Featured Filmmaker

Featured Filmmaker: Maruli Sihombing

Name: Maruli Sihombing

Age: 30

Location: Jakarta, Indonesia


Video history:

  • Ngatini, Street Vendors (PKL) Community Video, Sponsored by LSKAR, 2007
  • Kami Bangkit Bersama is about the emergency response to the Jogja earthquake, sponsored by KUK-Konsorsium Untuk Kemanusian- ICCO Netherlands, 2007
  • Gunung Kendheng is in Danger is a documentation the community’s fight against the plan to build a cement plant by PT Semen Gresik in Sukolilo Village, Pati regency, Central Java, Indonesia. The Mount Kendheng area is an area known to contain ‘gamping’, one of the basic materials for cement. The majority of people living in the area are farmers and farm workers. The plan to build this cement plant was feared to threaten the resources of local people by either polluting water sources or harming the environment (land, air, and increasing the potential for natural disaster). There are at least 144,503 farmers who depend on the 1.430 hectares of land which will be utilised for the construction of the cement plant. This video was produced independently by Maruli Sihombing in collaboration with Kolektif Affinitas and The Society Concerned of Mount Kendheng [Jaringan Masyarakat Peduli Pegunungan Kendheng/ JMPPK].
  • Berantas Lapindo is about a community that fought against Lapindo Inc., Produced by Maruli S in collaboration with Affinitas-Uplink-AVideo, 2008
  • Mengadu Nasib, explores the pros and cons of a local law regarding migrant workers in the Blitar region of East Java. Produced by VHR (Voice Of Human Rights), 2008.
  • Ciliwung Nyawa Kita (Ciliwung, Our Life) is about community empowerment of the Bukit Duri people who lived along Ciliwung River. They developed and arranged their ‘kampung’ (village) independently with self-help and a self-management spirit. Produced by Sanggar Ciliwung Merdeka, 2008
  • Tanah Air bukan untuk Rakyat Miskin (The country is not for the poor) shows the misery of the poor who were victims of the BMW Park eviction in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta, Indonesia on August 24 2008. Out of the 65.5 hectare areas, only 26.5 hectares are occupied by urban poor. The 1126 houses inhabited by at least 4000 families were destroyed by the Jakarta local government. Since the eviction, the government has done nothing to assist the victims or issued any reports on how the people are surviving. Produced by Urban Poor Media, 2008


Recent work:

Maruli’s most recent films are The Country is not for The Poor, a video about the eviction in Taman BMW, North Jakarta, Indonesia in end of 2008, and My Child is dead Because of Flood, a story about Jakarta flood victim in Kampung Sawah, North Jakarta, Indonesia.

Both of those films highlight the misery of poor people in urban areas, especially in Indonesia’s capital city, Jakarta. Poor people are often forced to be victims of ‘development’. For instance, people who lived in the Taman BMW area were evicted by the government in order to build an international sports stadium and to expand green open space in Jakarta. The people were evicted without any alternative place to live.

The second film is about Natasya, a baby who died because of hypothermia when floods occurred in Kampung Sawah, North Jakarta.

In their words:

Tell us who you are as a filmmaker

I’m just an ordinary person who feels worried about the reality of life around me, and I choose to express my worry through videos and films.


How did you come to video as a medium? Why do you work with the moving image?

We all know that visual media is very popular in our society. The mainstream media (such as television) succeeds in keeping society only as consumers which make people alienated and not aware of their daily life.

I might not be an enormous filmmaker who mastered the art of video production, but I’m very pleased when communities turn their television off and gather in their house to watch a video that I have made or at their own video in ‘layar tancepan’ (outdoor screening) event.

I believe that we can make our own videos about our own lives, about the reality, about injustice that occurs everywhere. I feel happy when I imagine that documentary videos will be more popular than fiction films one day.

Make your own media! The community and everybody can make their own media to solve their daily problems, and that is what I’m doing right now.


What are the main issues you address in your video work?

I’m interested in social and political injustice that occurs daily in the community. I also appreciate all video documentaries. Even if it only documents daily life, I think it will be useful to the community.


How did you come to work with these issues? Did it happen in the moment, or was it a process?

