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Featured Filmmaker

Featured Filmmaker: Paradoc

Organisasi: Paradoc

Negeri:​ Indonesia

Pendiri: Linda Nursanti and Mada Ariya Putra

Paradoc adalah organisasi pembuat film yang bekerja bersama untuk menciptakan perubahan sosial menggunakan media audio visual. Dalam websitenya, mereka menyatakan “Video for Change” sebagai tipe kerja utama mereka.

Salah satu video karya mereka yang paling banyak dibicarakan adalah film berjudul “Lakardowo” yang memotret perlawanan warga masyarakat melawan polusi limbah beracun yang membahayakan lingkungan dan manusia dari sebuah tempat pembuangan limbah di Mojokerto, Jawa Timur. PT PRIA yang mengoperasikan tempat ini. Sejak 2010, warga Lakardowo telah menderita akibat kontaminasi limbah beracun. Hal ini juga membawa dampak kerusakan sosial dan ekonomi warga. Anak-anak dan perempuan menjadi korban tertinggi akibat pembuangan limbah beracun ke pemukiman warga ini.

Paradoc telah meraih berbagai nominasi penghargaan atas karya-karya mereka, termasuk nominasi “Film Dokumenter Terbaik” pada Festival Film Indonesia ke-33, Fitur Dokumenter Terbaik (Bekantan Award)” pada Festival Film Lingkungan Hidup di Kalimantan 2018 dan pilihan juri (Lanskap Program) pada Festival Film Dokumenter ke-17 tahun 2018 di Yogyakarta.

Kami berbincang dengan Paradoc untuk mengetahui lebih banyak soal kerja mereka.

Paradoc 1

 

EngageMedia (EM): Bagaimana Paradoc terbentuk?

Paradoc: Ide nama Paradoc berasal dari Mada Ariya Putra dari kata “paradoks”. Paradoc terbentuk dari kesamaan visi dan misi untuk berkarya bersama di genre dokumenter. Paradoc terbentuk tahun 2016, saat mulai mengalami film dokumenter “Lakardowo Mencari Keadilan”. Saat itu, Paradoc beranggotakan Linda Nursanti dan Mada Ariya Putra.

EM: Apa tujuan membuat dokumenter tentang warga Lakardowo di Mojokerto?

Paradoc: Awalnya dokumenter tersebut dibuat sebagai tugas akhir di Institut Seni Indonesia Surakarta. Seiring berjalannya proses riset, kami menyadari film ini penting untuk mengkampanyekan isu Lakardowo, karena belum banyak media (massa) yang mengekspos masalah di Lakardowo. Film ini juga menginformasikan tentang bahaya limbah B3, sehingga masyarakat bisa lebih kritis menyikapi pertumbuhan industri di sekitarnya.

Menurut kami, pertumbuhan industri tidak diimbangi dengan tempat pengolahan limbah B3 yang maksimal. Masyarakat yang tidak tahu bahaya limbah B3 menganggap limbah tersebut seperti pasir biasa, sehingga banyak yang menjualnya untuk bahan bangunan. (Note: screenshot film yg menunjukkan wujud limbah B3). Pemerintah juga tidak melakukan pencegahan limbah dan tidak menindak pelaku industri yang menghasilkan limbah.
Karena itu, film ini jadi punya misi besar.

EM: Bagaimana tanggapan warga Lakardowo saat mengetahui Paradoc akan membuat film tentang mereka?

Paradoc: Masyarakat sangat welcome namun tetap berhati-hati dengan “orang luar”, karena mereka kecewa dengan janji orang-orang yang ingin membantu mereka. Saya sendiri mengetahui kasus Lakardowo dari LSM Ecoton Indonesia. Niat kami membuat film langsung diterima masyarakat setelah tahu saya mengenal LSM Ecoton.

EM: Adakah pembelajaran yang bisa dibagi pada sesama pembuat film dokumenter dan advokasi, dari proses membuat film tersebut?

Paradoc: Banyak pelajaran yang kami dapat yang utama dalam membuat film dokumenter ini salah staunya adalah perlu adanya motivasi sebagai dorongan dalam proses pembuatan film. Hal ini mirip dengan kegelisahan diri melihat lingkungan sekitar yang kemudian disampaikan melalui karya film dokumenter tersebut. Hal itu akan memberikan nyawa pada film dokumenter sesuai dengan yang ingin kita sampaikan. Dan dengan film dokumenter selain dapat memberikan informasi dan edukasi juga bisa menjadi media advokasi untuk masyarakat, khususnya di Lakardowo.


EM: Bagaimana menurut Paradoc, tanggapan penonton sejauh ini?

Paradoc: Antusiasme yang tinggi dari penonton, terlihat dari banyaknya permintaan untuk mengakses film ini dari masyarakat guna diputar dalam nobar dan diskusi. Sudah banyak
kota yang memutar film Lakardowo Mencari Keadilan seperti Mojokerto, Yogyakarta, Solo, Tangerang, Jombang, Pasuruan, Malang, Bogor, Denpasar serta di Provinsi Aceh dan daerah lain dan ini akan terus bertambah di bulan-bulan mendatang di tahun 2019 ini. Setelah menonton film “Lakardowo Mencari Keadilan” banyak penonton yang ingin bersolidaritas dan mengunjungi langsung desa Lakardowo dan mengajukan diri membantu warga Lakardowo.


EM: Adakah kesan, masukan, atau kritik yang bisa diceritakan pada kami, misalnya dari tanggapan penonton?

Paradoc: Kesan yang kami terima dari penonton, terutama bahwa mereka dapat merasakan emosi yang diciptakan dalam film. Mereka juga baru mengetahui bahaya limbah B3 dan miris melihat kondisi di Lakardowo serta respon pemerintah yang lamban dan banyak pula ingin bersolidaritas langsung ke Lakardowo, terutama dari mahasiswa. Penonton jadinya ingin tahu lebih dari segi personal.

EM: Bagaimana pendapat Paradoc tentang penyebaran video dalam jaringan (online)? Membantu atau tidak? Jika belum, apa yang kiranya bisa mendukung
proses advokasi?

Paradoc: Sangat membantu, dengan melalui jaringan online dapat menjangkau lebih luas ke masyarakat umum. Namun mengandalkan media online saja tidak cukup, perlu diimbangi dengan kerja sama atau kolaborasi dengan suatu komunitas atau kelompok sehingga lebih cepat dan meluas dukungannya. Selain aksi secara online juga aksi di lapangan baik berupa menggalang dukungan melalui media seni (musik, film, gambar), orasi atau demo.

EM: Apa film yang sedang dikerjakan sekarang?

Paradoc: Saat ini kami sedang mengerjakan project “The Ant and The Elephant” yang masih tentang Lakardowo. Film ini bakal menitikberatkan pada lanjutan cerita perjuangan warga Lakardowo di meja hijau. Dan bedanya dari film sebelumnya adalah penyajian film ini lebih personal dan intim. Saat ini kami sampai pada proses produksi. Kami sangat membuka lebar kerja sama dalam pembuatan film dokumenter terutama isu-isu lingkungan.

Categories
Featured Filmmaker

Featured Filmmaker: Cha Roque

Name: Cha Roque

Position: Communications Director / Filmmaker

Organisation: Dakila Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism / CherryRed Films

Cha Roque is a literary writer, filmmaker, and LGBT advocate from the Philippines. She co-founded a video production house called CLP Videos for which she has directed, written and produced numerous videos for corporate, government, and non-government clients. She is also the Communications Director of DAKILA, an artist collective in the Philippines.

In an exchange over email with EngageMedia she tells her story of becoming and activist and a film maker. Below are excerpts from the interview.

EM: Tell us who you are as a filmmaker and how you began your career as one.

