Australian filmmaker Hollie Fifer conducts documentary workshop at Curtin Malaysia

Miri – 8 March 2023 – In conjunction with its upcoming Kenyalang Film Festival from 10 to 11 May 2023, the Media and Communication Department of the Faculty of Humanities and Health Sciences at Curtin University Malaysia (Curtin Malaysia) recently launched a film workshop series as part of its ‘Creative Hub in Borneo’ initiative.

The first workshop in the series was conducted by Australian filmmaker Hollie Fifer, who is Director of Australian Programmes at Doc Society, a social entrepreneurship organisation created in 2005 that has supported the production of over award-winning 60 films.

It was co-organised with the Freedom Film Network, an international community and engagement-driven network of social filmmakers.

Held in Cinema Lite, the Faculty of Humanities and Health Sciences’ mini theatre, the workshop was attended by about 60 Curtin Malaysia students and staff and members of the public including some local filmmakers.

Fifer has produced several award-winning films such as The Opposition (2016), Very Impressive (2013), and Common Ground (2011), which were screened at Australian and international film festivals.

During the workshop, she talked about making an impact on society through documentaries and the importance of showing the content to the right audience.

“If you want the President to watch your documentary, you need to show it to people that he listens to and these people will show it to him,” she said.

She also said documentaries must evoke emotions; the higher the stake, the stronger the message will be.

Talking about her award-winning film ‘The Opposition’, Fifer said she chose a local person to be the hero or main character of the story because he had a need, which was to save his land and seek compensation from the company that wanted to build a five-star hotel on his land in Papua New Guinea.

“The stake of the story is high because the character would lose everything if he lost the court case, so he was the kind of character that I needed for this story,” she added.

When asked by a student what drove her to make the film and whether it made any money, Fifer responded, “I dislike injustices, so I wanted to film it so that more people are aware of the issue. Although the documentary was not commercially profitable, I still enjoy my job and am always passionate about making more documentaries.”

The Media and Communication Department’s programme coordinator, Dr. Ngu Ik Ying, said the idea of running the film workshop series was to empower young film talents and foster creative collaborations between Borneo filmmakers and international film organisations.

“These workshops will allow in-depth interaction, and the audiences will learn more from the experienced international filmmakers. This is a form of mentorship too,” Ngu said.

Corporate Screen and Public Relations student Noelle Liew Wen Xin said she picked up a few useful pointers from the workshop, especially on how to make documentaries appealing to audiences.

“I realised that getting the audience’s attention and making them listen to the message you want to convey is key in producing good documentary films,” she said.

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Dr Ngu Ik Ying (left) presenting a souvenir to Hollie Fifer

Dr Ngu Ik Ying presenting souvenir to Brenda Danker, Director of Freedom Film Network

Participants of the workshop

Hollie Fifer presenting at the workshop