ABOUT FORUM As organization who runs since 2002, Forum Film Dokumenter (FFD) serve its purpose to expand documentary as a medium of expression and knowledge ecosystem through exhibition, education, and archiving program.
DocTalk & Public Lecture
While film screening enriches the audience’s impression, workshop and writing class expand their references, DocTalk and Public Lecture attempt to maximize the film experience for the public. As an extension of the film festival, DocTalk and Public Lecture emphasize their function to both contextualize the critical discourses and reflect them. The target audience of this program is the general public: those who are interested in to discuss films in exploring, imaginative, and creative frames. As discussion forums generally do, DocTalk and Public Lecture will be the meeting point for a variety of ideas.
DocTalk will go on for five days on December 2-6, 2019, picking several issues that the audience, be them general public or filmmakers, will appreciate. Meanwhile, Public Lecture will take place at ISI Yogyakarta on December 4, 2019.
Community & Society
Assembling in a Safe Space: Rethinking Forms and Prevention of Violence within Communities
The meaning and definition of community evolves over time along with the forms of relations and interactions within it. A community offers a flexible relationship that exists voluntarily. However, the boundaries of the activities committed by a community are often unclear. Thus, at some point, the line that divides voluntary and professional work is blurry.
This phenomenon might be caused by the lack of structure in distributing the workload in organizations, hence creating an inequality of the work among the number of members of said communities. On top of that, there might also be demands required by external parties acting as donors. The image of passionate workers portrayed often make the community works lost the fun in volunteering. This practice do not seldom take advantage of the exploitative labors to actualize their objectives.
In communities, interpersonal relationships are often vague. This vagueness puts the communities at risk of violence and harassment on the basis of class, race, or sex, which are often overlooked and normalized. Moreover, the distribution of power in knowledge, network, and financial capitals are, more often than not, only concentrated to some. The disparity of power relation could turn a community’s initial state from a safe space to a risky space.
The discussion is set to collectively investigate the means necessary to transform a community into a safe and comfortable space for all. Instead of focusing merely on punitive and retributive treatments to the violence offenders, this program intends to provide discourses on equality, healthy community work, and emancipatory to the members. Therefore, we all can realize a community that is free from all forms of violence, be it verbal, physical, or psychological.
The preliminary initiatives taken within the community of Forum Film Dokumenter was its involvement in the program “Non-Toxic Cinematic” and the development of Festival Film Dokumenter 2019’s Code of Conduct, which has been discussed and distributed to all parties involved in the execution of Festival Film Dokumenter. Through this discussion, we hope to strive for the awareness about prevention of violence in any form and the creation of safe spaces within communities.
Democracy & Film
Short Films and Longed Democracy
As a medium, short film is often treated as a stepping stone for novice filmmakers; one utilized before producing films with longer durations as works that are considered of higher value in public. However, as a medium, short film is beyond that. Its duration and affordability for anyone to produce, makes short film an independent medium. Hence, the pieces made using short films are often full of experiments and novelty to offer.
However, despite its independence, short film will always be faced with censorship. The scrutiny can come from anywhere; state institutions, paramilitary, mass organizations, to any individual’s self-censorship. In other words, the existence of short films as an independent medium related to the development of democracy. This is the underlying assumption of this DocTalk session. Surely art is not the sole motor of change, however up to a certain point it can record memories of particular social dynamics. Therefore, the question that arises is, “How does short documentary film record and embody today’s democracy?”.
The discussion aims to be challenged by two perspectives. First, is how film festival circuits put short films as a mere adornment, while the latter as a major celebration. Second, are fundamental questions regarding the means in which short films grow and develop concurrently with the fight for democracy.
Hacking Methods & Ethics Issue
Intimacy and Ethics: Universal or Contextual?
Making a documentary film, especially the one that focuses on one or two main subjects, is like borrowing a stranger’s life. Stranger, in this context, has many meanings. To filmmakers, it may be strange because they haven’t necessarily close to humans, society, or community documented. As for the main subject, be it an individual or community, they now have to commit their daily behavior in front of camera and voice recorder. These strange apparatuses then record their activities and later displayed in a broad range of public. In a long-running process, if one can overcome the unfamiliar feeling, intimacy can be achieved. Sometimes, intimacy is believed as a standard for the success of the documentary film. High appreciation is also frequently bound on films that are deemed capable of deeply entering the lives of the subjects.
However, filmmaking practice is frequently trapped between this obsession with intimacy and omitting ethical matters. At some points, the obsession with intimacy can lead film into an exploitative behavior. Asides from filmmakers’ ability to understand sophisticated recording equipment, apparently, the sensitivity to understand local values, without exotically look at it, needs to be done. We can’t consider such behavior as reasonable actions. Intimacy can be ascertained by examining how film inaugurates with the subject; however, the measure of film ethics is still questionable. If the universal standard of film examination is its intimacy, then ethics is a contextual standard that can be different from universal values. How does the film production process compromise with these issues?
If ethics is only dealt behind the scenes and invisible in the final presentation, how do we learn so that the issue of exploitation is not recurring in the future? Or do movies and all their institutions indeed work exploitatively? Is there an effort to create a film that is close to the audience while at the same time respecting the subject as a human who needs privacy? Could humans, society, or the community in that movie act as active subjects in front of the camera? At the end of this discourse, who holds the highest authority in the process of filmmaking?
Questions around the topic will be explored with experienced speakers in the field of filmmaking and skilled academics to examine how arts —especially film— exists in real social problems.
