We are the ‘Zs’ – The inspiring ASEAN New Generation documentary series screening

The voices, dreams and passions of the young, whose intersectionality creates desire for change in our current world, as told in a six part documentary series.

On Mar 8th, 2023, Thai PBS and the ASEAN Broadcasting Union hosted a documentary series screening in the Thai PBS mini theatre. The six short films, from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, tell the stories of inspiring young people from developing ASEAN countries, whose ideas and passions bloom amid identity and conflict.

Four of the six documentaries explore various aspects of being a young person, with a compelling mission to better their lives while holding on to their cultures and identities.

“Tech for the Future” (from Cambodia) tells the story of a young person who is inspired to use robot technology to help elevate education for society at no cost. Producer Chamnan Pang declared his interest in technology, because “in Cambodia, the technology is not yet developed, so we have to promote awareness of and attention to technology for its potential for change.”

“Inheritors” (from Laos) tells of a young man whose passion is to preserve the art and history of his family’s silverware handicraft. Producer Vongmany Thepphavong stated that, nowadays, as the young are progressing towards the future, she hopes that this film will be an inspiring story of how the young can help maintain heritages.

“Growth” (from Thailand) draws on parallel stories in the coffee growing process and the personal growth of the people from Baan Chan Tai. Director and producer Chontipa Boongun mentions the transition from the traditional way of living and growing coffee beans to the age when the villagers decided to roast and refine the coffee themselves, improving on the lives of the previous generation of coffee producers.

“Kicking off the Lemoi Dream” is the story of a teacher whose mission is to bring his ethnic football team back to the field after COVID. The sounds and production have brought this friendly match near premier league excitement. Mohd Izzul Iswat Mohd Azman chose Lemoi School, because he wants to see how these district-champions maintain their game and win after the pandemic.

The other two films explore the intersectionality of minority women who want to break free from the norms through education.

“Towards The Sun” explores the life of a 14-year-old girl who has to persuade her father to let her go to school. “So sad but true, women do not have as many rights as men…her internal struggles and emotions when fighting the norms and authority cannot be expressed to other people,” said producer and director Pham Hoang Quynh Phuong, who is deeply interested in women’s intersectionality in the mountainous area. Being in the female minority, the film exposes conflicts through the layers of the protagonist’s identities.

“Light from the Beach”, in which two girls realise that learning English could enable them to break away from traditional marriage cultures inflicted on girls and could secure their futures with jobs. When asked why he chose the subjects, Welldy Handoko explained that he thought it is a good story to tell, not just the English learning aspect, but also how teenagers live their daily lives, which are related to the development of the Lombok.

Each screening ended with a discussion with producers, directors and audiences of various identities who shared their comments and ideas and this sparked conversation through the comparative context of ASEAN. The session ended with awards being presented to all producers and directors and a call to keep making documentaries that portray and push young people’s passions in a developing world.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)