Cha Roque (CR): I took up Communication Arts in college. The course did not have a film major but we had film, TV production, and journalism classes among others. When I made a couple of films in college, it was when I realized that I wanted to be a filmmaker. After college, I worked for a production house where I learned the basics of making videos. After a few months, I put up my own video production house where I had the privilege of making videos for corporate, government, and non-government clients. In between work, I would sometimes shoot a short film – just for fun. I started taking filmmaking seriously when I joined the B-Change’s Stories of Being Me documentary series in 2013. I represented the Philippines as a grantee in that documentary series. Through that series, I got an invite from the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum to be a speaker and to show my film in the seminar. The seminar and the people I met there inspired me to keep doing what I love to do which is filmmaking. From then, I leaned towards making advocacy-themed and experimental passion films.

EM: Can you tell us about some of your more notable films?

Cha Roque: My documentary titled Slay is about a trans-androgynous genderqueer performance artist in the Philippines and how his gender expression makes him prone to discrimination premiered at the Hanoi International Queer Film Week (Hanoi, Vietnam 2017), and was also screened at the Asterisco Festival Internacional de Cine LGBTIQ (Buenos Aires, Argentina 2017).

My experimental documentary called What I Would’ve Told My Daughter if I Knew What to Say Back Then premiered at the Hanoi International Queer Film Week (Hanoi, Vietnam 2017), Dyke Drama Film Festival 2017 (Perth, Australia 2017), CineMakulay Film Festival 2017 (Manila, Philippines 2017), Taiwan International Queer Film Festival (Taiwan, 2017), Salzburg Global LGBT Forum (Salzburg, Austria 2017), Asterisco Festival Internacional de Cine LGBTIQ (Buenos Aires, Argentina 2017), ILGA Asia (Phnom Penh, Cambodia 2017). It will also be a part of the upcoming Manila Biennale 2018 under the Pink shorts program, and Official Selection for the 9th LGBT Film Festival 2018 in Poland.

My experimental film on gentrification entitled “I Went Out to Shoot Mere Glimpses of Beauty but the Trees Wanted a Selfie” is part of Fringe Manila 2018 under the Queer Earth, a series of multi-disciplinary creative works reflecting on the question: how can we holistically care for the earth and one another within the systems of gender & culture we inhabit? This film was entirely shot with a paper camera.

Lastly, my short narrative film on the war on drugs called Hapag (Dining Table) has recently been selected for the 14th IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival which will be held in March 2018 at New Delhi, India.

EM: Which would you say is your favorite, among the films you’ve made?

Cha Roque: For sentimental reasons, I would have to say “Itim na Tatsulok” (Black Triangle) which was a film I made in college. It’s my favorite because just like the story’s main character, I also went through some tough times while making the film. It was a lesbian film that I made when I was studying in a Catholic school. Some professors told me that the film almost cost me my diploma, some said that the film was prevented from garnering awards due to its “sensitive topic”. Surprisingly, it was nominated for 7 out of 9 awards, and won Best Editing. But the awards were really no big deal. What’s important for me that time is to make the film and be able to show it in a school where there are a lot of homophobic teachers and administration staff. Also, this film humbles me whenever I am reminded of it. Whenever I have doubts about my craft and myself, Itim na Tatsulok serves as a reminder of how I pulled off this film and how brave I was to challenge the institution I was in before.

Another favorite is What I Would’ve Told My Daughter if I Knew What to Say Back Then. Of all the films I made, this is the most personal and hardest to finish. It took me two years of editing 13 years worth of footage, and having the guts to share my re-imagined coming out to the world.

EM: What is the background to its story?

Cha Roque: What I Would’ve Told My Daughter if I Knew What to Say Back Then is a personal experimental documentary that was inspired from my failed coming out (as a Lesbian) to my daughter when she was just 3 years old. My coming out was stolen from me by her dad, so I made the film to take back that moment. Making the film and showing this to audiences around the world literally feels like standing naked in front of thousands of people. It is very private and personal, and yet a lot of people related to it.

EM: What were the opportunities you gained from producing the film?

Cha Roque: This film is the most featured from all of my works as of now. It has given me the opportunity to attend prestigious film festivals, and meet like-minded passion-driven people who I collaborate with now. I guess it’s a mix of having the privilege to tell stories that I believe deserve to be told while practicing my passion, and standing up for my advocacy.

EM: What first attracted you to work with film?

Cha Roque: I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller. When I was younger, I wanted to be a writer or a journalist but I fell in love with film because it gives me a freehand on how to present my story artistically. After a mentorship with an experimental filmmaker in the Philippines, my vision on films expanded even more. I think that’s the beauty of film for me, that you can still tell the same stories without having to conform to rules or the usual way of telling them.

EM: What are the challenges for you working in Philippine especially with current Social-Politico situations? What’s the mayor threat now?

Cha Roque: I recently made a film called Hapag which is a symbolic take on how the war on drugs in the Philippines affects families. Though I have been able to screen the film in a couple of screening in the Philippines, sometimes I’m also afraid of the implications of it to my safety. I’m glad that as of today, filmmakers and artists in the Philippines can still express what they want to say about the government and the other issues that concerns us but I fear of losing that freedom of expression soon if we let the socio-political situation stay the same.

EM: How can online distribution help your work, and what are your thoughts on online and offline distribution?

Cha Roque: Online distribution is very different from offline distribution in the sense of the experience it provides. As a filmmaker, I would always prefer live screenings where people can have a collective experience while watching the film and possibly a discussion after watching. But as an advocate, I recognize how online distribution makes it easier to reach wider audiences.

EM: What are you working on now and what’s your next project?

Cha Roque: I am still raising funds for White TransLady, an experimental dark comedy narrative film about a transgender woman who faces yet another struggle when she gets discriminated in the afterlife. This film is a peek at a transgender woman’s struggles but also an exposition that as humans we share the same sentiments, the same heartbreaks, the same joys, and the same hopes. The script, cast and crew for this have been finalized. Some people and production houses also volunteered their services for free. I am just still raising funds now so we can proceed to the shoot.

Aside from this, I am also working on a solo show of my passion project called PeliTula. PeliTula comes from the Filipino words pelikula (film), and tula (poetry). Film is a visual art form and poetry is more on the abstract world of thought and feeling rather than the literal world of things. PeliTula takes on the marriage of the two as an art form. This is the first time that I will be exhibiting my works at a gallery instead of a film screening. Each film is a collaboration of 2 or more artists. Coconet fellows Furhan Hussain, Maung Saungkha, and Seelan Palay will be collaborating with me for some of the pieces. The show will open at Seelan’s Coda Culture gallery in Singapore this coming year.

EM: Do you believe that films can change society?

Cha Roque: Yes, of course. Film (like any other art form) is very powerful in stirring emotions and shaping minds of people. Films have an exceptional power in telling stories and getting messages across. Using film for advocacies provides an opportunity to engage the audience on a more emotional and relatable level. Films don’t only inform, but also promote empathy, and open minds to understanding issues that seem to be none of the audience’s concern before. Films can also provide an alternative way of discussing topics that are taboo or are difficult to talk about openly.

We always say in Dakila, art may not change the world but it can change the way we view the world. I believe that as artists, we have the responsibility not only to entertain but also to use our art to help those who cannot raise their voices by telling their stories.

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Categories
Featured Filmmaker

Featured Filmmaker: Netting Supolrai (Mekong Nomad)

Name: Netting Jaruwan Supolrai aka Mekong Nomad

Location: Thailand

Speaking of the phrase “Mekong Nomad”, “Mekong” literally refers to “the Mekong River”. The word “Nomad refers to “a group of people who usually keep moving from one country to another”. Mekong Nomad Jaruwan Supolrai quit her job and equipped with a big backpack full of camera apparatus visited change-makers across the Mekong region who have become friends during her NGO work. The journey for her was to learn from friends in different countries and document it and share with others. She tells her story:

EM: Tell us who you are as a filmmaker and how you began your career as one.

Netting Jaruwan Supolrai [NJS]: I am not a professional filmmaker at all, just an amateur. I come from an NGO background. Throughout my Mekong Nomad film project, I used film or video as one of the tools to document my journey and communicate with my followers. I considered myself as a storyteller as I embarked on a journey across the Mekong countries.

