Student Director addresses issues on gentrification

“Big Bad Bangsar”, a documentary film on gentrification was nominated for the Freedom Film Fest student documentary, directed by Benjamin Yee , a final year broadcasting degree student. The inspiration came to him on the way to Bangsar South one evening. He started off by saying, “I think it was supposed to be a five minutes ride honestly, but it took me two-hours to get there.”

“I realised there was a huge difference in the way the whole ecosystem of the town is,” the director of Big Bad Bangsar. There was an obvious divide within the region and he had found the layout very interesting as, on one side there were high rise buildings, and next to them were low cost flats. It was then that he started to wonder how these people got along with one another and had thought it was normal.

That evening, he was in Bangsar South to meet up with this person and their family who had been living there their whole life. From them, he found out that it was getting worse living there. “Long story short, I sort of understood their story about how it was like living there in terms of traffic, the divide between the rich and the poor and having to see their neighbours go away from time to time because of gentrification.” Ben shared.

Benjamin-Yee-Seng-Yan iact college big bad bangsar
Benjamin Yee is a media student from BA (Hons) Media, Culture and Communication (3+0), IACT College (Photo Credit: Free Malaysia Today)

This sort of personal story from the family had inspired and motivated the director to seek out a bit more of what Bangsar South really is. It also just so happens that his final year project was revolved around the theme ‘Mend the Gap’ and Bangsar South was a great case study for it.

“I get a lot of criticism for this, like why is it called Big Bad Bangsar?” he said. Bangsar South used to be Kampung Kerinchi and therefore a lot of people who are from Bangsar do not consider Bangsar as Bangsar South. The developers had named it as it is, so they can raise
up the price.

The director also got a lot of questions from the public on the word ‘bad’ in the title. “Why call us bad, we’re not bad in any way,” the public had frequently asked him, but he does not completely agree. “To a certain extend they are sort of at fault for having Kampung Kerinchi being called Bangsar South but in all honesty, when I first came up with the name, it was because it was something cool. I always like to have my documentaries to have sort of a nice ring to it. Big Bad Bangsar just so happen to be BBB.”

His frst thoughts when starting this documentary was that he didn’t want to touch the camera at all and that’s what people expect him to do a lot, to touch the camera, to direct everything. “But I wanted to fulfill my role and also to properly give the opportunity to some of my members who have never touched a camera before to learn because this is college,” he commented.

“The most difficult thing was trying to convey my idea to them and they didn’t know what gentrification was. None of them knew, only me,” he said. “Spoiler alert, the whole documentary turned out the way I envisioned it to be and it didn’t happen overnight, it’s not as if my team mates have worked with me for a very long time,” he shared proudly.

Ben said he went out and shot in a total of 13 times and a lot of communication is between
the directors and crew members in terms of how to improve their jobs, how to do better and
how he could work better with them. “I think as time progress as working together the most
important thing was to learn from one another.”

Bangsar in general is huge and there was a lot of grounds to cover, especially with the topic of gentrification and the hardest thing is always to focus. “I honestly didn’t think I did well enough. I could’ve done better. Trying to find a pinpoint and focus on the documentary and to sort of get the topic right.” At one point he and his editor/producer even contemplated on the topic as it was too big, and they couldn’t really comprehend it.

Ben said, “It’s something I’m very passionate about but I think it’s the most serious topic on a documentary I’ve ever done and it was difficult and it took me a lot to realise that I’m not alone in this, I require team to do this and it takes a lot of trusting my team mates and giving them authority over the craft as well.”

Overall, he shared that it was a very draining process, but he was very happy about it. “I’m
very proud to say I didn’t touch the camera at all in this documentary.” Ben stated. He also
talked about how lonely it was as a broadcasting student when going out to do their job. “There’s nobody there encouraging you.” Though his team mates are there to encourage him, he feels like his friends from the other majors are the one who are the most encouraging. “I think it’s the people from outside the industry that supports you that really gives you the encouragement to go a little bit more than excellence. And I think that’s what really matters the most.”

(This article is written by Gwyneth Lim, a student from our Diploma in Mass Communication programme)
Watch “Big Bad Bangsar” here: