A Malaysian female filmmaker dreamt of making the first feature documentary for theatrical release in her country. After four years of struggles, her film premiered with glowing reviews. But soon after, she lost her job. This documentary reveals her deeply personal and harrowing filmmaking journey of enduring sexual harassment, bullying, and misogyny.
Wen is a Malaysian documentary filmmaker and journalist. In the last decade, she has worked on international documentaries for Netflix, BBC, History Channel, Crime & Investigation Network, Business Insider, Euronews, and CNA. Her documentary on female circumcision won the Society of Publishers in Asia 2019 Awards for Excellence in Reporting Women’s Issues. Most recently, she was shortlisted for the Said Zahari Young Journalist Award 2021.
Wen is an alumna of IDFAcademy and American Film Showcase and a Pulitzer Center grantee. She holds a Masters of Creative Media in Film & TV Production from RMIT University. In 2019, her debut feature documentary premiered in London. Currently, she is working on a documentary about marginalised communities in Malaysia, Shh…Diam, supported by Hot Docs CrossCurrents Fund.
As a journalist, for many years I worked on sexual harassment and assault stories. I threw myself into helping these women share their experiences in the hopes that it would help them, and others, too. I eventually realised that in some way, these brave women were helping me come to terms with telling my own story.
Sexual harassment and assault go beyond just that moment of contact. The effects are far-reaching, encompassing everything from work to daily life to the point of no separation, and no return.
In late 2019, I began working on a documentary campaign with women’s groups to lobby for the Sexual Harassment Bill – a law that was by then 20 years in the making. When the Malaysian government collapsed and the pandemic halted everything, the project was placed on the backburner.
Despite this, I still had to deal with the events detailed in The Boys Club as I tried to continue my work with the women survivors.
The men in positions of power made work difficult. I was told to hand over the project to my subordinates, despite my concerns and explicit requests that these women remain anonymous for their safety. They had placed their trust in me and I wanted to respect that. It is ironic that a publication known for championing women’s rights could be so callous in handling the confidentiality of the very subjects it was supposed to fight for. Other than the footage which belonged to the company, I refused to hand over anything else.
My dissent was punished, one event after another over several years. The last straw came when I was told to report to a subordinate who had threatened me before, and I had to leave the company.
It didn’t end there. One of the survivors told me that a male reporter, a former colleague, had contacted her directly without my knowledge – or her consent. I was appalled because I had made sure he was not at her interview filming so that she would not feel uncomfortable.
I confronted my former colleagues and they dismissed my concerns. The woman was just making a big deal out of nothing, they said.
The project was eventually canned after more survivors voiced their concerns over having their trauma passed around the office like it meant nothing when they had never given consent to anyone other than me. Again, these men went on with their lives as if nothing happened. No remorse, no attempt to remedy the issue. I felt like it was my fault that I had broken the trust that was placed on me to tell these stories respectfully.
The men around me seem entitled to censor my voice. I had given an interview, in my own capacity as a filmmaker, and my former editor contacted the publication to make “corrections”. Does he think he can just go around speaking for me and other women?
I feel it is my duty to finish the work I started, with whatever skills and resources I have, and to continue to lobby for change. I owe it to these brave women who revisited their own trauma to tell their stories.
This film is my own way of telling my side of things after enduring years of bullying and harassment. This is for all the women who chose to speak up and who gave me the courage to do the same.
Producer/ Director/ Writer
Nazreen Hara Raj
Wong Chin Hor
Thomas E. Rouch
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SeaShorts Film Festival – 21 – 25 September 2022, Malaysia
“2022 Busan International Short Film Festival Returns” Program – 7 October – 12 November 2022, South Korea
Seni Kita Festival – 7 – 31 October 2022, Malaysia
Filmfest FrauenWelten (European Premiere) – 26 October – 2 November 2022, Germany
JAYU Festival of Human Rights x Arts (Canadian Premiere) – 7 – 11 December 2022, Canada
BKK short DOC 2022 (Thailand Premiere) – 11 – 18 December 2022, Thailand
Layar Perak 2.0 “Lights, Camera, Action and Change” – 30 December 2022, Malaysia
Jaipur International Film Festival (India Premiere) – 6 – 10 January 2023, India
Cinemata Big Screen – 22 – 26 May 2023, Thailand
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