Mekong Nomad on the roadMy solo journey was a self-driven initiative I took after six years working for a regional project called the Collaboration for the Young Generation in the Mekong Region under the Thai Volunteer Service Foundation (TVS) based in Bangkok, Thailand. I gathered experience in working with young change-makers in the Mekong region and several years later I felt that I was very much exhausted and burnt out from the work. At the same time, I was inspired by the stories of positive changes of my friends in the Mekong countries whom I met during my work. I realized that I needed to take some months off by traveling to visit them, to unlearn myself from their real lives in their country contexts and also to produce some interesting media stuff to inspire people.

I decided to resign from my full-time work and began my MekongNomad journey in mid-October 2014. It was an ambitious project and luckily I got enough support to get it started. The journey itself was self-funded (from my own savings) and my mother and father gave me some money. My film production is funded by the TVS.

EM: Can you tell us about some of your mentionable films?

NJS: I have produced mainly travel documentary films. They are about my travels to visit my friends in the Mekong region who are making positive changes in their communities. I wanted to learn about their real lives and what their dreams are at this young age. So I followed them to their hometowns. They hosted me at their houses and each country I visited, I stayed approximately one-month and produced one episode. My films consist of 5 episodes: Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar.

I told the stories in a simple way. Once I arrived in a certain country and visited their workplace or their community, I would start to film their surrounding environment, and their way of lives. Then I talked to them about what and why they were doing to pursue their dreams for themselves and their communities as a whole. Each film has been shot pretty much in the same mood and tone but slightly different and diverse in terms of the social issues depending on the socio-political contexts in each country.

Mekong Nomad interviewing

I think one of the mentionable films is the Cambodia episode: Memories of War Drive Young Cambodians Forwards. It was so touching and inspiring as it depicted how and why Cambodian young generation got strongly motivated to change their country for the better. This could be a consequence of the bitter history of Khmer Rouge regime that had resulted in millions of lives lost in Cambodia including many intellectuals who were supposed to help the country progress forward in the past few decades. Three youths in this episode had worked to advocate peacebuilding in their county and across the border and they do believe that young people are full of good energy and potentials to do creative things and change the society.

EM: Which one would you say is your favorite, among the films you have made?

NJS: Honestly, it is never easy to pick one. I love all the episodes, but my favorite one is the Myanmar episode: Peace is Every Breath. The travel to Myanmar itself was the most challenging, adventurous and exciting journey among the other four journeys.

EM: What is the background of the story?

NJS: My five-month long journey across the Mekong region is only one extended journey. To travel from one country to another country I only crossed land borders. Border crossing alone as a female traveler may sound dangerous for people in this region. It can be uncomfortable when you don’t speak the local language and they can’t communicate to you.

When I was preparing my travel plan to Myanmar, I started consulting a number of friends in Myanmar asking whether it was safe to cross the border to Myanmar and which border was convenient. During that time there was an active armed conflict between Myanmar soldiers and the different ethnic minority groups in Kayin State. I was told that no border crossings were safe, and the safest way to travel was by airplane. The week before the journey started, I rechecked with my friends in Myanmar and Thailand whether there was any on-going conflict at all. The green light was on and eventually, everything went smoothly. I crossed the border at Mae Sot province/Kayin state. But still, in my head, there were anxieties and worries thinking what would happen to me in the journey. In addition, I was the only Thai person in the van with other Myanmar passengers. No one spoke a word with me but only smiled at me during the journey from mountain to mountain and the road was so winding and dusty.

Mekong Nomad with friends

Once I arrived Yangon, I was so relieved. I was warmly welcomed by some local friends. They took me to different parts of Myanmar: from Children’s Home in the suburb of Yangon to Natmak, a town in middle part of Myanmar. It is the hometown of General Aung San where his 100th anniversary was celebrated. Also, I went to Myaungmya, a town in Irrawaddy delta area to meet with a group of community youth leaders. Overall, I was touched and spiritually empowered by the people I met and hearing their stories of efforts which contributed to positive changes in various Myanmar societies.

So in this episode, as a human being, I personally learned to overcome my own fears inside my mind and fears in the world outside – it has gone beyond a film production.

EM: What were the opportunities you explored from producing the film?

NJS: My journey was to promote peacebuilding and mutual understanding among people in the Mekong region. Being able to do storytelling and communicating is what I did but it was on a very small scale.  As you know, the social work I did has been in an alternative stream, not a lot of people are interested in them. Also, I myself am a low-profile person and not a lot of people in the mainstream knew about my small-scale project until they knew about me and my work.

One of the significant opportunities that I gained from producing the films is that I was very honored and lucky enough to be selected as one of the speakers at TEDxBangkok 2016. This opportunity had come to me at the right time as I was always looking for a mainstream platform to promote the values of my journey and inspire others to travel and explore the neighboring countries. Humanity is Borderless is the name of my talk and being a speaker at TEDxBangkok has shifted the way I worked to the next level and reach out to more people in the mainstream.

Me on a journeyEM: What first attracted you to work with videos?

NJS: Filming is not my first passion, but photography. The initial plan for my journey was not to make films at first. I have no experiences in filming before but I loved to watch documentary films quite a lot. During this journey, I first learned how to use the video mode of my DSLR camera. Initially, I was only planning to write a book and do photography about my journey. Then TVS (my former organization)  asked me whether I was interested to make films about my own journey and TVS would fund the film production cost. As the opportunity came, I said ‘yes’. I wanted to give it a try, even though I had no experiences in filming and I felt nervous to be in front of a camera (laugh).

Also, I was lucky to have a couple of friends who have a production house back in my hometown Ubon Ratchathani. They are professional filmmakers who produce documentary TV programs for the Thai PBS channel in Thailand. They were very passionate about my work and decided to join my team as the producer and the editor. This is how I got my production team.

EM: What are the challenges for you working in Thailand especially in the current Socio-Political situation?

NJS: The focus of the film project is to promote peace and mutual understanding among the people across the Mekong region. It is aimed to advance people-to-people relations among the ASEAN Community, which is the very first foundation to create a livable and sharing community in the region. This is what we always believed among the civil society organizations in Southeast Asia that I worked with. We presented the stories in the video as narratives of the ordinary people who are my friends making positive change within their communities. We are yet to face any challenge related to a current socio-political situation in Thailand.

EM: How can online distribution help your work, and what are your thoughts on online and offline distribution?

NJS: Online distribution helps my work a lot and it is really useful for a small-scale project like mine as we have a limited budget to do offline distribution on a bigger scale like professional filmmakers do. Social media platform provides free access to everyone in the world, who can watch my films. The videos are reaching out to different kinds of target audiences. We designed posters to advertise our film before the online launching. We launched the film every Saturday evening for five weeks continuously. The films are archived on two YouTube channels, one is my own channel (Mekong Nomad) and the other is the organization that funded my film production (Thai Volunteer Service). Also, we promote our film on different Facebook fan pages. My last episode had been launched in March 2017.

Mekong Nomad and friends

We have also tried offline distributions. In September 2017, I was invited to screen my film as a side event at the Mekong ICT camp in Siem Reap, Cambodia to an audience of more than 50 people. I chose to screen the Cambodia episode as most of the participants were Cambodian media persons and I got the opportunity to know directly how they feel after watching my film.

So, I think that offline and online distribution should go together at the same time to make your film distribution reachable to wider audiences, get the key message from the film out there to inspire the viewers as much as possible.

EM: What are you working on now and what’s your next project?

NJS: Currently, I am doing organic farming back in my hometown in Ubon Ratchathani, northeast Thailand, neighboring to Southern Laos. I work closely with a group of young farmers in my hometown community to develop our farms to be a learning place for everyone to come visit, stay, play, practice and learn about natural farming and food security. And we also are partnering with regional networks like the Mekong Youth Farm Network to help young farmers across the Mekong countries.

My next project is to promote organic food or safe food to people in my hometown community by growing organic vegetables and fruits and selling to them in order to boost a local economy.

