Make our voices heard: An interview with Albert Bansa, the director of the documentary “Pengidup Aku”
Growing up in Sarawak, Albert is one of the many indigenous people that was brought up in a “Rumah Panjang”, and due to the lack of access to roads, the boat was his only means of daily transport. Both his parents worked as construction workers for a living. When it was time for Albert to attend elementary school, Albert’s parents decided to reside in a small town in Sarawak, named Dalat due to the demand of their jobs of having to constantly travel to different construction sites. In Dalat, Albert shares that the majority of the community or public schools there are “sekolah melanau”. Having graduated high school, Albert went off to do a diploma in tourism management in UiTM for 3 years, and subsequently joined an organization called “Jaringan Orang Asal Semalaysia (JOAS)” afterwards. Having said that, through joining the organization, he was slowly exposed to the various hardships his own community was facing. From there on, he started hopping from one village to the other, realizing the dire situations the indigenous people are facing. This includes but is not limited to poor living conditions, no access to roads, lack of electricity sources and the lack of development of most areas.
Growing up as Indigenous
When asked about the hardships he experienced for being different than most of his peers, Albert recalls that he had to endure the constant discrimination and harassments in school. However, amidst all the bullying he faced, “I would also like to extend my gratitude to my teachers for always going the extra mile to offer help all because they know that I don’t come from a well-off family, my friends that are willing to accept me for who I am even though I am different” he iterated. Albert also shares that growing up he felt detached from his identity as Iban. He mentioned that one of the very many challenges he faced growing up in a marginalized community was the fact that what he learnt in school has little to almost no relevance to his identity as indigenous. “I was never taught about my own identity and my own community during my school days, we were forced to learn languages other than our own,” he said.
The Film “Pengidup Aku”
Albert showed great interest in producing/making his own content even before the film was produced. Before this documentary, he would always take his time out to hone his video editing skills. That said, when the advertisement for directing documentaries by “Filem-Filem Network” was open to the public, Albert was prompted to apply for it given that the theme the same year was “Harga naik, gaji maintain” translated into English literally meant “Increasing costs, wages maintained”. A little bit about the film he directed which was crowned the winner of “Filem Dana FFN 2019”, this documentary was inspired by the hardships faced by his own community, in which Albert mentioned that he wishes to bring them to light through the craft he carefully curated. Albert further added that documentaries involving indigenous people are usually only about their culture and celebrations, but there was none that truly showcased the day-to-day life of the indigenous people. Some of the various hardships he hoped to shed light on was the lack of access to roads, infrastructure and basic necessities like electricity. But the main pressing issue as shown in the documentary was the low wages earned by the community and hardships they had to go through in order to sustain a living. The film talks about Tony, a construction worker who also happened to be a dear friend of Albert, a single father that had to travel back and forth between his workplace and the “Rumah Panjang” to earn a living. Whilst it remains true that most of the indigenous people decide to leave the familiar city and community they grew up in, in search of a better standard and quality of living, this is not the ideal scenario for some. For instance, Albert shares that many of the people in the community have not or were not given the privilege to receive proper education prior to this and travelling to another state may not solve the problem of not being able to sustain a living entirely. To help put things into perspective, the jobs that were usually offered to them even in big cities were still of low wages because they do not possess the relevant knowledge or skills required. For some, this is even a harsher reality, because of their extremely low income, people with children in the community could not afford to offer their children the best standard of living in cities and were forced to leave them at the “Rumah Panjang” while they made ends meet.
What can the Government do better?
For Albert, he believes that it is the responsibilities of all parties involved, ranging from government agencies, state governments and parties that represent the mandate of the people to improve the livelihood of the indigenous people. Albert also understood that such drastic changes require drastic measures, but it’s taken the government years to improvise the situations faced by the community. Furthermore, he also adds that he believes he isn’t capable or in a place to give the government suggestions on the necessary steps to take moving forward, but he mentions that they can start by building roads. And to tackle the issue of lack of access to electricity, installing solar is a good start. As for schools, if the government lacks proper resources and funding to build public schools, start by building community schools. Albert further adds that he hopes the members of parliament pay more attention and start listening to the voice of the indigenous community.
Advices to the younger generation
In the interview, Albert mentioned that education played a fundamental role in shaping the person he is today. He said the myths that portray that parents of the children of the indigenous do not bother about the studies of their children is not completely true. For some, the parents were placed in a very unfortunate situation of not having the privilege to receive proper education, and they lack the knowledge on how to lend a helping hand to them in terms of their education and studies. And for that, he advised the future generations of his community to ace their studies respectively with the help of teachers and peers in school. Secondly, to always have a curious mind. Albert encouraged them to go look for answers, be open to learn new things because that is the key to open up new doors and possibilities in life.
From this interview alone, it can be concluded that Albert had such a humble beginning and background at the start. The hardships and effort and his nature of never giving up is what shaped him to be the person he is today. Albert believes that the power of education and a curious nature is what will drive a person to the road of success. Albert is an and will be an inspiration for so many generations of the indigenous community to come.
We at MSGA believe that a person’s background and race should not be an obstacle to define a person’s success. Just like Albert Bansa, as long as you put your heart and determination into doing something, you can achieve everything in your own unique way. After all, no two success stories are ever the same.