Indonesia Feature-Length Competition Interview with Jury Members: A Dialogue to be Heard Across Generation

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FFD 2023

Festival Film Dokumenter 2023 presents the Indonesian Feature-Length Competition program with four selected films. These films can act as a window to peek into the distribution of feature-length documentary production in Indonesia. All four are able to show the depth and complex depiction of the stories presented. In addition, these films try to respond to issues with local contexts that are quite relevant when placed in a broader context.

Presenting three jury members with diverse backgrounds is aimed to strengthen the appreciation of the films in this category. The three jury members of the Indonesian Feature-Length Competition program are Laura Coppens, Gary Byung-seok Kam, and Eric Sasono.

Below is a summary of our interview session with the jury.

How do you see the four selected films in this category? Is there any uniqueness in the films that pops and differentiates one to another film?
(Kam) After I watch the four selected films, I get curious about the other applicants. I like it in general. Quite clearly to me half of the film is very interesting because they show where the Indonesian documentary is going. I really enjoy it.
(Sasono) I am also curious just like Gary about the rest of the submission. I would like to expect to see more Indonesian documentaries that are more daring in challenging storytelling and subject matter too because I think those are related.
(Coppens) I enjoyed watching all the films. I think the topics are quite interesting, but there is traditional documentary storytelling. It’s not a bad thing, but I would like to see more films.

How do you assess the strengths of the selected films?
(Kam) It is a way of working how we can make our weakness into strength, so, not to speak low about the other films, but this film I think is really good. It has a lot of meaningful value documentary filmmakers should see. So, we are actually teaching each other. There are films that have more room to discuss the other approach, the cinematic language, and story structure. I almost have no knowledge about Indonesian society and culture but by watching the films I think I can understand it better and I saw many similarities from my own society and I feel that … Oh, it just reminds me how much we, as humans, are connected. Happy to see that. We are not making a film to give a solution, right? We love to share the questions to come after the film. So we will not easily forget what it means.
(Sasono) I think all the films have their strength in their own style. In Murdijati Gardjito, I really like the fact that the director is trying to put knowledge created by women and I think we need to see that more in Indonesian context and it’s factually globally all over the world that woman as a knowledge created is not really acknowledged. As for the One Big Sumba Family, I think it’s an interesting encounter between someone who brings a camera to the outside world. In A River in the Middle of the Sky, the materials produced by the local and I watch some films regarding the Toraja and this one I think is strong because it’s trying to give some out-takes from the touristic point. And I really like the fact that they tackle the subject matters in that way, almost joyful way, even though we know that it is much more complicated than that. While for The Exiles, I think it’s not an easy subject to tackle and as Indonesian we grow up with that story and we already know that in the back of our head from different sides. The film is meant to open up the dialogue with all generations, with people getting involved in the issue. It’s not a film that just to documenting but also to make an argument. So, I think that’s important and strong.
(Coppens) I’ve been observing Indonesian filmmaking for quite a while now and it’s really a joy for me to see also that one more topic are covered and people are more daring to try and tell a story not from Java, but we see like Sumba. People also try to tell more local stories and also try to bring slightly different stylistic approaches to local filmmaking, so I really enjoy this. So, we have new topics and we have topics that look differently like we have seen before. For me, it really shows a big future for documentary filmmaking so I’m really looking forward to the next production. Indonesia is such a huge country and so diverse, so there are so many stories in every corner of every island and I hope we gonna see much more in the future.

How do you deliberate to decide what is the film winner?
(Kam) We have an easy agreement for the winner.
(Sasono) I think because all the jury members love films, when we have to make a decision, we already know the standpoint of each other more or less. We try to find the film that’s most suitable with the mission of the festival, so we’ll give the right platform for the films that deserve it.
(Coppens) Because we had only four films, then it was easy to try to think of which films actually can use the award to promote it further to have stronger distribution afterwards.

Festival Film Dokumenter 2023 is proud and honored to present The Exiles (2022) directed by Lola Amaria as the awardee of the Best Indonesia Feature-Length Documentary. We would like to thank all the selection committees and jury members who have been involved in this year’s festival.