Mekong Nomad Farm

In the future, when the right time comes, I will make a documentary film about the young people returning to their hometown community to become young creative farmers and analysing how their efforts can contribute to social transformation.

EM: Do you believe that films can change societies?

NJS: As many people know, our [ASEAN] region is full of conflicts, challenges, and social concerns, so promoting peace and mutual understanding amongst the people is very important. In the year 2015, the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) was officially established, it seems to promote only economic purpose rather than people-to-people relations.

My films are aimed to unlock the truth from what we think we already know from the mainstream media or other media like historical textbooks. For example, on my film on Cambodia, the border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia has somehow been considered just a political game and the news about the conflict that was mostly covered on media make the people of the two countries start to hate each other even without meeting one another. Actually, in nature human beings are born from love, not hate; we were not supposed to create hates at all.

In Thailand, we have many of documentary films and TV program highlighting our neighboring countries but most of them are mainly about tourist attractions, food, and culture. Not many such programs cover or reflect about the people-to-people relationship and social and environmental concerns and other dimensions in our regional societies.

I think that I have filled the gap that mainstream lacks. I do believe that my film can slowly change our regional societies positively in the long run.  I also hope that my film will encourage ordinary people to take backpacking trips around our region, making friends with the locals in each country, learn from them in their real life. I hope from their journeys they will unlearn from what they think they already know via the mainstream media.

EM: What have been the benefits and difficulties of working on a nomadic film project?

NJS: Out of this incredible journey, I personally gained benefits and faced difficulties both during and after the journeys. It helped my self-discovery, I totally learned to embrace the real value of loving and caring, fulfilled on my courage and trusts from humanity from my journey.

I faced difficulties and challenges during the post-production. I did a solo journey, my mission was tough, during the journey everything was done by myself. I was multi-tasking all the time e.g. planning, coordinating, selecting people for my video, filming, framing questions and interviewing. During the post-production, I realised I could plan and do things better as some of my choices made it difficult for my producer and the editor to edit the film.

Right after the return from my journey, I was totally broke (only about 100 baht left in my pocket!) and I had to do freelance translation work to earn my living. I needed to buy a new desktop computer and I had to borrow money from my mother as we did not have enough money at that time. During the editing process, I wrote the scripts, did graphic work and all English sub-titles and proofreading for sub-titles. At that time, I was also taking care of my dad who was terminally ill as he had a liver cancer in the final stage. It was one of the most difficult times of my life that I had to go through it all and he peacefully passed after my second episode was launched.

In total, it took two years to edit all 5 episodes of my films and the first episode was launched in January 2017. It may seem to be a very long time to edit film if you compare, but it was meaningful for me. It was worth waiting to work on this nomadic project: my energy, my struggles, my obstacles, my inspiration, my dreams and my hope, I put them all in my films. I am very very thankful to all of the people who have been a part of my Mekong Nomad journey.

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Featured Filmmaker

Featured Filmmaker: Ko Thaid Dhi


Tell us who you are as a filmmaker. How did you start out?

Around 2006, I joined a filmmaking workshop in Yangon which was organized by the Film and TV School of Academy of Performing Arts from Prague, Czech Republic. I got interested in cameras, and started working on short films and documentaries during the workshop. Later on, I also joined a documentary workshop by the Yangon Film School.

I was involved as a cinematographer in ‘Nargis: When Time Stopped Breathing’, which was the first feature-length documentary made by Myanmar filmmakers. In late 2008, I got a scholarship to study in FAMU, where my student film won the Best FAMU International award at the school festival and gave me a chance to study for my Masters in Cinematography.

Currently, I’m back in Myanmar and based in Yangon as an independent filmmaker.

Why did you choose to work with documentary or feature films and what first attracted you to it?

I grew up in a military-run region, so I was surrounded by propaganda. The world I lived in lacked reality and truth. I didn’t like it and I wanted to do something for the country. I know that anyone who got involved in politics could be sentenced to prison for 40 or 50 years at that time. And honestly, I was afraid of going to prison.

When I found out about documentary films at those workshops, I fell in love at first sight. I believe that with documentaries, we can show the reality of our society.

What is your favourite film among those you’ve worked on and what is the background to that story?

My favorite film would be ‘An Untitled Life’ by Shin Daewe, for which I was a cinematographer. The film is a portrait of an artist called Rahula. He’s a very interesting artist who used to be active in politics and was sent to an isolated prison on an island.

At that time, he was one of the few artists who dared to paint Aung San Su Kyi’s portrait and his own prison experience. That was around 2008, and the film portrayed him as an artist and more importantly a human being. However, his ideas on politics were in present in underlying layers of the film, and that’s why I like it.

I don’t like documentaries that take an overly straight forward approach on politics because I think that could make it look like just another work of propaganda from the other side. As I mentioned above, I’ve had enough with propaganda.

What are the challenges for you working in Myanmar?

As I was born during the time of military dictatorship in Myanmar, I’m used to working with challenges. I have to say that if you really want to tell a good story, there’s always a way you can make it happen.

How can online distribution help your work? Tell us more about how you use online and offline distribution.

After 2011, Facebook became a very useful tool for my work, but there are good and bad aspects to it at the same time.

For offline distribution, me and my wife, Thu Thu Shein, established a film festival called the Wathann Film Festival, which is the first film festival in Myanmar to show local documentaries and short films to local audiences. This year will be our 6th and the festival is growing fast.

What are you working on now and what’s your next project?

I’m currently working on my first feature-length fiction script called ‘Midnight Yangon’ with the writer, Aung Min. These days, there are quite a number of documentary workshops in Yangon. There have been more and more documentary filmmakers coming out of them, and they make really interesting films. I believe that Myanmar the documentary film scene is getting much more developed, and that’s why I’ve started to try to make something between documentary and fiction. I’m trying to base it on some real-life characters and events from our society and write a script around them.

I can also share something else about the story. There’s a saying in Myanmar that, “Night can’t be darker then midnight”. From that saying, I was inspired to ask the question, “In our society, what if our lives can become darker after midnight?”.

 

Do you think that your films or other films can change our society?

I don’t think our films can change the whole of society like magic. Maybe we can move one or two steps forward. Every step is crucial for us.

What’s your opinion on the future of Myanmar’s filmmaking industry and filmmakers?

I think the film industry in Myanmar will get better in the near future because there are so many young independent filmmakers coming forward these days.

With regards to filmmakers, there is one issue in my opinion. Some filmmakers are aiming to change society with a single short film, so they start to make very direct films which feed answers to the audience as to what is right and what is wrong, or how to think about this or that issue. So the films start to look like works of propaganda. Film is an art form that should open the minds of the audience.

Find out more about Thaid Dhi’s work at his website. The Watthan Film Festival runs from 7 to 11 September 2016 at the Waziyar Cinema in Yangon, Myanmar.

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Featured Filmmaker

Featured Filmmaker: Thet Oo Muang

Tell us who you are as a filmmaker and how you began your career as one.

I am primarily an artist and photographer. I made my first documentary film on the breeding of Kingfisher birds in the compound of my home. I was also working for INGOs as a communications officer and photographer, where I started recording videos of their events. In 2012, I got an opportunity to join the Yangon Film School, where I started studying in-depth documentary filmmaking. Since then, I’ve been working on documentary films and photography. Sometimes for organizations, and sometimes for myself.

Can you tell us about some of your more notable films?

After participating in the workshop, ‘The Art of Documentary Film Making’, by the Yangon Film School, I directed three documentary films. These are, ‘The Business’, ‘Cries and Whispers’, and ‘The Old Photographer’.

The Old Photographer’, which tells the story of an old photographer who lived in a a colonial building in Yangon, won 5th prize at the Singapore Myanmar Film Festival in 2013 and was also selected in some other film festivals.

The short documentary I made after that, ‘A Simple Wish’, was on of top 5 nominated films at the ‘Human Rights and Human Dignity International Film Festival in 2013, the ‘Cultural Unplugged Film Festival, and the ‘Viewster Film Festival’ in 2014. That film is about a young disabled girl who is lives in the remote delta region and how she struggled to get an education.

