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Interview with Artist Sukhbir Cheema (KL Eco Film Fest 2015)

Interview with Artist Sukhbir Cheema

     Published: Wednesday, 04 March 2015 17:26
Poster KLEFF2015 A4 Squareposterman

The 8th KLEFF has just announced its call for film entries to the 2015 festival and you would have already seen our super bright and awesome Call for Entries poster. Contributed by a Malaysian cartoonist and journalist, Sukhbir Cheema, we are delighted to feature him in this interview as he shares more about himself and the inspiration behind this year’s KLEFF new look.

Check it out below.

KLEFF: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how did you get involved with KLEFF?

SC: I’m turning 29 this September and am currently a journalist and cartoonist with The Rakyat Post. I had been in touch with EcoKnights president Yasmin Rasyid on several environmental issues when I was one day approached to create a creative visual for their public platform, the not-for-profit Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival. This is also my first attempt in creating a poster for an event using traditional methods; water color, color pencils and ink.

KLEFF:  KLEFF has received some rave reviews and “likes” for your contributed art work to this year’s creative theme for KLEFF. What inspired you to create this visual? And on a more philosophical perspective, what does the 8th KLEFF Call For Entries creative direction mean? Can you kindly share it with us?

SC: I believe the only way to solve a practical issue (in this context, the environment) is by bringing about an awareness creatively. That is through art, music, writing/poetry, dance and yes, including films! The inspiration for the poster came after observing my girlfriend Ista Kyra’s face and upon seeing her eyes, I imagined planet earth rotating in it. When we realize that we human beings have a symbiotically relationship with the planet, the relationship develops and takes on many significant forms. However, it has to first begin by “seeing” this truth through our own eyes. To give the poster a “filmy” touch, the hair and eyebrow were changed to film strips.

KLEFF:  In your own perspective, how effective is art in evoking activism? How so?

SC: Art has always played a pivotal role in not only activism, but in various other parts of our lives too. Historically, it has played a significant role in not only transforming mindsets and perspectives, but also in shaping our awareness on a broad range of subjects and issues. Art is not only a catalyst, but a major backbone in activism. Activism simply cannot exist without the influence of art.

KLEFF: Malaysia is now facing a broad range of environmental issues, some are more global issues while many are localized. What irks you the most about the state of environment in Malaysia? And why? What do you think it would take to address these issues you have highlighted?

SC: Environmental issues should be the major issues spoken with utmost transparency, detail and given importance in the parliament. It irks me that instead of debating on how to tackle issues pertaining to the environment, we have lawmakers bickering who should refer to God as so and so and at the same time passing off silly projects which harm the environment. This mindset, has unfortunately led many Malaysians to emulate the same, leading many to be self-righteous hypocritical egoistical ignorant beings who argue about religion, political parties, instead of focusing on what matters most in the present moment; planet earth. In my opinion, both Malaysians and its lawmakers should put their foot down and focus on issues that truly matter to us right now; the environment. The recent floods in December is a sign of worst things to come should we continue living in ignorance.

KLEFF:  Why do you think more Malaysians should come to check out this year’s KLEFF?

SC: The Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival is unique in its own way as it not only exposes local film making talents, but also enlightens Malaysians on pertinent environmental issues plaguing the country at the moment through its creative short films. If you’re a lover of nature and films, this festival is meant for you.

KLEFF:  What’s your message to all Malaysians about taking care of our environment?

SC: Malaysia is home to lush greenery, in the form of a myriad of flora and fauna. Sadly, both face threats in the form of rampant deforestation due to excessive development which is not meticulously planned. I am in the thought that there should be a symbiotically relationship between environmental friendly NGOs and lawmakers, with environmental NGOs consulted first before development projects are introduced by the relevant ministries. Malaysians should also play a part by being much more vocal on issues concerning the environment and must pressure their respective district authorities should they see the environment destroyed. The environment must always be a cause of concern for every soul living in Malaysia as this concerns the future of our existence on planet earth. Wake up and play your part no matter how small it appears. It is huge when done collectively.

KLEFF:  What is your favorite environment-themed film, video, animation, no-specific genre really, but can you tell us why it’s your favorite, and why?

SC: I have two actually with the first being a documentary.

I grew up watching Jamie Uys’ Animals Are Beautiful People and remember watching reruns of it many times courtesy of my father who had purchased the VHS tape back when I was a kid. I was thoroughly mesmerized in the manner in which 1974 documentary showed how animals lived in Southern Africa. Infused with classical music such as Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 5 accompanying acrobatic baboons and Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers unraveling a magnificent blooming desert, the documentary has not only touched my heart but my mind as well.

The second is Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke, a Japanese anime which depicted nature as a forest spirit. It highlighted how mankind and nature should live together symbiotically with love and respect.

KLEFF: One of the key mission of KLEFF is to help increase the local Malaysian environment-themed video/film submission, however, figures are not that encouraging. Why do you think that Malaysian film or video makers, are not making enough “green” content? How can this be reverse?

SC: There is a certain silly stigma whereby when the word “environment” is mentioned, many would immediately picture a visual of rubbish being dumped on the streets in their mind. It is much deeper than that. It concerns the alarming rate forests are being cleared in Malaysia. It concerns how rivers and our seas are murky with waste being dumped. To be honest, I believe many enthusiastic local film makers don’t dare challenging such an important topic simply because it is too challenging and for some, it appears boring. The KLEFF judges must select a film whose content not only stimulates and offends the mind, but also visually tugs the heart at the same time. Environment friendly NGOs must take the initiative to cooperate with local film making companies and the media to produce short films or documentaries highlighting the state of environment Malaysia is facing. This way, I hope, environment related films becomes a trend which would lead many to be bold to create more.

KLEFF:  One a rating scale of 1 to 10, 1 being “couldn’t care less: and 10 being “super sustainable hero”, how do you rank your “eco-friendliness”? And what act of “green” is something you would also do?

SC: I would give myself 5. I’m still learning on how to be eco-friendly and trying to limit my Carbon footprint. At the moment, as a journalist, I make it a point to highlight and bring awareness on the environment through my writings. In the future, I hope to purchase a plot of land and build a house made out of recyclable materials (heard of earth ships?), plant my own vegetables and jam in the nights. However, currently money is an issue and although the plan is on paper, I’m still saving up money, scouting for a proper conducive land and learning everything I can on this. I aspire to create Malaysia’s first self-sustaining art/writing community where the systematic routine lifestyle is chucked in the bin. Anyone who shares the same aspirations as me are welcomed onboard.

KLEFF:  Out of the blue, a magic wand dropped on your lap and the wand allows you to change one negative part of humanity to something positive? What human characteristic would you change and why?

SC: Love this question! I would change ignorance to enlightenment/wisdom.

For over thousands of years, human beings have been part of a subtle war on Consciousness which has directly affected nature and us. The current ignorant way of living has only led us to be creatures filled with jealousy, greed, and hunger for power, status, money and fame.

Wisdom or enlightenment is the only change I can think of which can be brought about through a holistic education system that teaches children of the future on the importance of sustaining the planet we inhabit.

We all have that inbuilt wand embedded deep within our Consciousness but many are afraid of letting go. I think it is time human beings become aware of this and wake up to realize that we’re not separate from planet Earth but we ARE planet Earth itself.

KLEFF: Describe yourself in three words, and name your favorite color (only one).

SC: Nature loving anarchist.

Owh boy, I have too many favorite colors! If I have to pick one, I’ll pick purple. It is a color of abundance and can rarely be found in nature.

 

-end-

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