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Witness

Ida's choice

An insight into the life of Ida, a young woman trying to survive in Kuala Lumpur's red light district.

Last Modified: 26 Mar 2013 11:59
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Filmmaker: Justin Ong 

Ida is a young woman trying to survive in Chow Kit, which is also known as Kuala Lumpur's red light district.

She is about to turn 18 and is concerned about the welfare of her twin sister, her mother and her future.

The pressure of poverty, drugs and position surround her but she sets her hopes on a united family, work and love. This charming, coming-of-age film follows her steps into adulthood through all the complications of her young life.

Filmmaker's view

By Justin Ong

As Malaysia marches towards its goal of achieving first world status by the year 2020, we have seen a massive facelift for commercial areas of Kuala Lumpur with skyscrapers, monorails and fancy shopping malls popping up all over downtown. But in the race towards development, some facets of our society have been left behind.

Barely a 15-minute walk from Malaysia’s iconic Twin Towers is Chow Kit, the notorious red light district where generation after generation of sex workers and drug addicts live.

Most of the children in Chow Kit are on a constant fight for survival as they are exposed on a daily basis to the temptations of drug pushers and pimps.

When we met Ida, we felt that she was the perfect choice for the main character of our story. She and her twin sister, Ina, were born to a sex worker and have no idea who their father is. They were given up for adoption at birth and have no relationship with their biological mother. They struggled through their childhood, forced to grow up too soon without having a stable family unit to count on. This is revealed in the difficulty that Ida has in establishing a trusting relationship with people around her.

The film’s narrative is driven by Ida’s quest to change her ways and how she deals with the obstacles that she faces. We are invited into her life and her personal space as we get an intimate portrayal of the lives of teenagers in the Red Light District. The film explores the devastating effects of growing up in a Red Light District and how it affects one’s psyche and emotional state. But through the making of the film, we also discovered that it has not diminished Ida’s dreams of a better life and a better future.

But is Ida’s will for change enough for her to really rise above her circumstances? Or is there truly no hope for Ida?

We hope this film encourages debate on what it means to be a truly developed nation and renews focus on the plight of children in forgotten corners of our society. After all, our children are the keys to our future.

Click here  for more Witness films.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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