Journalism Students Win Top Prizes at Short Film Festival


Young and aspiring filmmaker from Xiamen University Malaysia (XMUM) won the Best Documentary Award at the inaugural China-ASEAN International Students Short Film Festival (CAISSFF) in December 2018, for having documented the nomadic lifestyle of the Bajau people.

Directed by final year journalism student Meng Yetong, the documentary titled “Little Sea Gypsies” tells the life of Bajau people, also known as Sea Gypsies. These stateless people live in the waters of the Sulu Sea and the Celebes Sea, to the east of Borneo. It is an indigenous group of people who traditionally spent most of their lives on boats.   

Bird view of Bajau village in the documentary "Little Sea Gypsies" 

“Through this documentary, we not only wanted to draw more attention to these stateless people, but also sought to showcase their positive attitude”, said Yetong.

She added that the idea to film the sea gypsies came about after reading an article about the community in the local newspaper. However, when she tried to learn more about this community, she was disappointed by a lack of resources on them.

“This made me and my team more curious, and we wanted to find out more about the lifestyle in the small village,” she said.

Meng Yetong said they are grateful for the support of their department particularly in allowing the student to use the camcorders for their shoot.

The CAISSFF is hosted by the Chinese Collegial Association for Visual Art, Guangxi TV Station and Guangxi Academy of Art. This short film festival consisted of five categories - drama film, documentary film, experimental film, commercial film and enterprise film. It received 464 entries from China (including Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan), Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines. 

Other XMUM winners in the documentary category were “Rhapsody” directed by Ge Shukai, “Hug it Out” by Zhu Wen, and “Guan Di Temple KL” jointly directed by Chen Qingrou and Liu Weitong. All three teams won the Excellent Award. 

“Rhapsody” is a story about Malaysia Century Chinese Orchestra. Ge Shukai explained that it is not an easy task to run an orchestra and he was touched with the dedication and devotion of the orchestra musicians in preserving the traditional music for years.” 

Meanwhile, the “Hug it Out” team were out on the streets to remind people of the feeling one gets when expressing “love” and “warmth” through hugging. Their experiment was turned into a documentary titled “Hug it Out”. Zhu Wen explained that the social experiment was aimed to show the positive effects of hugging.

The documentary by Chen Qingrou and Liu Weitong focused on the Guan Di Temple KL, a beautiful Taoist temple built in 1888. Dedicated to the God of War, this 130-year-old place of worship is one of the oldest temples in the country, and features fine Chinese architecture. Both the directors said they aimed to showcase the beauty of the temple through their film.

The students’ short films grew out of their assignments at XMUM workshop. As part of their Journalism programme at XMUM, students are taught the fundamentals of operating video equipment, and are required to produce documentary videos during the workshop.

Two XMUM lecturers – Dr. Wang Changsong and Mr. Luis Pazos – won the Excellent Advisor Award, while XMUM received the Excellent Organization Award.

Dr. Wang Changsong, the coordinator of Journalism and Advertising programme said that students were inspired through the enjoyable process of filming a documentary. The more the students got involved in the filming, the more they got fascinated with the profession. This encouraged them to put in the effort needed to produce outstanding works. It was a fun learning experience for them. 

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