My fifth documentary, ‘Sound of Silence’, which is 21 minutes long, is about victims of the civil war and landmines in Myanmar. It was screened at the Human Rights and Human Dignity International Film Festival in 2014.

And my most recent film made in 2015, ‘Against All Odds’, is about the three women and how they deal with the personal issues they face in their lives.

Which would you say is your favourite, among the films you’ve made? What is the background to its story?

I love all my films because they’ve all been like stepping stones for me. I learn to make better films over time and from my previous mistakes. But if I have to pick a favourite, I’d say ‘Sound of Silence’.

The story revolves around the portrait of a former soldier who fought in the civil war in Myanmar which began in 1948 and lost both his legs due to a landmine. I hope that we can work to prevent such kinds of wars by looking at the brutality of it and landmines in the film. With the film, I also hope to share with the wider audience the idea of the beauty of hope and love over violence and war.

Would you consider ‘Sound of Silence’ a personal milestone? Did you face any difficulties when making it?

Yes, it might be another milestone after ‘The Old Photographer’. The difference though, is that I mostly worked on the film alone, which made it take up more time than usual. It also meant that I didn’t have enough budget and time to promote the film after its production. I also faced secondary trauma from the bloody war footage and sorrowful story.

I hate war. Any kind of war. And it just so happened that I was a neighbor of a victim of the civil war. Despite the political situation in the country not being good at the time, my protagonist trusted and warmly welcomed me to share his life experience. I think this was because I grew up his neighbor, and I don’t suppose he would have accept any other filmmaker. So he spoke very openly to me.

Another remarkable stroke of luck was finding raw footage of the civil war. This film was created with only passion and luck. I myself am not sure if I’ll ever get a chance to make a film like this again.

What were the opportunities you gained from producing the film?

The biggest opportunity for me is having film festivals show our films. And also with the help of the Internet, I’ve been able to connect with festivals and share the film with people in many other countries. So far, ‘Sound of Silence’ has been screened in Indonesia, India and Singapore. It’s also going to screen in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Iran soon. This is all thanks to friends and the advantages that the Internet provides.

What first attracted you to work with documentary film?

I chose to be a documentary filmmaker because I want to I tell the many untold stories of Myanmar. I believe that real stories are more powerful than works of fiction. Documentaries can move people, raise their voices, and push society forward. It can foster awareness, advocate for those in need, and unite people.

I believe that documentary films and photographs are perfect weapons to bring about positive change. That’s why I’ve dedicated myself to be a change-maker, with these powerful weapons in my hands.

I also want to share the experiences of our time to future generations. To let them know, how we have lived in this era. They will not only of our good experiences, but also of our mistakes, which they can learn from and avoid. This is what has attracted me so much to keep going as a filmmaker and storyteller.

What are the challenges for you working in Myanmar?

Firstly, our challenge is having spaces for learning. We do not have film schools or good training centres for film in Myanmar. We do not have enough books in local languages to learn about filmmaking. We do have some private institutions such as the Yangon Film School, but it only accepts 12 students per course over a two-year duration.

Secondly, if you are making a film about or shooting sensitive issues, it is very risky. It’s extraordinary that we don’t have any organizations or groups to support the film and video makers in that regard.

How can online distribution help your work, and what are your thoughts on online and offline distribution?

I haven’t tried a very planned online distribution method yet, but I do upload some of my films to YouTube and send them to festivals via cloud storage like Dropbox or Vimeo. Online sharing is definitely easier and more effective (when the internet connection speed is good) to share our work with international festivals and the wider audience.

What are you working on now and what’s your next project?

The lastest project I’m working on is a documentary film on illegal logging in Myanmar. It’s now in the final stage of editing and I hope to release it soon on YouTube/Vimeo and local and international film festivals.

Do you believe that films can change society?

Of course I believe in that. Even if we cannot change things immediately, we can at least push a little bit to move forward, which is better than not moving at all.

Find out more about Thet Oo Maung’s work at his website, and check out other featured filmmakers from the Asia-Pacific region here.

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Featured Filmmaker

Featured Filmmaker: Joseph Israel Laban


Name:
Joseph Israel Laban

Age: 34

Location: Quezon City, Philippines

1. Tell us who you are as a filmmaker.

As a filmmaker I am interested in telling the truth through film by committing various facets of the Filipino experience to the moving image.

2. Why did you decide to work with the moving image? What was your journey?

I am a Tagalog filmmaker and journalist born and raised in the small island province of Marinduque in the Southern Tagalog region of the Philippines.

I have always loved telling stories. I grew up watching second-run Filipino, American and Chinese movies at a local movie house where my grandfather would take me at least thrice a week. Filmmaking for me is both a creative process of expressing one’s self and at the same time a medium by which stories can be told in an elucidating and compelling manner. I am interested in filmmaking because I feel it is the most effective medium that a story can be told. Whereas artistic expression used to be manifested in oil and canvass or plaster and marble, the motion picture for me is this era’s medium of art.

Filmmaking, for me, came from a place of wanting to tell stories. I started as a writer, then a television producer, then a documentary filmmaker. From there it just naturally progressed to making narrative films.

3. What are the main issues you address in your video work?

I am partial to making stories that show the inequities of modern society in the context of the Philippine experience.

4. What are the challenges of working in Philippines as a filmmaker?

There are obvious complications like safety and harassment from authorities when tackling certain subjects. But there are less obvious but equally insidious challenges like economic pressures or limiting access to institutional support when producing works that are critical of the government or certain groups like the Catholic Church.

5. Could you tell us more about your work in the region and beyond?

To be viable, I do a number of things at the same time. I make narrative films. I directed, wrote and produced two films for Cinemalaya (a local independent film festival): ‘Cuchera’ and ‘Nuwebe’, which have been screened in over 60 international film festivals. ‘Cuchera’ was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival – Discovery Section as well as other festivals including Stockholm, Fribourg, Cleveland and Belgrade. ‘Nuwebe’, also produced under Cinemalaya, has also been screened in numerous international film festivals including Montreal, Vancouver, Geneva and Goteborg. It has won several recognitions including awards from the Queens World Film Festival (Special Mention for Directing), Harlem International Film Festival (Best Actress) in New York City, Lume International Film Festival (Special Mention) in Brazil, Festival Internacional de Cine Puebla (Special Mention) in Mexico and the 2015 ASEAN International Film Festival and Awards (Best Director) in Sarawak, Malaysia.

I also own One Big Fight Productions, which co-produced the Cinemalaya film Children’s Show directed by first-time director Roderick Cabrido. Aside from winning a number of awards from Cinemalaya, the film has so far been recognized at Fantasporto: 35th Oporto International Film Festival in Portugal, the Fantastic Cinema Festival of the Film Society of Little Rock in Arkansas, USA and the Gwangju International Film Festival in South Korea where it won the Grand Prize. It also competed at the Fribourg International Film Festival in Switzerland.

Cuchera

I am also the Founder and Festival Director of the CineTotoo Philippine International Documentary Film Festival, the biggest documentary film festival in the Philippines. I curated the Philippine edition of  the 2015 ChopShots Travelling Documentary Film Festival for the Goethe-Institut. I am also a member of the Selection Committee of DoQC, the documentary section of the 2015 Quezon City International Film Festival.

I was a Fellow of the DocNet Producer’s Strategy Workshop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2013. I attended the Berlinale Talents at the Berlin International Film Festival last year. In June, as you know, I participated in EngageMedia’s Southeast Asia Video Camp in Myanmar. In July, I attended the Taipei Produire au Sud Workshop conducted by the Nantes Festival des 3 Continents. In August, I attended the INTERDOC Masterclass in Serbia and I presented my film Nuwebe at the KL Converge! in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Last September, New York University in Abu Dhabi invited me to present my Nuwebe and conduct a filmmaking workshop at NYUAD Arts Center.