For me, the very basic things about human life are justice, equal rights and equality for all people to live free. In fact, I see a phenomenon in life that there is a gap between rich and poor people.

I grew up happily and freely, but this feeling disappeared slowly along with my growing when I started to realise that many things in the world were going wrong. Since I was in elementary school, I have been interested in and questioned about wars, poor people, and such things. Now, I know that all happened because of the structure of economic and political power.


Tell us about your favourite piece of video you have made

I like all the videos I have made, although I’m not really confident with myself, especially about my technical skills with video making. But I realise that video making is a learning process for me and for the communities whom I work with.

It’s not about the good or bad side of the video, it’s about how to make each video a collaborative work and in the end this collaboration is useful to the communities and others.


How do you think online distribution is changing the field of independent video making?

Online distribution is a strategic way to campaign for an issue because in this era, the whole world can access internet. Online media gives the chance for everybody to spread their video out over the world.


How do you use online tools in your work?

I often use online tools to campaign and spread out my videos. It’s easier for me to gain solidarity for the issue that I want to address.



If you know of any interesting filmmakers around Asia Pacific you’d like to see featured on, drop us an email at contact[at]

Staff Blog

Banned Singapore film hits 40,000 views on Internet

Singapore Democrats
Sunday, 29 March 2009

video made by Mr Seelan Palay about the dictatorial control of
Singapore has attracted wide viewership on the Internet. Entitled One Nation Under Lee, the 40-minute film also features interviews with the late J B Jeyaretnam and former solicitor-general Mr Francis Seow.

last May, the documentary has been viewed more than 40,000 times on
YouTube. It has also been screened in film festivals in other
countries, especially Malaysia where it toured four states as the
featured Singapore film in the Freedom Film Festival 2008.

was first screened in Singapore at the Excelsior Hotel. Even though the
event was a private one and only invited guests were allowed, officials
from the Media Development Authority nevertheless forced their way into
the function and demanded that the film and the projector be handed
over. (See Part I and Part II of MDA gatecrash.)

then One Nation Under Lee has been banned by the Government.
Nevertheless, the film has been widely disseminated on the Internet as
viewers forward it to their friends.

Singapore continues to
retain the Films Act, which governs the importing, making, distributing
or exhibiting of films. Local filmmaker Martyn See, who has had two
films banned by authorities because of their political content, called
the law “regressive”.


EngageMedia is hiring!


role will focus on managing content on the website,
increasing the effectiveness of the site as a tool to affect social
and environmental change and increasing the usefulness of the site to
its users by communicating their needs to the technical team.

position is 4-5 days per week (negotiable), preferably based in EngageMedia’s
Melbourne office, but with the possibility of working remotely from
another location. Some local and international travel will also be

are invited from residents of Australia and Southeast Asia.

a full job description and details on how to apply, click here.

close 14 April 2009

Training and Projects Coordinator

role will focus on coordinating training and other project
requirements for the organisation and helping to develop and maintain
working relationships with relevant video and campaigning
organisations in the region.

successful candidate will be a native Bahasa Indonesian speaker
with excellent written and verbal English skills.

position is 3 days per week, preferably based in Yogyakarta but with
the possibility of working remotely from Bandung or Jakarta. Some
local and international travel will also be required.

a full job description and details on how to apply, click here.

close 9 April 2009

Featured Filmmaker

Featured Filmmaker: Seelan Palay

Name: Seelan Palay

Age: 24

Location: Singapore


Seelan Palay from Singapore describes himself as an “artist and activist”, his films having a strong focus on the socio-political climate in his home country. One of his most notable works is a 45-minute video exploring the reality of authoritarian Singapore.

Video history:


Recent work:

Seelan’s most recent video is a message by Dr Chee Soon Juan to President Obama on his inauguration day. Dr Chee is an opposition party leader in Singapore who has been jailed several times, made a bankrupt and is yet facing multiple charges of defying local protest laws and other offences.

Dr Chee reminded the US president of his words on International Human Rights Day in December 2008, when he had aligned the US with “men and women around the world who struggle for the rights to speak their minds, choose their leaders and be treated with dignity and respect”. This is because he wants, at the very least, a comment from Obama, positive or otherwise, on Singapore’s autocratic system and government.

