A Chat with Festival Director of the Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival (KLEFF)


Interview with Fadly Bakhtiar, Festival Director of KLEFF.

So how did you come to be the Festival Director of KLEFF?

My involvement started during the inaugural Festival in 2008 (then it was called EFF) as a volunteer for the Xplugged (the music stage), which is the music performance. I was in charge of securing the acts and manage the music show and I got some pretty good names such as One Buck Short, Couple, Stonebay, Mia Palencia, Zee Avi and plenty others, so not too bad for my first gig. The year after I was more involved as the Festival Coordinator, then few years after that appointed as Festival Manager and in 2014 I was promoted as the Festival Director of KLEFF. I am honored to be given the opportunity again this year.

What has the response been so far, I know in the past KLEFF was only a weekend festival, but over the two years, it has expanded to a week-long festival.

It took a lot of convincing and confidence to make that collective decision with the team mainly because prior to 2016 the core team was very small and mostly were interns and volunteers, so the turn over was high and it’s difficult to maintain the consistency. Only the last two years few of our interns were absorbed in the permanent team plus we have many senior volunteers (who volunteered more than two festivals) plus it’s the 10th anniversary, just a perfect timing for everyone. The response has been positive but it’s not something that we can take for granted, it means more responsibility and more pressure to create better content and better impact. Over the years we are slowly transforming the nature of the Festival from awareness-centric towards more action-centric, by collaborating with more partners and creating more impact to the society.

In the festival the main focus is on films with strong environmental messages, was it difficult to find films that echoed those messages?

I remember in 2008 we only screened about 15 films in total, compared to 2017 which we received almost 300 films from over 40 countries and screened 86 films for one week. There are few important factors that can influence film submissions from the perspective of a film festival organiser: clarity in the theme and submission guidelines, strong communications and publicity (to attract local and international submissions), good selections of quality films and good track record as a festival organiser, among others. We also partner with international film submission platform (FilmFreeWay) and that gives us consistency and credibility within the international community.

What do you think are some of the challenges of film makers today in making more impactful environmental films?

I think the challenge is how can the film really inspire people to take action, much like commercial advertising. Great commercial advertising will make the audience take action (buy latest product, subscribe to new services, etc) because it has the emotional impact and desire to keep up to the trend. Similarly environmental films need more calls for action, to make people get off their chair and do something, no matter how small. What I would like is to see how the film makersmove from just latest news and awareness-based content to action and empowerment

Finally, the environment is a hot button issue right now, what do you hope your attendees will take away from KLEFF?

One of the things that I consistently hope since many years ago (even to myself) is to be a more responsible individual for myself and my community (eventually for the Earth) and start making more sensible choices in my daily lifestyle. KLEFF is this safe space where you can spend your time to enhance your self-awareness, and try to understand the bigger concept of sustainability. There’s definitely more than enough for everyone to gain from as an individual, and give back to the society (eventually for the Earth).

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