Listen and Contemplate the Other Side of the Story in The Exiles

— News
FFD 2023

In 2013, Lola Amaria embarked on an almost decade-long journey to find out what really happened to those who were exiled after the mass “purges” in 1965. The journey began with a simple question, “what really happened” and a desire to know the perspective of those who were always referred to as “the other side”. This led Amaria to Europe to meet the exiles in person to address these unanswered questions. After years of searching, in 2022 The Exiles was born. This film is a finalist in the FFD 2023 competition program in the Indonesian Feature-Length Competition category. The Exiles (2022) was screened on December 5, 2023 at Gedung ex Bioskop Permata. Director Lola Amaria attended the Q&A session with the audience after the screening.

Behind all of Amaria’s stories about the journey of The Exiles (2022), a word attached to the struggle of the exiles is disbelief. Amaria’s motivation to embark on this quest for answers came from distrusting the framing of issues related to what happened in 1965. She recounts her experience during school, where the government imposed their viewpoint on the exiles through films and media. “During elementary, junior high, and high school, I was fed with films that indoctrinated, brainwashed us all at that time. We were forced without knowing what was on the other side.”

Talking about her relationship with the interviewees, Amaria shared that the exiles were very closed off to new people. Due to deep trauma and fear of threats to them and their families, the exiles were initially distrustful of the director’s intentions. “When I intended to make a film, they immediately refused because they were suspicious. They asked me who I was, who had sent me? Who paid for me to go up there? They were traumatized,” Amaria said. It took her a year of engaging with the exiles to finally get them to believe that Amaria was there to tell their story.

After years of filming, Amaria had the opportunity to show the film to the exiles. Amaria told the story of the reaction of one of the exiles, Hartoni Ubes, when he saw the film for the first time. Although he had been part of the story and the process of making The Exiles (2022) for almost a decade, it was only that day, when he saw it live, that he trusted the director’s intentions. Even during the process of making the film, the production team felt a sense of distrust. The filming process was done secretly and Amaria and his team went to Europe with the intention of making a “road trip” film. When they finished collecting material, it was copied and stored in several different cities in Europe because they were afraid that when they returned to Indonesia, the material would be immediately confiscated.

One audience member asked where the film would be screened, given that it is an important film that deserves to be shared with the public as widely as possible. Amaria responded that she and her team are trying to get The Exiles (2022) screened in schools and universities. This is done as a form of resistance to the perspectives that the government forcibly instills about the exiles. “Many people think they are living happily abroad, but they are not. They suffer, thinking about going home every day. That’s what I want to explore, more about humanity, the relationship between people. Where is our humanity when we witness this?” said Amaria.

The Exiles (2022) invites us to listen to each other and hear those stories that have never been shared before. Because, if we don’t try to understand what really happened, it could be that what happened is something that won’t be the last time.

Covered by Aradi Ghalizha on December 5, 2023.