Aside from my work in film, I am also currently working as a Creative Consultant of GMA News and Public Affairs assigned to such programs as Front Row where I am an Executive Producer, Director and Writer; and Reporter’s Notebook where I work as Head Writer. I was also the Executive Producer of various special projects including ‘Si PNoy at ang Pinoy;, which featured the first sit-down television interview with President Benigno Aquino III and the historic 3D coverage of President Aquino’s inauguration – a first for Philippine Television. I previously worked for the Probe Team as Producer, Writer and Editor. My work as a filmmaker has taken me to various places: from Malacañang, to Kalingalan Caluang in Sulu, to other countries like East Timor, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Serbia, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Singapore, Canada, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Myanmar.

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My awards in journalism include: the Grand Prize at the 2014 UNICEF Asia Pacific Child Rights Award, a Gold World Medal at the 2008 New York Festivals for Television, two Silver World Medals at the 2012 New York Festivals for Television, a Finalist Certificate at the 2013 New York Festivals for Television, Silver Screen Awards at the 2008 and 2014 US International Film and Video Festival, finalist citations at the 2014 International URTI Grand Prix for Author’s Documentary in Monaco, 2012 PopDev Television Awards and an Ani ng Dangal Award from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

Aside from my work in television and film, I also contribute to print and online media. I contributed articles and video work to The New York Times, Channel News Asia and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ).

6. You were also participant at our Southeast Asia Video Camp, Camp Chindwin. Can you tell us more about your experience there?

It was, without exaggeration, one of the best if not the best film camp I have ever attended. The collaborative atmosphere carefully cultivated by the organizers encouraged a very productive exchange of ideas. I wish we could have followed through with the plans that were formulated during the event. I think it would made a real difference.

7. What are some of your favorite personal video productions?

One of my most favorite works is my short film ‘Happy New Year’. It got a very limited international festival run but it is a personal favorite because of the creative process it took to make it.

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

Online distribution of films in the Philippines is still very limited. It remains secondary to traditional distribution platforms like cinemas or television. But its influence is growing specially among social media savvy millennials.

9. We understand that some of your work, such as the film, ‘Happy New Year’, are considered out-of-bounds even for film festivals in Asia. Could you tell us a bit more about that particular film and your thoughts on this situation that you face?

Aside from censorship from the state apparatus, I think an equally dangerous impediment to filmmaking in the region is self-censorship. Gatekeepers of content, be it at film festivals or commercial cinemas, censor their choices to avoid conflict with authorities or their perception of what their audience can handle.

‘Happy New Year’ and my other film ‘Nuwebe’ got programmed in a number of Asian festivals only to be told that the censors’ bureau asked them to drop it. This has happened to me more than at least 5 times. In some cases, festival programmers would tell me that they liked the film but they fear that it wont pass their government’s standards as such they would program something less controversial.

10. What’s next for you in terms of personal projects?

I am in the development stage of two narrative films and in the post-production stage of another. The next one that we will release is ‘Tuos’, a feature length narrative film that I co-produced for Cinemalaya 2016.

Check out other featured filmmakers from the Asia-Pacific region here.

Categories
Featured Filmmaker

Featured Filmmaker: Asrida Elisabeth

 

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Asrida Elisabeth. I’m from Flores, East Nusa Tenggara Province, or NTT for short. Since 2011, I’ve worked in Papua with pastor Jhon Djonga as an assistant, to be exact. I was helping with activities outside the religious work and it just happened that the pastor was also an activist.

We documented many social problems, visited and screened films at many villages in Wamena. So many times, we went to areas that were very remote and without electricity. During our visits to these areas, we usually brought films to screen. For the areas which didn’t have electricity, we carried gasoline for a generator. If there wasn’t a generator, we will carry one ourselves too from our place..

What are your thoughts on the audio-visual medium as an advocacy tool?

For me, video has the power to enable people to grasp messages transferred through images because video is audio-visual. When we travel around, we screen films in many areas. When we were traveling and screening films, we asked people to express their opinions after watching them. This experience, having seen the power of video, enabled me to know that with audio-visual mediums we can easily share messages, any kinds of messages we want to share with the audience, to society.

In the beginning, we played educational videos, and noticed how people were so interested in this media. This media facilitated people to gather around. If we play films in villages or churches, people easily gather. Then, we thought, all of these films were brought here from another location. How about if we were the ones making films about our own people, and watch them together? After we have watch the films we could discuss about our own lives. So if there are certain issues in society, we can make a film and discuss it.

Along the way, I made friends with people from Papuan Voices. Coincidentally, there was brother Frangky (FX Making). I met and learned from friends in EngageMedia. I first learned how to make films from them. Early on, I learned how to shoot, conduct a proper interview, camera positioning and so on. After that, I started to make my own videos that I sent to some film festivals. So I’ve had two videos produced independently.

I then saw an announcement by Project Change. And at that time it was a theme on women and marginal communities. That issue was not alien to me since I worked a lot with women and marginal communities in my work. And so there were a lot of things I could say on this theme. After the selection process, they accepted my idea. Then, finally, we started to produce the film to be more complete.

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How have people reacted to advocacy films?

I saw society respond in many different ways and express diverse opinions. Usually, from my own experience, when I did screenings in many communities in Papua, most of the films are stories from different places, stories about health, education, or other topics.

People always reflected on these stories in relation to their own daily lives. Media helps people to open their eyes about their surrounding environment and look at problems that happen in it, that are related to the film that watch. So even though those films were brought from other places, when audiences tried expressing their opinions they really wanted to compare what’s on the film and the life of the people in their area, within their context.

Could you tell us more about your film, ‘Tanah Mama’?

I submitted the story of Tanah Mama to Project Change in 2013. Early on, I tried to show the daily lives of mama (the Papuan mothers) in the town of Wamena. As a matter a fact, I was working for one year in that area.

I wanted to showcase my subject, Mama Halusina, who also has a role as a village midwife. She helped other mothers in many villages to give birth, and sometimes the location is quite far away. Because of the lack of infrastructure and geographical isolation, many women and children, can’t access the health facilities. Even in a situation where she needs to struggle for her own family, she still is trying to help other women. They are as poor as she is.

Well, about Mama Halusina… As we know, documentary film really depends on the situation of the character, who we want telling his/her story. Right in the middle of our research, Mama Halusina faced a problem. She was cast out of her village based on an accusation that she stole sweet potatoes that belonged to other people. So while my story was about a Mama who was a midwife, other things happened to my main character.

I was quite disoriented about how to film this problem and I shared my struggle with my mentor (Ucu Agustin). They told me that this story (about mama Halusina’s conflicts) was also very interesting and doesn’t divert from the original idea. It was still in the same line, about how women in Wamena struggle to survive. Then we moved to the pictures production and at that time we did it faster than our schedule. So after that, we got this version of Tanah Mama, the one we just saw.

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What were the impressions of the audience after watching ‘Tanah Mama’?

As usual, if we played it in front of activists, they would raise questions about what the government is doing in this area, what are the indigenous norms/laws on the roles of women, polygamy, women’s access to land and other issues.

But when we screened it to the common people, based on what we experienced screening in Wamena, in Mama Halusina’s village or villages nearby, people saw this film and reflected on their own lives. So this story reminded them of their actual experiences.

Why was the film withdrawn from the Melanesia Cultural Festival?

Actually, long before this festival, I was well-aware about the discourse on this “Melindo”, Melanesia-Indonesia. It was a new word, created after President Jokowi took power. Before this, there was no talk about Melindo, or that in Indonesia there was a Melanesian identity.

And I was informed about how Papuan activists were struggling overseas. They tried to get some degree of acknowledgement of their lobby in the pacific region on Papua’s fate. This lobby was quite strong and received good support from Melanesian nations who gathered as the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). After this activity, then came a discourse about the culture of Melanesian people in Indonesia.

