Borneo’s first and longest-running film festival

1.0 INTRODUCTION – the first eight years

In June, 2009, the KK Theatre Group (part of SPArKS – Society of Performing Arts Kota Kinabalu Sabah) organised the French Film Festival in collaboration with the French Embassy and Alliance Francaise in KL, screening three French movies over three nights.

In June, 2010, the KK Theatre Group expanded the film festival into the KKIFF 2010 (the KK International Film Festival 2010). With the continued support of the French Embassy and Alliance Francaise, we again showed three French movies. In addition, with a grant from the Japan Foundation, we were able to show two Japanese movies, including one anime.

We also had an evening of 2 short movies by Chris Chong, the internationally-known Sabahan who is an independent filmmaker. He assisted with another exciting development in the KKIFF 2010 which was the filmmakers’ competition for new filmmakers.

For the KKIFF 2011, the Film Festival increased in size from 2010, screening movies on 7 nights. These included two French movies, and 3 Japanese movies from the Japan Foundation. A new addition was a German film from the Goethe Institute in KL.

There was also a movie from an independent Malaysian filmmaker, Amir Mohammad. He was a judge for the BLINK5 Filmmakers’ Competition and also a panelist for the Sabah Film Forum, an addition to the festival line-up.

BLINK5, the second filmmakers’ competition, was launched in January, 2011. In total, 27 entries were received for this year’s competition (up from 6 in 2010).

The Sabah Film Forum was a new development in the KKIFF 2011 and had as its theme: Building a Foundation for a Sabahan Film/tv Community. It divided into two parts:

  1. 5 workshops run concurrently in the morning – led by invited panellists
  2. An open discussion in the afternoon

The KKIFF 2012 movie nights included 2 French, 2 Japanese and 1 German film. We also had the Malaysian premiere of ‘Halaw’, the first feature film by the Filipino director, Sheron Dayoc.

The third filmmakers’ competition had 43 entries, some of them from overseas, as the competition went international for this year.

The Sabah Film Forum included 5 workshops by invited professionals from KL. The workshops were about: the work of the producer; the work of the cinematographer; story-telling; scriptwriting; and the highlight screening of entries for the filmmakers’ competition where mentors speak about the movies.

For the first time, the KKIFF had the Malaysian Short Film Showcase – a platform for young moviemakers in Malaysia – and received 21 submissions of which six were selected for screening and comments.

The KKIFF 2013 celebrated the 5th year of this film festival in KK. There were 5 international movie nights, the 4th Filmmakers’ Competition, the 3rd series of workshops, the 2nd Malaysian Short Film Showcase and the first-ever Sabah Film Academy. This exciting new development provided a dynamic, hands-on learning experience for teams of young filmmakers – who worked through the filmmaking process from scriptwriting to screening with guidance from a team of experts.

In 2014, the KKIFF included the following activities:

  1. International Movie Nights – in 2014 the KKIFF screened movies from France, Germany, the USA, Romania and Japan.
  2. The Sabah Film Forum – an opportunity for workshops on movie appreciation, viewing a variety of short films and talking about movies – includes a filmmakers’ competition and a short film showcase
  3. The Sabah Film Academy – intensive workshops for young Sabahans with the guidance of international and regional mentors from the filmmaking industry to develop a firm foundation for a filmmaking industry based in Sabah There were two exciting new developments in the KKIFF 2014 that were open to filmmakers in the ASEAN region:
  4. DOCS+ was for screening shorts and feature-length films by ASEAN filmmakers. These were a mixture of documentaries, plus other genres.
  5. The Sabah Pitching Forum was also open to filmmakers in the ASEAN region. This was a 2-day training event for filmmakers pitching their documentary movies at various stages of development.
  6. The Filmmakers’ Competition continued, with the length being increased to 10 minutes. It was also open to filmmakers from the ASEAN region.

The KKIFF 2015 continued to offer a range of movies from the ASEAN region and countries around the world, as well as provide training and development opportunities for young filmmakers.

