Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bengoh Documentary: a clash of 3 mentalities

Crossing into a different world & mentality!

Turning can be perpendicularly upwards!

Visitors are often scared stiff on this fragile looking bamboo bridge, but numerous residents can cross it with heavy loads, at one time!

A Clash of Mentalities?

The making of the film on Bengoh is a story in itself: actually it is a clash of 3 mentalities! First, the film makers carried with them the `West Malaysian' mentality to start the film eg why the voters oppressed by the Bengoh dam still return the BN candidate who supported the dam?

As the film crew gather they encountered a 2nd mentality: the `Sarawakian mentality' where the interventions from the Penisular is seen, by quite a few, with suspicions-mostly on account of the negative perceptions of the political and economic domination of the West Malaysian government -and their allies in the East, over the East Malaysians.

The last mentality is the unspoken one among the natives in Bengoh villages, which try to find their own best survival options ahead of their villages being submerged by the Bengoh dam water! Elections had not figured very much in this search for their best survival options, even though the ruling politicians are worried enough to delay the impoundment of the dam to after the 10th Sarawak state elections!

How do you make them share the aspiration of electoral reforms? How do they make you share their current aspirations to deal with the forced eviction?

Do you know the weight on their shoulder?

The Urban Disconnect

The disconnects between the `outside' and the Bengoh villages only appears as the interviews progresssed. The film makers wanted to focus on why the villagers missed the opportunity in the election to express their unhappiness and to leverage on the voting power for improving their own lots. The villagers are more concerned about their own survival after the dam is impounded. The two concerns overlaps in some ways -but the gap is noticeable as the conversation/inquiries proceeded further. To the villagers: is the elections such a big deal? Was there anyone who showed them how their vote could make a difference to their fate of being moved by force? In fact, during the recent Sarawak State Elections, most the villagers never met any of the four contesting candidates-including the incumbent!The options-supposedly the hallmark of democracy and elections, were invisible literally!

There are lots more that was found by the two young urbanite film makers who stepped into a `foreign' territory with a different mentality and focus. The stories they had set out for had more than meets the eye to it all.

Watch the film itself to find out what most urbanites should probably get to know for their own benefits-especially if they got excited for better society post Bersih march!

As a record of sorts, two affected Bengoh villagers were brought to KL to participate in the Bersih march for electoral reforms. When asked whether that was a helpful experience or not, at the end of the march, they asked if Malaysians outside can help them to move house to higher grounds to avoid the dam water. Can you help?

Bodui on the right is from Bengoh village of Bojong. He had no problem to survive the arrest and water cannons at Bersih march-but he had problems to move house to higher grounds to avoid the Bengoh dam like many others in the affected Bengoh villages.

Proceeds of the Film will go the the Bengoh Villagers

The film makers are targeting to send proceeds of the film sales to the Bengoh villagers who are moving to higher grounds to save themselves and their NCR/ancestral lands. These villagers are likely to miss out on any compensation from the dam developer. Concerned Malaysians can help to publicise the film as a way to highlight the shortcomings and disconnect between a conventional, urban inspired electoral reforms thinking and the interior folks' survival instinct that had served them for generations in the wilderness of Bengoh!

Only when the obvious disconnects between the two worlds are eliminated, or at least brought closer, that the democratic reforms will truly be a popular one spanning the aspirations across the urban-interior divide!

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