ShoutOUT! Malaysia’s 'Peon' sweeps top awards at SeaShorts Film Festival

The 2020 SeaShorts Film Festival concluded on 20 September 2020 (Sunday), ending a week-long series of virtual events celebrating the depth and diversity of short film from across Southeast Asia.

June Wong, Shaiful Yahya, and Syaz Zainal emerged as the biggest winners of the competition section, with their collaborative work Peon sweeping the coveted SeaShorts Award for Best Overall Film, Next New Wave Award for best Malaysian title, as well as the award for best editing. Based on actual events, Peon depicts the country’s uneasy relationship with migrant labour through scenes played out entirely on a phone screen.

According to the jury, Peon reinvented form and content to tell a story of the times. It is a very engaging ride that is acted so naturally, with technical aspects on par with its excellent storytelling. 

Prizes were also presented for outstanding achievements in direction, screenplay, cinematography, sound, and performance. Shortlisting and reviewing the 30 nominees fell on the shoulders of a panel of jurors comprising Cambodian-French filmmaker Davy Chou, Indonesian cinematographer Anggi Frisca, Philippine producer Bianca Balbuena, Singaporean sound engineer Rennie Gomes, and Malaysian historian Dr. Farish A. Noor.

Stay Awake Be Ready

Pham Thien An who directed Stay Awake Be Ready took home the Best Direction prize and according to the jury, the film is culture, socio-economic class, poetry, and violence combine in a single shot, a single night, a single breath. An exquisite mix of detailed direction and raw unpredictability. 

Eden Junjung who made Bura took home the Jury award. The jury felt Bura is a courageous and important film, which touched upon an important episode of Indonesian history and dealt with issues of violence, fear, and anxiety with considerable sophistication. 


The jury awarded Best Performance to the two female leads who played mother and daughter in The Cloud is Still There by Mickey Lai. They cited the the intensity and accurateness of the two leads' performance greatly serve the complex conflict at the heart of the story which is about the clash of religious ideals.

The Cloud is Still There

Typically held in a different Malaysian city annually, this year’s edition of SeaShorts presented the new wave of Southeast Asian cinema to almost 600 viewers through parallel and dynamic digital streaming in light of social distancing restrictions. In retaining the communal atmosphere of the Festival, audiences were able to enjoy screenings, masterclasses, forums, and other interactive sessions with participating guests from the comfort of home.

“SeaShorts has long provided a window into the talents and visions of the region’s creative voices,” said Nicholas Chee, Festival Co-Director. “In a time when physical barriers are mandatory, there was an opportunity to widen the reach and get more eyes on the inventive storytelling found around our shores. We thank the filmmakers and our partners for helping us continue to showcase Southeast Asian stories and inspire further industry growth.”

SeaShorts 2020 was made possible with the support of National Youth Council Singapore, the Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur, National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS), the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Malaysia and Taiwan Ministry of Culture, *SCAPE Singapore, Purin Pictures, Da Huang Pictures, Sinema Media, Aputure Imaging Industries, Zoom Corporation, CK Music, and Deity Microphones.

And the full list of winners are:

SeaShorts Award for Best Film | Peon by June Wong, Shaiful Yahya, and Syaz Zainal (Malaysia) 

Next New Wave Award for Best Malaysian Film | Peon by June Wong, Shaiful Yahya, and Syaz Zainal (Malaysia)

Best Direction Award | Stay Awake, Be Ready by Pham Thien An (Vietnam)

Best Screenplay Award | Evening Stroll by Candra Aditya (Indonesia)

Best Cinematography Award | BURA by Eden Junjung (Indonesia)

Best Sound Award | BURA by Eden Junjung (Indonesia)

Best Editing Award | Peon by June Wong, Shaiful Yahya, and Syaz Zainal (Malaysia)

Best Performance Award | The Cloud Is Still There by Mickey Lai Loke Yee (Malaysia)

Jury Award | BURA by Eden Junjung (Indonesia)

Special Mention | Elsa by Lim Jen Nee (Singapore) 

Audience Award | Stay Awake, Be Ready by Pham Thien An (Vietnam)
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