Dr Chee Soon Juan’s message to Obama

BBC’s report on the video message


In their words:

1.Tell us who you are as a filmmaker.
I still refer to myself as an artist and activist, and that the socio-political videos I produce are more a part of my involvement in activism rather than art. And by activism I also refer to “raw/traditional/direct” means such as distributing fliers, lobbying, petitioning. engaging in protests and conducting other forms of civil disobedience.

Many times I meet filmmakers and other artists who would take great risks to produce a work on such activities but rarely participate in those actions themselves. That’s not something I see as a bad thing because I understand their view that everyone has a part to play in bringing about social and political change, and that they feel they are most effective that way. But I feel that I have to do the things I do because there is such a small handful of people here that set an example for other Singaporeans to come forward and confront this authoritarian government. And I want to be that one more person to add to their efforts.

2. How did you come to video as a medium? Why do you work with the moving image?
I started out messing around with video cameras when I was making video art, and that’s when I realised the capacity video has to put words, sounds and images together to communicate ideas in a very quick, easy and direct way. And I think this is exactly what we need in today’s fast-paced society.Video also gives me a lot of space and flexibility to work with and weave reality and surreality. Video provides the capability to express my/our/the entire human experience in a matter of moments – it is the most moving of poetry.

3. What are the main issues you address in your video work?
Apart from directly addressing social and political issues pertaining to Singapore, I also look at the ideas and motivations of personalities, though expressing them in very simple ways. I am also very interested in topics such as linguistics, cosmology, paganism, animal/human-nature, but those are expressed in very private pieces of video art. Are those issues? What is ‘my work’ and where do I draw which lines? A friend told me that everything is political, whether we choose to accept it or not. That’s something I think about often.

4. What radicalised you as a filmmaker – or how did you come to work with these issues? Did it happen in the moment, or was it a process?
I was radicalised before I became a filmmaker, and some tell me it must have been my working class background that led me to what I’m involved in. It was a gradual process that probably started when I was 12, when I stood up and organized my classmates to go to the principal of the school to complain about a teacher that slapped a student so hard his spectacles broke. At the start, everyone was saying they were ready to do it. But when it was time, everyone backed out and seeing that, my friend who got slapped backed out too. That is the clearest early memory I have of myself wanting to organise collective resistance against oppression and injustice.

5. Tell us about your favourite piece of video you have made, in regards to social justice or environment.
My favourite video work would be One Nation Under Lee; a 45-minute video highlights the reality of authoritarian Singapore from independence until present-day. The private premiere screening of the film was raided by the authorities and the film has been “unofficially banned”. You can watch it online or download the entire film here.

6. How do you think online distribution is changing the field of independent video making? How do you use online tools in your work?
Online distribution is the best thing that has happened for independent video making, because everyone everywhere around the world can share their work with one another almost instantly.

I use online tools to promote my videos extensively, uploading them on websites such as Youtube, Vimeo and Engage Media. In a country such as Singapore where the media is controlled by the government and people are largely afraid to join protests or attend rallies, online video helps spread the alternative message. However, a recent proposal to amend the already repressive Films Act disallows even the filming of illegal events such as peaceful protests. Once that law is enacted, videos such as the one on our recent protest outside the Ministry of Manpower building will no longer be easily available.

For more Singapore political films, visit the blogs of two prolific filmmakers: Martyn See & Ho Choon Hiong.


Seelan’s EngageMedia Page

Seelan’s blog

One Nation Under Lee


If you know of any interesting filmmakers around Asia Pacific you’d like to see featured on, drop us an email at contact[at]

Staff Blog

EngageMedia online video distribution workshop in Kuala Lumpur

in the ‘Annexe’ in Kuala Lumpur, the 2-day training kicked off on
Saturday with 10 participants arriving, all eager to learn. We
started out with an ice-breaking game as we knew that not all
participants had met before. The participants consisted of media
officers from Sisters In Islam – an Islamic feminist organisation,
Suaram – a human rights watch group, the Centre for Independent
Journalism, Public Media Agency – an organisation helping the
Pesticide Action Network with their Rice Film Festival, and three
independent filmmakers. Following the introduction, we went through
the program schedule to see if the participants had any special
learning requests. We also discussed their expectations and found
that most participants are very keen to learn how to distribute their
videos, but lacked the technological know-how.

