When a society fails to pay attention to a tragedy, it is more likely such tragedies will be repeated.
This idea inspired Malaysian director Lim Kean-hian (林峻賢) when he decided to focus his short film Langit Budak Biru on the plight of LGBT students in Malaysian schools, even though he knew the film’s topic would be controversial in the conservative Muslim country.
Lim said in a recent interview that he was “extremely thrilled” to learn he had been nominated for Best Live Action Short Film at this year’s Golden Horse Awards
He sees the accolade as a way for the film to reach a larger audience.
Lim also hopes that a wider audience for the film could help raise awareness about LGBT issues in Malaysia, and foster more inclusivity and empathy for this minority group.
Langit Budak Biru, which translates into “sky boy blue,” follows two teenage boys, Abu and Nuwas, who are roommates at a boarding school.
The two are on extreme ends of the school’s social hierarchy: Abu is popular and gets good grades, while Nuwas is constantly bullied.
The film follows the emotional and physical struggles the two teenagers face and invites viewers to consider the wider social and cultural implications of their dilemmas.
Lim said his inspiration for the film came from a tragic incident that took place in Penang, a state in northwest Malaysia.
In 2017, an 18-year-old student of Indian descent studying in Penang, who had been bullied at school for being effeminate, was brutally beaten by five schoolmates and died of his injuries.
Despite the gravity of the incident, Malaysian media paid very little attention to it, Lim said.
He contrasted the indifference of Malaysian society to the boy’s death to the death of Yeh Yung-chih (葉永鋕), a Taiwanese junior-high school student who was bullied for similar reasons, and whose death prompted the Gender Equity Education Act (性別平等教育法) to be passed.
Lim hopes the film will inspire others to make films on similar topics, thus creating ripples of change.
Langit Budak Biru is not the first film Lim has made that deals with controversial social issues. His third short film, the award-winning Never Was The Shade, touched on ethnic and religious tensions in Malaysia.
Lim said his focus on social issues is likely due to his education in Taiwan.
He received his undergraduate degree in film at Taipei’s Shih Hsin University, and later earned a post-graduate degree at Taipei National University of the Arts.
“A lot of Taiwanese films and short films focus on social issues, and I think I was very influenced by that,” Lim said.
Many of his professors also focus on such issues in their films, he added.
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