Featured Filmmaker

Featured Filmmaker: Chairun Nissa

Name: Chairun Nissa
Location: Jakarta, Indonesia

1. Tell us about yourself as a filmmaker.

People usually call me Ilun. In 2009, I graduated from the Jakarta Art Institute with a major in Film Direction. I began making documentary films around 2011, but my usual style is actually fiction. I now try to combine documentary and fiction styles into something called creative documentary.

2. Why did you decide to work with film?

Because I’ve been a dreamer since I was a little girl. I don’t want to place limits on my life. That’s also something I learnt from films; how stories about imagination, dreams, and biographies can provide motivation in life. Film is life itself because films tell the stories about human and their nature.

3. What made you decide to make films on social issues? Did it happen in the moment, or was it a process?

Black Umbrella

In 2011, I was making a film called “Black Umbrella”, about women and human rights issues. The process of making this film was very challenging, especially when we had to enter a militarized zone and had to hide the camera. In 2012, I made a documentary about environmental destruction from the biggest printing company in Indonesia, where I had to conduct investigation into the transparency of the company.

Films can become an universal media and accessible to people from different walks of life. Films can change the consciousness of people.

4. As a woman and a filmmaker, what are the challenges in your work? Are there any limitations such as laws or norms?

Of course women are not dominant in this industry. But there are some opportunities and we feel challenged to show our potential. For me, it is always different when women take charge of film making. Women directors always come up with different and nuanced angles. They are also more keen to explore women issues, things that are often left out of the frame.

As for limitations, it’s usually when women get married and give birth. She usually stops making films after that and becomes more focused on nurturing her family for a good while.

5. Could you describe your view on the situation of women in the world today and what kind of contribution film can make?

I don’t think women should replace the positions of men but rather become creative partners. Films involve everyone and I don’t want to limit the way stories are told. Currently, I’m quite interested in seeing the perspective of men regarding gender issues. It is very important to bridge the gap in perspective between men and of women because gender issues are not only women issues. It should also concern men.

6. Tell us about your favorite film that you have made?

I would pick ‘Dance of the Night’, a documentary about a dancer family from Padang, West Sumatra, that has been in the business for 30 years. This family also survived the 2009 earthquake. The choreographer is a husband and a father. The dancers are four of his children and his wife. This film shows how they collaborate and become one body without imbalance and give life to one another. ‘Dance of the Night’ is the title of their dance depicting their survival from the earthquake and coping with the trauma in the aftermath. It is a monumental dance and has been performed all over the world.

7. How do you think online distribution is changing the field of independent film making? How do you use online tools in your work?

Of course social media is more familiar with movie audiences now. With information from such portals they can get more options to choose from, even among non-mainstream films. People are also exploring how to sell films online as it is more efficient and cheaper.

I use online tools to update my editing software and my camera’s operating system. The online world has also changed the way film festival distribution works. Most of them use online registration, for instance, and our films can be uploaded to a designated film/video sharing platform such as Vimeo for the festival committee to download. That way our films can be featured in international film festivals.

More on Ilun:

If you know of any interesting filmmakers around Asia Pacific that you’d like to see featured on, write to us today!


Manus Island and Australia’s Asylum Policy

In a statement released by Refugee Action Coalition, asylum seekers have been protesting at the Manus Island detention center since 25 January calling the Australian government to end their indefinite detention. While a signatory to International Refugee Convention, Australian law nandates that asylum seekers who arrive without a valid visa must be held in immigration detention until they are granted a visa or removed from Australia. There is no limit under the law to the length of time for a which a person may be held in detention.

There have been similar protests in Australian detention centers before. These two videos uploaded by EngageMedia contributors portray the desperation of people held indefinitely in such camps.

In March 2002, detainees of Australia’s Woomera detention centre staged a mass breakout in a spontaneous and desperate bid for freedom. Aided by hundreds of committed social activists protesting Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers in mandatory detention, the breakout captured the attention and interest of human rights groups around the globe. At the frontline of the breakout, filmmaker Pip Starr captures the raw emotion and urgency of the event to create a damning indictment of Australia’s inhumane immigration policies.

September 2001. A trip is made in solidarity with asylum seekers in the Woomera detention centre. During the visit riot police attack the refugees with water cannons, tear gas and batons for over 20 minutes. In a David vs Golliath situation some refugees throw stones at the forces of order. Meanwhile 260 Australian activists, kept back by the state police, watch horrified from about 200 metres distance.

Woomera detention center has since been closed, and most of the asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat are now diverted to off-shore detention centers such as those in Manus Island, Nauru and Christmas Island.

GetUp!Action for Australia describes the living condition in Manus Island in this animated video.

Human rights advocate have criticized the Australian government’s policy of indefinite detention and outsourcing of its asylum policies. In 2002, the head of Amnesty International Irene Khan said:

“It is obvious that the prolonged periods of detention, characterized by frustration and insecurity, are doing further damage to individuals who have fled grave human rights abuses. The detention policy has failed as a deterrent and succeeded only as punishment”.

In this story by the Global Mail, a former immigration detention center worker describes the condition and culture at such camps.



The Australian government has issued materials like this discouraging people from countries such as Afghanistan from traveling to the country seeking asylum.



Staff Blog

One Billion Rising Celebration

Update: Men, women dance against violence (Jakarta Post)

A year ago when people in my close circle talked about “One Billion Rising” (OBR), the campaign to fight violence against women which included a mass dance on February 14, they raised their eyebrows. Why not campaign the old fashioned way through awareness seminars, printing posters, or taking to the streets with a megaphone?

One Billion Rising does employ a new strategy for campaigning. Aside from the dance “to show collective strength”, One Billion Rising Indonesia has been organizing a series of events in the last couple of weeks including film screenings and discussions all over the country.

And it’s fun. Watch this movie collection from 2013, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year. It features a collection of video montages from 207 countries where the campaign took place.


One Billion Rising (Short Film) from V-Day Until the Violence Stops on Vimeo.

Here is the choreography that you need to memorize for 2014 OBR in Jakarta.

OBR happens in Jakarta this year on February 14 on west side of Monas (National Monument).

Find an OBR event near you here.


See you on the street!




Crossroads Screening in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Event details


February 18, 2014

02:00 PM to
04:00 PM


Conference Room, SUHAKAM Office, 8th Floor, Block W-1, Centre Point Shopping Complex, 88800 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

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CR KK Screening

Crossroads tells the stories of people who have chosen or been forced to leave their homes. These are not only stories of struggle in a foreign land, but also of resilience and hope for a better future.

More information on the project is available here.

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