KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 14 ― When addressing environmental issues, one can always point out the causes and throw in a few preventive measures.
But most lack a concrete understanding of how a change today can leave a lasting impact.
Visitors to the 11th Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival at Publika will be able to glean a better understanding of such issues and even be inspired to adopt sustainable practices in their daily lives.
Festival director Fadly Bakhtiar shares his plans for the festival, challenges he has faced and how the event has grown over the years.
What does the festival mean to you?
This is the longest project I’ve worked on and it is like a baby to me.
Although it is Yasmin Rasyid’s (president of EcoKnights — the organisation behind the festival),
I felt I have grown alongside the project.
It is a platform for us to engage with more environment related organisations and where we can call for action.
How much has the festival changed since its inception in 2008?
It has grown a lot; from the activities to the size of the venue.
Last year we had three forums that allowed guests to ask questions.
This year, there is a new component called ACT4SDG (act for sustainable development goals).
We have also invited NGOs to propose plans and if suitable, we will give the space to run them.
This makes organising the festival easier for us as we were overworked in the last few years.
What has driven you to continue working for the festival?
In the first year, I was a volunteer who oversaw the music section. We had little money but I managed to get 20 acts to perform for free, including Zee Avi and One Buck Short.
That got me hooked. The following years I got more involved.
My current position as festival director is challenging since I do not have experience in environmental issues or event management.
But Yasmin gave me the confidence to strive for the better.
How do you motivate the team to do better every year?
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Our work ethic is based on this motto because it defines my time with the festival.
I also believe in positivity, even in bad situations. We have had a few investors who withdrew their funding over the years.
I told my team that this was a sign of better things to come.
If I can do it, anyone can. I’m only an average person who grew up in Kuala Lumpur, nothing else.
The films are the highlight of the festival. How has this changed over the years?
In 2008, we started with only six local films and eight international ones.
Over the last five years, we have received nearly 300 submissions from 20 countries.
There will be 100 films this year. We do not have plans to increase the number of films shown as we do not have the capacity to do so.
What is rationale behind 2018’s theme of “Forest, Water and Climate Change”?
After 10 years, we finally have one.
It is hard to have a theme because the films cover different environmental issues.
This theme is a big topic for Malaysia and the world.
It fits well as we are also partners with the River of Life in KL.
What are some of the challenges you face in organising the festival?
Sometimes the general perception of what we do is inaccurate.
For example, my parents knew I am working for the festival but unsure about the details.
They thought I was planting some trees and running environmental education programmes.
Three years ago I took them to the festival so they could see what I was fighting for.
How has the festival shaped public views on environmental issues?
EcoKnights is a moderate organisation and we are not too preachy about how people should think about the related issues.
We do not point fingers at what they are doing wrong but encourage people to share their opinions.
To be honest, there are positive changes taking place.
I do not want people to feel they have been pressured to change.
How difficult is it to get people to care about critical environmental issues?
It is very difficult at times, but the festival has aided where it can.
There are few channels to get the word out. The media has the most important role.
People read and want to know more. If we can get more media support, I believe it will be a win, not for us, but for everyone.
How would you like to see the festival evolve?
Maybe we can do a roadshow or a live broadcast event. But we need more people to support and fund us.
The festival will be held from October 22 to 28. For details, visit kleff.my.