Short Competition Interview with Jury Members: The Personal is Political

— News
FFD 2023

Festival Film Dokumenter 2023 presents the Short Competition program featuring 7 selected films. The diversity of films in this category is considered to represent the dynamics of Indonesian short documentaries in the past year. Ranging from the exploration of history, customary beliefs, trauma escapism, to questions about self-identity unfold through the films in this program. The presentation of these narratives is represented by a way of storytelling that is not merely in compliance in a conventional way, but also dares to break the invisible boundaries of how short documentaries should and could be presented.

After an intensive process, the three jury members sat together for an intensive meeting to select the film to win in this category. The three jury members of the Short Competition program are Natalie Khoo, Jason Iskandar, and Yuki Aditya.

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

How do you see the seven selected films in this category?

(Aditya) The discussion heavily focuses on the distance between the filmmaker and the subjects. It is important to note that we are in an era where we have this kind of performativity culture in front of a screen and that is a different kind of culture that we used to have. We can also trace (the film) from some of the artistic approaches in this category. Some of them are using a very nowadays technology and tools of recording. The films are trying to communicate with other people and to the broader audience. That’s the thing we notice about the film selection.

(Iskandar) The seven films in this competition, as we discussed earlier in the jury meeting, serve a very diverse presentation in terms of how the filmmakers want to tell their story. For example, in the first compilation, there are three documentaries about music and all of them have very different treatments, approaches, and also subjects that’s different from each other. In the discussion, we agree that we need to find something from the seven films that can really immerse us into the story, the character’s journey, and something that can touch us on a deeper emotional level.

(Khoo) We found that the selection was very broad in terms of thematics, but also from the point of view of different people in society, whether it’s across gender, class, or age. I think the creative ways that people were telling these stories, whether through essay films or through more journalistic processes was very refreshing to watch. We were trying to figure out which film really spoke to us. It was about how these things come together as well as something that could move us emotionally.

How do you assess the strengths of the selected films to then select the winner? 

(Iskandar) When we watched the seven films in this category, this film is kind of the only one that offers an observational approach, so it simply pops up because it’s different from the others. Also, I think, the film has a different approach, this film can make us dive deep into something more rather than just leaving us on the surface level. The filmmaker wants to invite us into their life, the subject’s life.

(Khoo) I also think that, speaking of technology, there’s also an observation of technology and how intimate it applies in the lives of people in the film. How the various customers come and talk about their life, family, and also these interfaces that’s part of their everyday life. I think these elements coming together made it quite unconventional even though on the surface it presented itself as somewhat conventional.

(Aditya) In an observational approach, you can feel the tension between the subject and the filmmaker itself. Because there will be a lot of negotiation and small talks amongst them before the film and the camera are turned on. It is the process behind the film that we can also sense. This film also talks about a kind of intimacy between the true social media, a way of communicating with maybe nameless people out there.

What is the very reason this film is decidedly to be the winner?

(Khoo) I think what’s important about this film is the idea that the personal is political. In this film, even though it is seemingly just about a roadside nail salon, so many arenas of politics are coming into play. The construction of femininity and the connection between different women who have different jobs. It is all this that comes together.

(Iskandar) Maybe at the first sight when you watch the film, you can sense the film is maybe about nothing. But, in fact it’s talking about everything. The filmmaker chooses the right moments and footage to make a great story.

(Aditya) Even the film is talking about national security!

Festival Film Dokumenter 2023 is proud and honored to present Kanaka (2023) directed by Regina Surbakti as the awardee of the Best Short Documentary. We would like to thank all the selection committees and jury members who have been involved in this year’s festival.