AUSTRALIAN community storytelling initiative Big Stories Small Towns hits Malaysian shores for the very first time with Big Stories Bongkud-Namaus.
The collaborative project, which has visited Papua New Guinea, Laos and rural Cambodia among other locations, aims to tell genuine stories with rural communities through a film residency program.
Funded by the Australia-Malaysia Institute and the Australian government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, with additional support from Screen Australia, Big Stories Small Towns has accumulated international acclaim since its inception.
It took home Best Community Interactive Award in 2012 at South by Southwest (SXSW) and proceeded to make the official selection at International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), often dubbed the “Cannes of documentaries”.
The franchise’s inaugural step into Malaysia highlights two Malaysian villages, namely Kampung Bongkud and Kampung Namaus in Ranau, Sabah.
World premiering this Saturday, Big Stories Bongkud-Namaus will see Kampung Bongkud hosting an all-day celebration of Sabahan culture in the form of a Dusun-styled art festival featuring traditional and contemporary Sabah handicrafts.
Among things to watch out for are traditional Dusun games and performances as well as community-driven woodcut and bead workshops. Also on display will be photographs taken of the community over the span of one year.
The major draw however is the night’s screening of 14-micro documentaries on both villages, of which four were directed by community members themselves.
The films, set in these two subsistence Dusun and mostly Christian villages, explore the cultural heritage, values, memories, dreams and ambitions of its humble residents.
“Sabah and Sarawak have largely been mysteries to most people as we come from oral traditions,” stated independent filmmaker Nadira Ilana who spearheads this edition of Big Stories Small Towns.
“Documenting it into films for a new media, online project, to be viewed first by the community that made them makes Big Stories Sabah a radical form of keeping our stories alive.”
On top of allowing those in Kampung Bongkud and Kampung Namaus to pick subjects of their own choice to explore, Nadira and her team helped shoot and edit these films so community filmmakers could concentrate on telling their personal stories.
The National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS) will also be present as project presentation partners as well as main sponsor for Saturday’s launch.
Big Stories Bongkud-Namaus premieres on 12 March 2016 in Kampung Bongkud, Ranau.