Screenshot of 'Flow' and Ms Chew Win Chen

Contributed by: Ms Charlotte Gregory (AU17, UK)

In the summer of 2011 the group from 17th AESF University (AU17) took a long bus ride out of Penang to the secluded riverside village of Kampung Sungai Batu, where the idea for ‘Flow’ was conceived and eventually realised. 

‘Flow’ is a short film by Win Chen Chew, it is a beautiful mediation on the Sungai Merbok river, in a single black and white shot spanning across the slow moving salt-water river. The film documents not just the passing of the water but the passage of time in a community that has long been rooted under the river’s influence.  

Win Chen realised the importance of the Sungai Merbok to the people who live on its banks and utilise it for food and trade. In the past, Sungai Merbok was relied upon by sailors who referred to it as the ‘Golden Peninsula’ because of its status as a well-known entrepot (a port where merchants can import and export without paying duty). Win Chen saw what a core the river was to the community and its ability to bring and keep people together,  saying “as I was gazing out at the river I remembered…..isn’t it amazing that after decades, we are still able to meet here?”

Win Chen who is originally from Penang, Malaysia said of her hometown, “I got so used to the heritage buildings and landmarks around me that I took it for granted sometimes”. Being surrounded by the AU17 participants who were from so many diverse cultures raised many questions for Win Chen, who was “….often filled with thousands of why's, when's, how's, what’s, during the 2-week camp”. Win Chen goes on to describe AU17 as a “journey of rediscovery”, allowing her to rediscover the heritage surrounding her, the beauty steeped in the histories, landscapes and its people, especially down on the banks of the Sungai Merbok river.

‘Flow’ was originally screened at the ‘Shared Heritage: As we see it’ a group exhibition put together by the participants of AU17. “My friends saw Flow and suggested me to submit it for the Kuala Lumpur Experimental Film Festival”.Since then, ‘Flow’ has been a huge success for Win Chen. It has been selected by and screened at the KLEX Kuala Lumpur Experimental Film Festival (Malaysia), the Bangkok Experimental Film Festival KLEX@BEFF6 (Thailand) and the Asian Experimental Video Festival, Macau (China). Win Chen said of the films success, “I was so glad it was selected to screen under the Malaysian-Germany Student Program as well as the Open Program- inventory during the festival last year….It’s a big motivation for me every time it flows across the border and continents, as it becomes something bigger”.

To watch ‘Flow’ please visit here:

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of author and can not in any circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF).