EngageMedia video wins STOS Festival 2012 Best Documentary

“This is not just a one-off video, I will continue to produce and show other stories of Papuans surviving amidst the insurgence of multinational companies and government greed,” said Wenda.

“Love Letter to the Soldier”, or in Indonesian “Surat Cinta Buat Sang Prada”, is a video letter by Papuan woman Maria ‘Eti’ Goreti to Private Samsul Bacharudin, an Indonesian soldier who was stationed at her village. The village, Bupul, is near the border of Indonesia (Merauke, Papua) and Papua New Guinea and is guarded by the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) Border Control.

Eti and Samsul’s relationship was controversial. Samsul left Bupul when Eti was five months pregnant. He promised to return to Bupul, but Eti never heard from him again. For the sake of their now three-year-old daughter, Yani, Eti begs him to return: “I will continue to wait for you, Samsul. I don’t care what people say”.

Many other women in Bupul have also been victims of the border control soldiers. Catholic Church group Justice, Peace, Integrity and Creation (JPIC) Jakarta and the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) recorded 19 cases of sexual misconduct by the TNI Border Control in Bupul between1992 and 2009. Women were courted, impregnated and abandoned. Several women were also raped.

The STOS Festival 2012 award included a cash prize of Rp7 million. The money will go straight to Maria Goreti and the other Bupul women.

“Maria and a few other women are trying to survive by starting a small ant farm business,” said Wenda. “Most of these women are the backbone of their families. They are discriminated by their own people because of their relationships with Indonesian soldiers. But they still fight hard to survive and do their best for their children.”

“Love Letter to the Soldier” is part of the Papuan Voices video series produced by EngageMedia in collaboration with JPIC. Papuan Voices produced a number of other videos in Jayapura and Merauke, chronicling stories of injustice that occur daily in Papua. It is about Papuans telling stories from their own perspective.

In making the video, Wenda said her team had to endure some obstacles.

“To make the seven-minute video, my team had to travel on motorbikes to the Bupul village in the heat and rain for seven hours,” said Wenda. “I fell off my bike several times in the process, and we had many problems with other bikes, like broken exhaust pipes, flat tires and headlights that went dead.”

Wenda said the video-making process had helped Eti overcome her emotions.

“Eti said the letter writing helped her,” Wenda said. “Eti said after writing and recording her voice to the video she felt a huge burden lifted.”

In January, Wenda managed to make a trip to Bupul again to screen “Love Letter to the Soldier” to Eti and several of other Bupul women.

“They were happy to see it, and they hope Private Samsul will see it too,” said Wenda. “The Papuan Voices project is about telling stories and empowering people. Hopefully through these videos people will be moved to change.”

Featured Filmmaker

Featured Filmmaker: Anna Har, KOMAS

Name: Anna Har, Director, KOMAS (Pusat Komunikasi Masyarakat) Community Communication Centre.

Location: Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia.

Focus: Human rights and democracy education; community empowerment.

Current Work:

KOMAS is currently doing several video projects such as Mari Kita Beraktivism, Selepas Tsunami, Gadoh, Real CIt ED – PSA series on rights of residents and local councils, Lot Umah Am and Huruf J (FFF2011 winners films), BERSIH2.0 and soon to be released, Ahli Majlis Penghubung Rakyat.

Most of the films are available on the KOMAS website.

Selected videos/history

  • Drowning: a documentary on the Anti-Bakun Dam campaign.
  • Zalim, Keras, Ganas: a video on police brutality.
  • Bangsa Malaysia: a series of short educational films on the issue of discrimination.
  • A cartoon and short film series on voters’ rights and citizenship education.
  • Through FreedomFilmFest, an annual film competition, KOMAS has produce three documentaries on human right issues in Malaysia every year since 2003.

In your own words

EngageMedia: Tell us more about KOMAS.

Anna Har: KOMAS was established in 1993 to support marginalised communities and human rights NGOs in Malaysia. It is a human rights NGO using creative methods to promote and advocate human rights.

We do facilitation, community organising and media training and we also produce resource materials. At present, our main programmes are on non-discrimination, citizenship and voter education, the FreedomFilmFest, and grassroots advocacy.

EM: How did KOMAS come to video as a medium? Why does KOMAS work with the moving image?

Anna: KOMAS was a pioneer in Malaysia in using video for community and human rights education. Video was one of the creative mediums that we could use to enhance education, awareness and advocacy of human rights. We also use other creative methodology and media such as cartoons, role play, photos and creative writing.

KOMAS is not a video production house nor do we specialise in producing films; rather, we see it as part of the strategic and creative use of media tools for the advocacy of human rights.

EM: What are the main issues you address in KOMAS video work?

Anna: Human rights issues in Malaysia – too many to mention – but in general it would be about democracy, freedom and non discrimination.

EM: Tell us about your favourite piece of video that KOMAS has made on the topic of social justice or the environment.

Anna: I have no particular favourites but Gadoh, a feature film on racism in schools, is a popular one with young people.

EM: How do you think online distribution is changing the field of independent video making? How do you use online tools in your work?

Anna: Online distribution combined with social media like Facebook and Twitter has made it very easy for alternative news and images and messages to get out there in a short time and has made spreading the word so much easier. It has also allowed normal people to make their own stories and share it with the world – so it’s also democratised and increased the number of people who are in control of producing and distributing media.

We use online tools every day – it’s become part of our daily work and lives to share and exchange and be updated about human rights issues.



If you know of any interesting filmmakers around Asia Pacific you’d like to see featured on, write to us today!