This Melindo, according to Indonesia’s government, included Papua, Papua Barat, Maluku, Maluku Utara, and NTT. I myself am from NTT. I see this event as only being about political interests, and not particularly keen to promote Melanesian culture. It was not about honoring Melanesian culture, but more about how Indonesia’s government is trying to prove to the Papuan people that they are not the only one entity able to claim the Melanesian culture or race. There are many areas in Indonesia that are also part of Melanesian culture.

They wanted to prevent Papuan people from getting a place in a forum such as the MSG. The real reason behind why Papuan activists need to lobby Melanesian nations was about the struggle over thousands of human rights violations that happened on Papuan soil. These cases were never addressed or solved by Indonesia’s government. These violations are still happening and continue without settlement. So the Papuans need to have their voices heard somewhere else. And when they started to get a platform, the Indonesian government came up with Melanesian cultural politics.

I assumed that my act to withdraw my film from this event was only a small step. I didn’t want to be part of this activity. I can’t let this Melindo use my film, as if I was supporting their ideas. Because since the beginning, many people have been asking about this Melindo event. As I’m also from NTT, these sort of activities clearly hurt the feelings of many people in Papua, where I’m working now.

Watch the trailer for ‘Tanah Mama’ here.

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Featured Filmmaker

Filmmaker of the Month: Asrida Elisabeth (Indonesian)

Baru-baru ini pembuat video, Asrida Elisabeth memperoleh penghargaan sebagai pemenang dari kategori dokumenter panjang Festival Film Dokumenter – FFD 2015 di Yogyakarta. Berikut wawancara Engagemedia dengan Asrida Elisabeth.

Tentang Filmmaker

Nama saya, Asrida Elisabeth. Saya orang Flores di Provinsi Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT). Sejak 2011 lalu, bekerja di Papua membantu pastor Jon Djonga tepatnya sebagai asisten karena saya mengerjakan banyak hal yang merupakan kerja-kerja di luar liturgi.

Kebetulan Pater (pastor Jon Djonga), disamping sebagai pastor, dia juga aktivis sehingga saya lebih banyak membantu pekerjaan-pekerjaan Pater yang ada. Bersama Pater saya turut mendokumentasikan berbagai permasalahan sosial, juga sering ikut melakukan pemutaran film di kampung-kampung. Lokasinya entah di pedalaman, ataupun di daerah yang sudah ada akses listriknya. Dalam kunjungan kami ke daerah-daerah tersebut biasanya kita selalu membawa film untuk ditonton. Jika di daerah tersebut tidak ada listrik, kita sebelumnya akan membawa bensin. Bahkan jika di tempat tersebut tidak ada generator listrik kita biasanya membawanya sendiri.

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Pendapat mengenai Media Audio-Visual

Bagi saya video memiliki kekuatan yang memudahkan orang mudah menangkap pesan lewat video karena video bersifat audio-visual. Jadi saat saya berkeliling, biasanya memutarkan film, lalu mengajak masyarakat untuk berpendapat dari apa yang mereka lihat di film-film itu. Pengalaman ini membuat saya mengetahui bahwa video (media audio-visual) membuat kita bisa lebih mudah menyampaikan pesan, apapun yang ingin kita sampaikan kepada penonton, kepada masyarakat.

Awal Belajar Video

Awalnya kami hanya memutarkan film, lalu melihat bahwa masyarakat sangat tertarik dengan media audio-visual. Media ini memudahkan orang untuk berkumpul. Jika kami memutar film di kampung atau di gereja jadi orang dengan mudah datang dan berkumpul. Lalu kemudian, saya berpikir film-film yang kita putar ini adalah film-film yang dibawa dari tempat lain, bagaimana jika orang-orang disini yang kami filmkan, lalu filmnya kita tonton bersama. Setelah menonton kita mendiskusikan kehidupan kita sendiri. Jadi ada masalah di dalam masyarakat, kita buatkan media audio-visual lalu ditonton bersama dan didiskusikan bersama, dari situ awalnya.

Kemudian, saya bertemu dengan teman-teman di Papuan Voices. Kebetulan ada kak Frangky (FX. Making). Saya juga pernah juga bertemu langsung dengan teman-teman EngageMedia, dengan mereka ini saya belajar membuat film. Awalnya belajar mengambil gambar, bagaimana mewawancarai, teknik pengambilan gambar yang baik, posisi kamera, dan lain sebagainya. Lalu kemudian belajar membuat video-video saya sendiri. Setelah itu saya mulai mengirimkan video ke beberapa festival. Jadi saya sudah membuat dua video sendiri secara independen.

Berikutnya ada pengumuman dari Project Change, kebetulan isu yang mengangkat isu perempuan dan kelompok minoritas. Nah, kebetulan saya juga banyak berhubungan dengan perempuan dan kelompok minoritas di daaerah saya bekerja, ada ide yang saya ingin sampaikan. Setelah menjalani proses seleksi dan diterima akhirnya filmnya diproduksi dan akhirnya menjadi film yang utuh.

Bagaimana Masyarakat Bereaksi terhadap Film

Saya melihat respon masyarakat ketika menonton film itu macam-macam. Biasanya menurut pengalaman saya ketika memutar film-film di komunitas meski film tersebut berisikan cerita dari tempat lain, entah cerita tentang kesehatan, tentang pendidikan, mereka (masyarakat) merefleksikan apa yang ada di dalam gambar itu kepada kehidupan mereka sehari-hari. Media itu seperti membantu orang untuk melihat sekeliling mereka, melihat masalah-masalah yang juga terjadi yang ada kaitannya dengan film yang sedang ditonton. Jadi meskipun filmnya dari tempat lain tapi ketika ditonton dan masyarakat berkomentar mereka selalu berusaha menghubungkan apa yang ada di dalam film, dengan kehidupan masyarakat di lokasinya, dengan konteks masyarakat di tempat pemutaran film itu.

Soal Film Tanah Mama

Saya memasukkan cerita tanah mama ke Project Change 2013. Awalnya cerita yang saya mau angkat itu soal keseharian hidup mama-mama di Wamena. Kebetulan saat membuat film Tanah Mama itu, saya sudah setahun lebih berada di Wamena. Saya ingin angkat dari subyek Mama Halusina itu soal dia berperan sebagai dukun beranak. Di Wamena, Papua, aktivitas semacam itu tidak disebut dukun beranak namun dia bisa dikata mama Halusina bekerja seperti bidan kampung. Dia membantu mama-mama lain di kampung yang melahirkan karena wilayah itu letaknya sangat jauh sehingga kaum perempuan dan anak susah sekali untuk mengakses layanan kesehatan. Nah, di tengah kesulitan ini, dimana ia juga dia juga berjuang untuk keluarga, mama Halusina masih menyediakan waktu menolong mama-mama yang lain yang sebenarnya hidupnya tidak jauh berbeda sulit dengan dirinya.

Nah ini cerita awal saya tentang mama Halusina. Lalu karena ini dokumenter, sehingga cerita kita sangat tergantung dengan kondisi karakter yang ingin kita ceritakan. Di tengah-tengah riset saya, mama Halosina mendapat masalah, dia harus pindah ke kampung lain, karena mengambil ubi milik keluarga yang lain. Karena waktu itu ide cerita saya mengenai mama sebagai dukun beranak sudah diterima oleh Project Change, sementara ada masalah lain yang terjadi terhadap mama sebagai karakter utama, saya jadi bingung bagaimana cara memfilmkan cerita ini. Kegundahan ini saya sampaikan itu kepada produser dan mentor (Ucu Agustin). HTML5 Icon Lalu mereka bilang itu juga cerita yang sangat menarik karena hal itu tidak berbeda jauh dengan ide cerita awal yang ingin mengangkat soal tanggungjawab sehari-hari menjadi perempuan di daerah itu. Kemudian, proses pengambil gambar tanah mama itu dipercepat sehingga jadi film Tanah Mama versi yang sekarang bisa ditonton itu.

