M for Malaysia, the first documentary film submitted for Oscar® consideration in the country’s history, is not only heralding a new era of openness in Malaysian politics, it may also inspire equal opportunities for women in the arts including filmmaking. Chronicling the birth of a renewed democracy, fueled by the actions of the country’s young and distinctly unique blend of multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-religious population, the film is also earning recognition for being helmed by an all-female creative team, including the film’s two first time directors.

The 92-minute doc was sparked by Dian Lee, an activist in Kuala Lumpur who believed it was important to document this historical shift in Malaysia’s history. Lee also convinced Ineza Roussille, the granddaughter of the 92-year old former Prime Minister who was running for election in an unlikely coalition of previous political enemies, to join the production. Roussille and Lee deliver a film that captures all of the drama of contemporary Malaysian politics. A second, underlying storyline is that of Roussille’s own emotional journey as a young woman who is learning to reconcile the affection she feels for her grandfather with her unease about his past actions.

“We hope what we’ve accomplished with this film will encourage more women to get involved in documentary filmmaking and it will give them hope and encouragement to face the hurdles that still exist in the world,” said Lee.  “On a bigger scale, I hope this film will act as a reminder to our new government that the change we have longed for required fortitude and sacrifices from the people of Malaysia. I also hope this film will remind my fellow Malaysians that we can make a difference, our voices and votes do matter.”

The women were joined in the production by long-time Chinese-American documentary maker Ruby Yang, who heads the Hong Kong Documentary Initiative at the University of Hong Kong.  Yang won an Academy Award® for Documentary Short Subject for The Blood of Yingzhou District in 2007.   Executive Producer Marina Mathathir, a vocal human rights advocate and former head of the Malaysian AIDS Council is also Roussille’s mother. Nazreen Hara Raj served as the Line Producer and Malaysian singer and songwriter Yuna, who performs the title song from the film accompanied by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, complete the majority-female lineup .

According to the entertainment trade magazine The Wrap, there are 28 female directors in this year’s Oscar race, eight more than last year and two more than in 2017. 24.3% of the DGA members are women, while only 16.4% are categorized as Director members.

M for Malaysia documents the 2018 Malaysian General Elections when the people of Malaysia, led by a 92 year-old former Prime Minister, overthrew one of the longest ruling governments in the world. Despite endless barriers thrown at them, the tense campaign pushed on with the most surprising result in the country’s history. The film is also in consideration for Best Documentary, Best Original Score and Best Original Song.

More information: https://www.mformalaysia.com. Share this story:  #ableandwilling.