it showcases over 20 films on online freedom of expression, surveillance, digital labour, data justice, online gender-based violence and more.
Our curated programs include ‘Enduring Issues in the Digital Age’, ‘Digital Control’, ‘Digital Natives’, and ‘Pandemic Times: Films in Digital Platforms’.
Beyond film screenings, Cinemata Big Screen offers the digital rights movement high-level community engagement through masterclasses on social issue filmmaking and impact production, and talkback sessions with the films’ directors.
On Friday, the last day, the films we programmed zoom out to social issues from Myanmar and Thailand that we call Solidarity Screenings. Many of the filmmakers are here on Friday, so please come and join us.
Another piece of information I wish to share is that the filmmakers and producers provided all the films you’ll be seeing without screening fees. They were delighted when they learned that you are the audience of their films, knowing that you are champions of freedom of expression and digital rights advocacy.
I thank our partners who helped us make Cinemata Big Screen possible – Friends Without Borders – Thailand, Chiang Mai University Arts Center and the College of Fine Arts, Epson, Changing Climates Changing Lives Film Festival, DS Young Filmmaker, Exile Hub, and Burma Wide Angle Organisation. Thank you so much.
A round of applause to EngageMedia’s Video for Change Program team members – Jen Ternate, Demie Dangla, and Egbert Wits – for their tireless effort to make Cinemata Big Screen not only an aspiration but a reality.
They are too many to mention, but let’s give the filmmakers a warm applause.
Finally, please join us later in watching the opening films of Cinemata Big Screen.
Terror Contagion, a new short documentary by Academy Award Winning 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.
And the opening feature, John Denver Trending, is a Filipino independent drama film directed and written by Arden Rod Condez. The film shows how the ill effects of social media platforms in a country where impunity is prevalent destroy the quiet life of a rural family.
Again, thank you and we look forward to seeing you in our nightly Cinemata Big Screen.