  1. The Sabah Film Academy – 9 participants made two 10-minute documentaries, working with mentors from Germany, France, the USA and Malaysia.
  2. The Sabah Pitching Training & Awards programme – 12 documentary film projects were selected from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Cambodia, Myanmar and the Philippines, involving 19 participants. The trainer was from the Philippines and the tutor was from Germany, with the panel members from Korea, New Zealand and Germany.
  3. The Sabah Film Forum – 3 presentations, including the screening of short films from New Zealand
  4. Rolling10 Filmmakers’ Competition – attracted 35 entries and included 3 categories: documentary, indigenous language and narrative
  5. DOCS+ – The five nights of screenings included a total of 10 films (shorts and feature-length) from Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Brunei and Philippines. There was Q&A with directors, producers or actors after 7 of the screenings.
  6. World Movie Nights – featuring films from Germany, Brazil, Spain, Georgia and Romania
  7. World Movie Day – Movies from Argentina, Malaysia, France, Colombia and USA were screened.

The KKIFF 2016 established both its range (South-East Asia, including Taiwan and Korea), as well as its structure.

  1. The Sabah Film Academy – had two streams: narrative (new) and documentary. The 12 participants made 4 films which were screened on Awards Night. There were 7 mentors from Germany, Spain, USA, Japan and Malaysia.
  2. Sabah Pitching Training & Awards – involved 12 new documentary film projects from Philippines, Malaysian, Myanmar, Taiwan and Singapore, with 15 participants. The trainer was from the Philippines and the panellists were from Korea, Spain and Malaysia.
  3. ACTION10 Filmmakers’ Competition – carried on with three categories: documentary, indigenous language and narrative. There were 26 entries and Hassan Muthalib, our judge for the 5th year, said that the standard was higher than ever.
  4. CINEBALU was the new name for movies submitted by South-East Asian directors. Shorts and feature-length films were screened from Malaysia, Philippines and Myanmar. Directors, actors and others involved in the films took Q&A after 7 of the screenings. Opening Night and Closing Night featured Malaysian films – these were Jagat and Nota.
  5. World Movies – Movies were screened from Spain, USA, Japan, France, Argentina, Georgia, Germany and Brazil.

The KKIFF targets three different groups in Sabah, Malaysia and the ASEAN region: the general public, students (especially those interested in creative industry) and professionals who are already involved in the business of filmmaking.

A key part of the target audience is the new generation of Sabahan filmmakers found in the community and among students in both public and private tertiary institutions in Sabah. The CINEBALU film screenings, filmmakers’ competition and particularly the Sabah Film Academy and Sabah Pitching Training & Awards are also aimed at attracting the attention of established and emerging filmmakers in Malaysia and South-East Asia.

The people of Kota Kinabalu are also an important part of our target audience. The KKIFF gives them the opportunity to enjoy movies they are otherwise unlikely to see, as well as exposing them to the work of new filmmakers from Sabah, Malaysia, the ASEAN region and throughout the world.

  1. To provide film-going audiences with an opportunity to see local, Asian and international commercial and independent films as a way of promoting international understanding
  2. To nurture young and future ASEAN talent in the creative industry, in general, and filmmaking, in particular
  3. To promote Sabah as a centre for professionals involved in the creative industry of filmmaking throughout the ASEAN region

It is the goal of the KKIFF that it will become a significant annual event in the film world in the ASEAN region, with filmmakers looking forward to it as an opportunity to network, screen works and meet potential distributors.


The KKIFF plans to strengthen its links within the ASEAN region through CINEBALU, the Sabah Pitching Training & Awards programme and the annual filmmakers’ competition. All of these will be advertised on the KKIFF website (www.kkiff.com) at the beginning of February, 2017.

In addition to these activities, the KKIFF will continue to screen international movies and the Sabah Film Academy will again offer an incredible training opportunity to a group of Malaysian filmmakers.

The KKIFF sees itself as becoming an important meeting place for filmmakers from Asia and Europe, providing a platform for sharing films, ideas and skills, as well as building up understanding, networks and professional relationships.

We thank our sponsors for the KKIFF 2016 who included:

  1. US Embassy (KL)
  2. Goethe-Institut Malaysia
  3. Spanish Embassy (KL)
  4. Alliance Francaise (KL)
  5. Japan Foundation (KL)
  6. Embassies in KL: Argentina, Georgia and Brazil