The Maneuver of Mechanical Eyes: Video Art and Documentary Film in Indonesia
Video art and documentary can be defined as an audio visual art. What differentiate them are their specific significances and institution of exhibition. If film is screened to public at a film festival, video art is usually showed in the arena of fine art exhibition either as a media art, multimedia art, or contemporary art. However, the general meaning of the word “contemporary” fades the boundaries between these two exhibitions. Both of them keep redefining their meanings in order to be more contextual from time to time. Thus, discussing a video art in a film festival is also a part of sharpening the latest discourse.
From the point of view of technology, video art and documentary were born during the popularity of home audiovisual recording devices in the 1970s. It was supported by the campaigns of digital camera companies that never clearly explained their consumer demographics. Thus, the technical demands of clear image and sound may no longer be too relevant. There is always an effort to attach some ideas to such works, either highly personal ideas or transnational issues. These ideas are also embedded in every work of art, both video and documentary films are included.
This edition of DocTalk is not going to discuss unnecessarily long history of video art development in Indonesia, but rather trace how the particularity of video art and documentary–both of which possess audiovisual medium–package their ideas. Where does this particularity come from, and to whom it is designated? Is it in fact an aspect overlooked by the artist themselves and left open for the curators and the public to interpret?
Distribution, Market, & Film Politics Economy
The Faces of Our Film Distribution
Over the last decade, various financing forums and film market have been flourishing in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. This contributes not only to the aspect of developing production and Indonesian films promotion, but also encourages the filmmakers to produce more competitive films. These forums open up opportunities to the experienced filmmakers, or at least those who have been involved in one or two professional film productions. On the other hand, financing forums (pre-production, production, and post-production) have their own language and logic.
Financing forums, whether directly or indirectly, will influence how the aesthetics and the narrative of the films are constructed. As a part of the apparatus that bring together social problems and the society at large, how far the movie that is financed by a specific institution or donor could negotiate in this matter. Another negligible eventuality is the producers’ cautiousness of the distribution traffic going along the production process. The likes of Netflix, Fandor, NFB, VIU, and others could be an opportunity as well as an obstacle for conventional exhibition space. In short, we can see this as a shortcut in the film distribution chain, although several digital platforms need particular access. But, this could also be perceived as a potential situation for public and film to meet, in a more diverse channel.
The notion that emerges from this situation is that there is a unique characteristic of each financing forum and its distribution. Such uniqueness, perhaps, rises because of two impulses: ideal and pragmatic ones. Therefore, questions and points that are to be elaborated in this session are: Where is the documentary film’s strategic position in Southeast Asia film market?; Who needs documentary contents from Indonesia in particular, and Southeast Asia in general?; How do financing forums influence film content, both in the selection of locality-style issues, to the medium that is per market demand?; What is actually needed in documentary film production in Southeast Asia to meet the tastes of the global market?; Who controls the market demand?; Furthermore, how can we put the film as an active party instead of merely an object subjected to the market?; How do funding, distribution (market), and film affect each other dialectically?
Getting the Story Right, Telling the Story Well
Kek Huat Lau made a film entitled The Tree Remembers (2019) presenting the stories of racial politics victims in Malaysia. The film used various footages of archives and interviews on indigenous people in Malaysia. The presence of racist colonialism in Malaysia has constructed indigenous people as the minority. Moreover, their rights were also diminished. This situation has been evolving as a widespread phenomenon of racism until today. The situation peaked on May 13th 1969 as Malaysia committed the worst racial violence in its history. It has been five decades since the incident.
Its film adaptation will raises two consequences. It could be a reminder to avoid any similar incidents, or it instead digs up endless trauma. In this case, the position and background of the filmmaker are crucial. Kek Huat Lau as a Malaysian-born filmmaker who lives in Taiwan is challenged on his empirical and emotional experience of space, time, and social ties to the ethnic issues of his birth country. It is even more challenging for him to adopt the story into an intimate and ethical film narrative. If ethical cases are often used as the excuse for authorities to cover sensitive issues, then, filmmakers have their own considerations regarding these cases. This consideration can be seen as a partisanship that a film cannot be neutral in its articulation.
The topic on ethnographic documentary is going to be deeply elaborated in this Public Lecture. How did Lau cultivate his personal experience and background in making a film with such sensitive issues? Whom did the voices in the film represent? How did Lau as a filmmaker manifest his authority and alignments on ethnic and racial issues?
The headline, Getting the Story Right, Telling the Story Well, was taken from chapter 12 title of Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s Decolonizing Methodologies. It was deliberately chosen to discuss partisanship, empirical experience, and ethical responsibility in making documentary film. This public lecture will be held at the Audio Visual Room, Faculty of Visual Art, ISI Yogyakarta.
Indonesian Cinema after the New Order: Going Mainstream
In Indonesian Cinema after the New Order: Going Mainstream, Thomas Barker presents the first systematic and most comprehensive history of contemporary Indonesian cinema. The book focuses on a 20-year period of great upheaval from modest, indie beginnings, through mainstream appeal, to international recognition. More than a simple narrative, Barker contributes to cultural studies and sociological research by defining the three stages of an industry moving from state administration; through needing to succeed in local pop culture, specifically succeeding with Indonesian youth, to remain financially viable; until it finally realizes international recognition as an art form. This “going mainstream” paradigm reaches far beyond film history and forms a methodology for understanding the market in which all cultural industries operate, where the citizen-consumer (not the state) becomes sovereign.
Indonesia presents a particularly interesting case because “going mainstream” has increasingly meant catering to the demands of new Islamic piety movements. It has also meant working with a new Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, established in 2011. Rather than a simplified creative world many hoped for, Indonesian filmmaking now navigates a new complex of challenges different to those faced before 1998. Barker sees this industry as a microcosm of the entire country: democratic yet burdened by authoritarian legacies, creative yet culturally contested, international yet domestically shaped.
For around two hours, Thomas Barker will present an overview of the result of his research contextualized with the recent findings. This public lecture will be held at the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Gadjah Mada.