The elections are confirmed confirmed and on the best of all days – International Women’s Day – 8th March. Who would have thought this government could be so sensitive and respectful as to commemorate the day with an election. Then again, maybe they’re just being ironic.

It is the zeitgeist to be talking of democracy and everything democratic and the FreedomFilmFest is no different. Who says FFF isn’t fashionable? With this year’s theme: “Democratic Space – Making Room for Human Rights” FFF hopes to inspire all activists, artists and filmmakers and anybody really, with a burning desire to make a film about human rights, to consider their space; democratic, free and public.

And it’s not just the electoral and political processes that are being compromised but every aspect of our lives. From the internet to television, music venues and sports stadiums, art galleries to movie theatres, parks and all other ‘green’ public spaces, our freedom to use these spaces and our control over them has seriously been restricted and limited. It seems everywhere you turn someone is forcing you to think, say and do what they want. And the fear of saying something, anything, has reached a fever pitch.

In a true Democracy everybody has a right to say, to have an equal voice and to have that voice represented in government. In the oldest sense of the word, Democracy is best likened to a central marketplace, a space where all worlds meet, mingle, exchange, debate, tolerate, consume and exist together. The Greeks built their cities around these public spaces which literally embodied the essence of that political idea. The marketplace, the public garden are metaphors for Democracy. So, we have to ask ourselves: when these places do not even exist physically how can they exist ideologically? Where are the true democratic spaces in Malaysia?

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