EngageMedia, Bulatlat to screen films on digital rights and safety


MANILA — EngageMedia, in partnership with Bulatlat, will be streaming Tech Tales, a collection of short films human rights issues in the digital space on Nov. 20, 2021.

Four of the eight films are slated to be streamed on Saturday, which will cover issues such as online gender-based violence in Indonesia, the rise of disinformation in the Philippines and Myanmar, the blatant attacks and repression of artists, journalists, and activists in Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia, and online surveillance and data privacy issues in India.

“The year 2020 was a challenging year for digital rights in Asia-Pacific. We saw not only a general increase in state surveillance and the stifling of free expression, but also digital rights violations such as internet shutdowns in Myanmar, disinformation and attacks on online activism in the Philippines, and the doxxing of protesters in Indonesia and Thailand.” EngageMedia said in a statement.

In a press release, EngageMedia project coordinator King Catoy also highlighted the interconnection and the alarming common assault against digital rights in the Asia-Pacific region.

“The films show how interconnected and urgent our digital rights issues are in the region. Tech Tales is a very timely intervention into the alarmingly common assault on our fundamental rights to data privacy, information, free expression, and digital sovereignty by governments, companies and other nefarious forces that seek to dominate and profit off our digital lives,” Catoy said.

Tech Tales will feature the works of film-makers Jackson Brook of Cambodia, Richard Soriano Legaspi of the Philippines, Vijitra Duangdee of Thailand, Annisa Adjam of Indonesia, Yihwen Chen of Malaysia, Varun Kurtkoti of India, Andrew Garton of Australia, and an anonymous filmmaker from Myanmar. (JJE) (https://www.bulatlat.com)

Photo by EngageMedia


From a mosque after prayers, the protagonist explains the cost of being cut-off from modern communications in the insurgency-riddled ‘deep south’ of Thailand.

He has to make long drives through dangerous roads to meet people in person or to use a landline to check-in on his wife and son at home. His disconnection is self-imposed but necessary: he refuses to register his biodata to get a SIM card as ordered by the Thai state. The government says it is a necessary security measure covering the Malay Muslim-majority southernmost provinces. It says this is where militants fighting a grinding insurgency against Bangkok use burner phones to detonate their roadside bombs. Muslim locals say it is just the latest tool of Thai security services to creep into their lives: harvesting biodata in a new layer of mass surveillance in a region where appearing on state registers often result to miscarriages of justice.

‘Pattani Calling’ is a story of a community being forced by state digital policies into
exile from modern communication. It is also a tale of defiance and resourcefulness by
people staying connected when the state refuses to give them SIM cards.

Photo by EngageMedia


The film begins with a short montage of the news of a military takeover, protests on the
streets, and the state of internet access in the country – all while Myanmar continues to
battle the COVID-19 pandemic. At home, Hnin and Mon talk about whether they should
purchase internet services, as their TV is broken and they have no other means to monitor the
news. Outside, they can hear people cheering, but have no clue as to why.

Black Out reflects the disinformation being spread – and lack of information available – to
the people in Myanmar following the military coup. Aside from the internet being throttled, the
licenses of media outlets are revoked, protesters and journalists are being arrested, and
telecommunications companies are vague when answering questions about when mobile
connectivity will revert back to normal.

Hnin tries to get information from her friends, but even their news is reported to be fake. Mon
is able to access the internet from a friend’s home, and later joins the protests. But when the
6 PM curfew nears and Mon does not return home, Hnin braves the danger and goes out in
search of her daughter.

Photo by EngageMedia


The night before her counselling session, Naura is unable to sleep. Through the eyes of her
childhood doll Melati, the audience discovers how Naura continues to deal with the online
gender-based violence she experienced, visualised as clouds that contain screenshots of
Naura and her ex-boyfriend’s conversations. But beyond these memories and the trauma that
lingers, Naura also remembers the phone conversation she had with her brother that has
become one of her reasons to face a new day.

Photo by EngageMedia


Appa does everything with his smartphone: shopping, communicating, taking pictures, reading, watching videos, even navigating the torrid traffic of Bangalore. One morning, as Appa is using his phone, he is interrupted by a consent manager. It is a tiny, cute monster that refuses to let Appa use the phone until he answers legal forms. Appa is suspicious, and jumps into the phone to check. Inside, he witnesses a
large nexus of consent managers being managed by a Great Eye in the Sky. He refuses to consent to the legalities.

After that, Appa is followed by a consent manager who follows him every time he uses an app. Soon, many consent managers follow suit, and form a shadow of Appa that can be monitored by the Great Eye. When his boss fires Appa, he desperately tries to find another job. But the Great Eye makes sure he does not get one.
Appa tries to run, and finally decides to fly to another country to start a new life. There, Appa finds that there are more like him. Kuri wonders: What if they all come together? What if people in space join hands to become one gigantic invisibility mundu, slowly covering the Great Eye in the Sky.

EngageMedia is a non-profit media, technology, and culture organisation. EngageMedia uses the power of video, the Internet, and open technologies to create social and environmental change. 

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  1. how to watch pls? 🙂

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