AS a filmmaker, she uses her passion for visual storytelling to spread awareness on social issues in Malaysia with the help of the Internet.
She also believes that by documenting real-life stories and leveraging on the power of the Internet, it would help inspire others to take action on any issues that we face and play a part in making the world a better place.
Nora Nabila Ahmad Sabri, 27, one of the winners representing Malaysia at the Telenor Youth Forum (TYF) in December last year, in Oslo, Norway used this advantage to make a difference with innovative digital solutions that can help drive real change in the world.
Designed and hosted by Telenor Group and the Nobel Peace Centre, the year-long programme has given her a platform to prove that she was capable of representing Malaysia and make a difference by using digital solutions for the chosen communities.
Born and bred in Putrajaya, Nora Nabila has always wanted to become a filmmaker and joined the industry after graduating from Universiti Teknologi MARA in Shah Alam.
The broadcasting graduate was 23 when she made her first short film, Ibu Mertuaku (Kisah Kassim Selamat Yang Belum Pernah Anda Tahu), an independent spin-off of the classic which starred iconic entertainer P. Ramlee.
The short film was given the nod by National Film Development Board (Finas) and the National Academy of Arts, Culture and Heritage (Aswara).
Since then, Nora has been involved in 10 short films and documentaries, seven of which she directed, and the others she either wrote or produced.
Despite having to work in social projects and doing odd jobs to pay the bills and put food on the table, she is more devoted to projects on issues that are often overlooked.
Her second work, Haus, received mixed reactions and stirred conversations among women, particularly. She knew then that she was on the right career path.
The film was screened in the United States, Indonesia and the Philippines. It received good response.
She gained experience by working at TV stations. As her days progressed, she further developed her interest in making more short films.
Nora is working with a non-governmental organisation called WOMEN: girls, which was founded to help women realise their potential as role models and to develop children to become agents of change.
She believes there is a platform for women and girls to make their voices heard through the documentary.
“At the same time, I am also a production coordinator and a documentary filmmaker. I see a lot of things where I just want to take out my video camera, and shoot and create stories.”
Through Young Changemakers, Nora met Leah Choy and Mohd Khairul Atim who both astounded her with their stories.
“I remember making a documentary for the Young Changemakers’ programme about Leah, then four years old, who helped raised US$6,000 (RM25,700) by baking cupcakes to help her sister’s treatment in Philadelphia, the United States.
“Whereas Mohd Khairul helped stateless children in his village in Sabah to read and write,” said Nora.
ROAD TO OSLO
Nora found out about TYF from an email which prompted her to maybe “give this a shot”.
The whole process, from submission, pitching to winning, is something she holds close to her heart and adds value to her portfolios.
“When I pitched for TYF in 2016, I told the organisers I would use my films to create awareness on issues that are under society’s radar.
“Everything I did was an eye-opener and it has widened my perspective on life. After a gruelling process of being shortlisted and a live pitch, I was chosen along with another Malaysian winner, Alina Amir, to represent Malaysia at TYF.
“While Alina was assigned to a different project on gender equality, I was given another task to tackle, which was ‘breaking the mental health taboo’.
“My team — Team Exulansis — consisted of Tamara Kojic (Serbia), Boyan Petrov (Bulgaria), Rafsan Sabab Khan (Bangladesh) and Mehroze Munawar (Pakistan).
“Our digital concept is a gamified educational platform designed for youth between the ages of 6 of 15 years, engaging participants to develop the ability to cope with adverse life events, recognise and express their own emotions and be able to empathise with others.
“We decided that the best way to tackle this project is to come up with a platform via mobile app and our target audience will be youth in Bangladesh,” she said.
Why Bangladesh? The country is not booming yet in terms of digitalisation, said Nora, but it is picking up and trying to catch up with other developed countries.
However, Nora said, the hardest part was working virtually with the team and the challenge is time management.
“Every week without fail, we have to make a conference call, and usually it is on a Sunday at 8pm (Norway time) and it is 3am Malaysian time. Due to our differences in regions and background, we divided our tasks according to our expertise.
“My role in the development of the mobile app is in content creation and managing the creative direction of the app (which includes creating the mock-up animated footages of the story content in the mobile app).
“It’s tough work but it has brought us closer together as we learn to communicate with each other to get our ideas across.
“So getting to meet them again in Bangkok in March was a relief because we could finally get our ideas out there with no barriers. Our team won funds to further build our mobile app.
“The next course of action will be gearing up to September, this year, where we are going to present our prototype virtually to the Telenor chief executive officer and stakeholders.
“We hope to get more funding for our project,” added Nora.
Nora said as far as her project was concerned, she and her team members have engaged one NGO in Bangladesh and web developer to design the interface of the mobile app to make it more appealing to the user.
“It has been almost eight months since we won and I can still feel the adrenaline rush every time we speak about our project. It is something that has become close to our hearts.
“Your mind is constantly thinking about how you can better your application and how it can benefit the community because this is something you want to do. Once you have put your heart into it, there is no turning back. All you want to do is to give your best shot.
“Another chance to go back to Oslo is our collective dream. To be able to mentor the new participants will be just as rewarding as winning the competition,” she said in hopes that the mobile app will be a model for other organisations to follow suit.
Nora said she has learned a lot from this experience, especially when the subject matter is close to her heart.
“I am a filmmaker after all, and I will try my best to incorporate my skills into developing this mobile app as creatively as possible. Professionally, I will keep on making films on humanity and hope that it will benefit others in different ways,” she said.
Her advice: “You have to go after what your heart desires. If it doesn’t work out, keep on trying and trying. Another rejection will make you a better person as you will continuously improve yourself.
“Get ready to make a long-term commitment. Put on your best thinking cap, charm them with your smile and always think positively about having to work with other people of different cultural backgrounds.
“Don’t miss out on this great opportunity because you never know when you will get another,” said Nora.