then got the participants to share what memorable videos they had
seen online and identify what was memorable about those videos. The
aim was to get some ideas about how videos can be viral or be
interesting enough for folks to remember, talk about to friends and
pass around. Getting into the main part of the training, we talked
about putting together a distribution plan, including the objective
of the video, the target audience and resources available. We
discussed the different avenues of distribution, both offline (like
screenings) and online (such as websites and blogs), and the
distribution flow of: plan-compress-license-publish-promote. The talk
of planning flowed onto a discussion about making an action plan,
prior to shooting a video, that involves thinking about the message,
the audience, what the audience would do with the information, how
they will be moved to action and how they will be able to access and
even distribute the video.

guest speaker, Fahmi Reza, shared his experience of distributing his
film ‘10 Tahun Sebelum Merdeka
(10 years before Independence) that has reached cult status among
Malaysians. This definitely captured the participants’ attention as
they could see a real case study where a well-distributed video had
made such a big impact on the audience that they distributed it to
their friends too.

came the technical stuff, with Nova making cardboard boxes to
illustrate the container and codec concepts relating to compression
and uploading video. We got participants to install the ‘Handbrake’
software program and begin to rip and compress a sample DVD. Since
the sample video was short, it was very fast to see whether it
worked. Everyone managed to compress successfully so we moved on to
uploading, but we faced some difficulty with the unstable internet
connection. We asked the participants to try compressing and
uploading their own videos at home later and share the results with
us the next day.

two of the training began with everyone sharing their compression and
uploading experiences from home. The participants then requested to
go through Creative Commons and open content licensing again, which
Andrew had provided an overview of on day one, as they did not fully
understand the concept. Fahmi Reza also brought in his newly bought
device that rips and compress video automatically. The device is
connected by RCA cable from a TV, DVD or camera to an iPod, thumb
drive or external hard disk, and converts video into mp4 or h264
format. It the conversion happened super fast and the device cost
just RM400 (around AUD$170). Such a device would be useful for
organisations that churn out a lot of video and often need to get it
out there fast.

then taught people how to embed uploaded videos into blogs, social
networking sites and video hosting sites like and
more. We talk more about the importance of promotion and the
differences in using proprietary sites like YouTube compared to sites
like After lunch, the participants split into
interest groups of three and planned out a video distribution
strategy around an actual video or campaign. They then presented them
to the rest of the group and we provided feedback on each of the
plans. This was followed by some free time for everyone to start
their plan, install software or troubleshoot their concerns on a
one-on-one basis.

conclude the day we had an evaluation of the workshop, which
discovered that participants found the knowledge useful and felt more
confident in employing online technology to further their various
causes. All in all, the workshop was a success and a great start to a
series of video distribution workshops planned for South East Asia.

by: Mien Lor, Southeast Asia Content and Training Coordinator for

EngageMedia will also be hosting this workshop in Penang in April. Contact [email protected] for more info now!


EngageMedia Featured Miro Channel This Week

Miro is an “video podcasting” or “vodcasting” application. Basically it’s Internet TV, a way for people to subscribe to a syndicated feed of your videos or show and be able to easily download and view it. It’s like the difference between buying the newspaper at the news agent and having the newspaper delivered to your door each day. EngageMedia is the newspaper, Miro is the delivery boy.

With Miro you don’t have to remember to go and check a number of websites each time you feel like checking out a video, Miro allows you to subscribe to the video feeds you like and get updated regularly about them. In the case of Engagemedia more than 700 people get told instantly about a new video every time one is published.

If you have an account on EngageMedia and have published a video you already have a vodcast feed. Just copy and paste the link on this button EngageMedia Featured Miro Channel This Week that you can find in your videos folder or on your author page, and insert it into Miro.

Alternatively you can subscribe to all videos on by using this link:
Just copy and paste it into Miro and check out the videos.

The best way to understand it is to try it out. Go to GetMiro to download it.

Miro Guide