KL by Me: Youths with Camera Skills Tell Heartwarming Stories of the City

High school students learning how to use cameras for digital storytelling. Image courtesy KL by Me.

KL by Me is an audiovisual literacy workshop for school students organised by PopDigital in partnership with Think City and sponsored by Citi Foundation. HARDESH SINGH, CEO of PopDigital gives us the lowdown on what the project aimed to achieve.

What prompted this project?

KL by Me is a project that brings high school students from diverse backgrounds together to learn about digital storytelling, working with videography to create short films on downtown KL. Together with Zan Azlee, freelance journalist and documentary director/producer, along with several other film professionals, we conducted two intakes of workshops with 12 students each. Each workshop was held over 6-7 weekends covering different aspects of digital storytelling.

We know that children today have diverse interests, and almost all of them consume videos, which is increasingly their way of communicating too – through visuals. We hit on the idea of turning them into content creators rather than just content consumers, and to use the process to get them to be more aware of their surroundings, working together outside of their typical learning or living environments.

We also wanted to show these kids, who come from a mix of public and refugee schools – that creativity can provide them with career options to pursue. In this case – digital storytelling.

How does KL by Me contribute to a more liveable city or to urban communities?

Most times the city remains in the background as we go about our lives.

These kids learnt to look for interesting stories around the core heritage zone in KL, and to turn them into short videos, in the process, learning about creative and technical skills. These stories will in turn be available to the public, to get us to reacquaint ourselves with the stories of our own city – the people, the places, the history…. and its future.



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Any interesting findings, observations or project outcomes?

On the development level – we have seen these kids prove to be very eager to attend classes – the attendance rate is over 80% – so for many of them they have always had the interest but never the opportunity to pursue it.

Secondly, putting a small army of young filmmakers on the streets has unearthed some very interesting stories – it has helped these kids appreciate their surroundings more, and has given an avenue for people who have been living and working in this area for years a chance to tell their stories.

The videos have all been made public, which means we will be able to share these stories with an even wider cross-section of citizens, and they can learn more about the people who live, trade and work in the city.

As an added outcome, many of the students have also gone on to work on other film projects with their schools, a couple of them even presenting their schools in short film competitions.

What were some of the challenges that cropped up in the process of investigating and creating these stories?

Most people are very protective when approached for an interview – and the kids would get rejected a lot. But eventually it also helped them develop their self-confidence, social skills and it built character. Eventually, as their skills improved, people began to warm up to them and the students found their stories.



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What’s next?

Our second intake graduated at the end of May 2017 bringing the KL by Me alumni number to a total of 24.

We hope to keep working with Think City to develop this further, and are looking at the possibility of developing other skills transfer modules too such as coding, presentation skills, etc. We feel that these skills would not only develop KL communities further, they are viable skills that students can take with them to make a living in the world.

I’ve always viewed the city as a classroom where people should converge to learn and exchange ideas. It’s great that for 13 weekends we got to set up pop-up classrooms and commit ourselves to learning new skills with the city as our backdrop.

#1 Precious as Flowers by Khailesh Balakrishnan

A florist in Chinatown specialising in floral offerings for the nearby Sri Mahamariamman temple was sceptical when she took over the business from her mother years ago. She was ashamed to be a roadside vendor. However, today, she does not look upon the business as a job, but as fulfilling her calling, and a personal offering to God.

“In those days, poor people could not afford to buy flowers. Flowers are pure in God’s eyes. Now, even poor people can buy flowers for 50 sen or RM1 and offer it for prayers…”


#2 Crockery Store by Qasim

The Kwong Yik Seng crockery store has been in business since pre-war days, selling fine ceramic goods and crockery from China. A far cry from what it was in its hey day, the store is one of many dying trades in the core heritage zone.

“It’s what our family does, so it has stayed the same. I’m old now there’s nowhere I can go. We have kids but they are not interested…”


#3 Mrs Ranjit’s Story by Steven Lian

Mrs Ranjit is the unlikely Chinese-speaking caretaker of the 152-year old Guan Di Temple in Jalan Tun HS Lee. Born in the temple along with her nine other siblings, she gave up her job as a nurse to work at the temple, where her father used to work as a watchman.

“My boss lady and her children, they have really helped me a lot… I know all the gods… the one in the centre is for career, the one on the left is for business and there’s another one for studies… ”


To view more videos from the KL by Me programme, click here.

This story was first published under the now-defunct “Think City Channel”.

#community #artampculture #culturalmapping #filmmaking