FREEDOM FILM FESTIVAL
“I grew up with stateless kids and we were all friends. I didn’t understand what stateless meant as a child. I questioned why they had to work instead of play or why they couldn’t go to school as easily as I could.”
“That’s why I need to tell this story. The more I invest myself into this story, the more I care about their struggle. There’s no justice for them. This isn’t fair,” says Putri Purnama Sagua.
I grew up with stateless kids and we were all friends. I didn’t understand what stateless meant as a child. I questioned why they had to work instead of play or why they couldn’t go to school as easily as I could.
Twenty-five-year-old Putri Purnama is accustomed to the hardships of the stateless, having grown up in Sabah; some of her playmates were children of immigrants from the Philippines who have lived in the state for generations.
She recalls seeing groups of stateless children in Sandakan gathering at dumpsites every morning to scavenge anything recyclable to be sold for a pittance.
“That memory of me as a child and associating myself with the stateless kids reminds me everyday that I’m on the right track as a filmmaker. This is the best medium for me to help them. That’s why I truly feel that I didn’t choose this story, as a filmmaker this story chose me.”
Putri's documentary titled Aku Mau Skola will be premiered at Freedom Film Festival that will take place from 29th September until 6th October at PJ Live Arts, Jaya One, Petaling Jaya. https://freedomfilm.my/ festival/fff2018/.
“I felt infuriated at first when people criticised the stateless and asked them to return to their own countries. But I’ve learnt that I can’t blame critics for feeling this way. That’s how I was before I understood and did my research on the issue.”
“Before people start judging, they first need to understand why they came to Malaysia. These children have been here for generations. They can’t go back to their country because they are not citizens there as well. People only want to listen to the negatives of the stateless children, by believing they are a nuisance,”states Putri.
Putri remembers the exact moment she realised that she wanted to be a filmmaker. In the midst of her diploma she watched her first ever film called Laskar Pelangi, an Indonesian film about educating children.
“After watching that film, that’s when it struck me that this was the kind of films I needed to make. I chose to be director and I chose to be a storyteller,” she says.
The hardest obstacle when filming over the seven day period in Sandakan, says Putri, was holding back her emotions and the yearning to help them. She is touched by the children's positivity even when faced with hardship and a bleak future.
“My role as a filmmaker is to educate the public with this issue. My focus is on the children. People have a perception that stateless means criminals but if you deprive them of education then yes, they might turn into criminals.”
“I hope more people are aware of them. Our state, especially, can be more considerate towards these people. That is the first step to help in any way they can. However, to solve this issue will take years.”
“Just like how we came together to create a new government, that’s how we’ve got to come together to do the same for this issue. I’m using my medium in filmmaking to lend my voice. So, I urge people to watch my documentary to also help make a difference,” says Putri.