Kesan dan Tanggapan Penonton

Biasanya jika film Tanah Mama diputar di kalangan aktivis akan banyak pertanyaan soal bagaimana kehadiran pemerintah di sana, bagaimana adat memposisikan perempuan, bagaimana poligami, bagaimana hal perempuan atas tanah, dan macam-macam lain. Namun ketika film ini diputar di masyarakat, setidaknya dari pengalaman pemutaran mandiri yang saya lakukan di misalnya, Wamena, memang seperti saya jelaskan di awal, ketika itu diputar di kalangan masyarakat atau komunitas langsung semua melihat film itu dan merefleksikan kehidupan mereka sendiri. Jadinya cerita di layar itu mengingatkan mereka pada situasi nyata pengalaman hidup sehari-hari.

Penarikan Film Tanah Mama dari Festival Melanesia

Sebenarnya jauh sebelum festival itu dilaksanakan saya cukup mengikuti bagaimana wacana soal Melindo, Melanesia-Indonesia. Itu sebenarnya istilah baru, yang baru saja ada sejak jaman pemerintahan Presiden Jokowi. Jadi jauh sebelumnya sama sekali tidak ada pembahasan mengenai Melindo, di Indonesia ini ada yang disebut Melanesia. Saya juga cukup mengetahui informasi mengenai perjuangan aktivis Papua di luar negeri. Apa saja yang sedang mereka lobi di kawasan Pasifik mengenai nasib Papua. Lobi tersebut cukup kuat karena mendapat sorotan khusus di MSG, Melanesian Spearhead Group. Tidak lama setelah itu, muncul berbagai wacana seputar Melanesia Indonesia itu.

Melindo menurut pemerintah itu termasuk Papua, Papua Barat, Maluku, Maluku Utara dan NTT, kebetulan sekali saya juga orang NTT. Saya melihat acara ini hanya dibuat untuk tujuan politik tertentu, dan tidak benar-benar ingin mengangkat masalah Melanesia. Bukan benar-benar soal penghargaan terhadap budaya Melanesia. Tapi lebih soal bagaimana Indonesia ingin membuktikan pada orang Papua bahwa di Indonesia ini bukan hanya Papua yang Melanesia. Namun ada orang-orang lain di daerah lain juga yang Melanesia.

Mereka seperti ingin menghalang-halangi orang Papua mendapat tempat di MSG. Sebenarnya kenapa mereka (para aktivis Papua) ke forum MSG adalah karena perjuangan orang Papua atas begitu banyak pelanggaran HAM yang tidak direspon oleh pemerintah. Peristiwa-peristiwa itu dilupakan begitu saja, terjadi terus menerus, lalu tidak ada penyelesaiannya. Sehingga orang Papua mencari ruang lain dimana di situ mereka mulai mendapat tempat di situ. Saat itulah pemerintah Indonesia muncul lagi mengetengahkan politik Melanesia Indonesia.

Penarikan film ini hanya bagian kecil saja. Tapi saya tidak ingin menjadi bagian dari acara Melindo ini. Saya tidak ingin film ini dipakai sebagai, seolah-olah sebagai pembuat film saya juga setuju dengan ide Melanesia Indonesia itu. Karena dibalik pembentukannya telah menjadi tanda tanya berbagai pihak, bagi saya sendiri orang NTT, dan saya yakin hal itu menyakiti perasaan orang Papua dimana saya bekerja.

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Featured Filmmaker

Featured Filmmaker: Thet Paing Kha


Name:
Thet Paing Kha (Joosk)

Age: 26

Location: Yangon, Myanmar

Tell us who you are as a filmmaker. How did you start your career?
Panzagar StickersI’ve been working on cartoons since childhood and high school, I started working with video by directing a music video for a heavy metal song. My goal was to attend an art university abroad, but I couldn’t afford it and went to a local university instead. While pursuing a course in electrical engineering at the University of Technology at Thanlyin, I continued making designs, cartoons and studied photography and lighting technology. After graduation, I decided to pursue my intended career goal, and I currently work with the creative team at Democratic Voice of Burma TV.

I’m also the co-founder of JOOSK Illustration, which was well-known for creating Facebook stickers in Burmese as part of the ‘Panzagar‘ anti-hate speech campaign by MIDO, a local technology NGO. You can read some media coverage on the campaign here, here, and here.

2. Why did you choose to work with animation and what first attracted you to it?
I really love cartoons and animated film. I’ve always drawn out characters after watching films. I realized that I’m very interested in producing animation and I wanted to become a good animator and director. In Myanmar, there’s not a lot of development in the animation field and so I really wanted to contribute to it.

3. What are the challenges for you working in Myanmar?
There are currently no schools in Myanmar for visual effects and animation. The Internet is very slow here, so it’s not easy to study online either. Most parents want their children to become doctors and engineers. Some have a negative perception of our field, and restricted their children from getting into it. It’s a really difficult situation for all of us.

4. What is your favorite film?
The film I like best is ‘My Neighbor Totoro’, an animated film from Japan. It tells the story of the two young daughters of a professor and their interactions with a cute wood spirit called Totoro. I always feel inspired after watching it.

5. How can online distribution help your work? Tell us more about how to use offline and online distribution.
I think online distribution is more effective for filmmakers. Today, social media helps spread our work much further. We are able to know how many people are watching our films and see likes and comments. It makes it much more easier for us to understand the impact of our work. Offline distribution such as producing DVDs and airing on TV channels is good too, but we need to set aside specific time to do it.

6. What are you currently working on and what is your next project?
My next goal is to produce an educational cartoon TV series. The background may be historical folk tales from Myanmar, mixing science fiction and ancient themes.

7. What benefits or differences do you see in using animation compared to film for social change?”
I think animation is very effective in imparting new knowledge and visions to the people. We don’t even need to mention any of the cartoon characters’ names. People can understand animated film within a minute because the pictures are very clear and descriptive.

Another good aspect of animation is that it can more easily address sensitive issues such anti-hate speech. It will not be simple to run a successful anti-hate speech campaign in Myanmar, but we used quotes with cute characters for the Panzagar campaign and people loved it. Our teams’ goal is peace building and the it was clearly understood by the audience. So I think animation is better for communicating sensitive issues.

Check out our other featured filmmakers from the Asia-Pacific region here.

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Featured Filmmaker

Featured Filmmaker: Yang Chuan Ju

Name: Yang Chuan Ju 楊鵑如

Age: 29

Location: Taiwan, Taipei

1. Tell us who you are as a filmmaker.

I graduated from the Department of Radio, TV and Film at Shih Hsin University and specialized in radio. During my college life I was inspired by the movement of saving the Lo-Sheng Sanatorium, and hosting a radio show. Due to my concern of social movements, I took a class by professor Chung-Hsiang Kuang. I began to work on the project of’ building [email protected] during the Taiwan e-Learning & Digital Archives Program in 2007. I started filming social movements in Civilmedia in 2008 and I was a photographer until the project ended in July 2012. Now Civilmedia has become an aggregate corporation and keeps filming social movements.

2. How did you come to video as a medium? Why do you work with the moving image?
“The news of today is the history of tomorrow”. Civilmedia uses film to record social movements, then uploading and spreading through the Internet. And we founded a database so people can search and watch those films online. We use Creative Commons, therefore people can use them for nonprofit purposes and increase the visibility of a subject. Unlike the mainstream media, it’s hard for us to get original image which we can use. The films of Civilmedia are for the public, which makes me think that what I’m doing is meaningful.

3. What are the challenges for you working in Taiwan?
The challenge is that most people and government officials are unfamiliar to alternative media. It becomes a barrier when we want to interview. One of the difficulties we face is that we have to prove our legitimacy. The biggest difficulty is that the police usually interfere in our work and even stop our filming in many social movement events.

4. We recently featured your video, ‘Occupy Taiwan Parliament’. What is the background to this story and can you give us an update on that issue?
The Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) is a treaty between mainland China and Taiwan which was signed in June 2013 to liberalize trade in services between the two economies but is currently not ratified by the Taiwanese legislature. Under the terms of the treaty, service industries such as banking, healthcare, tourism, film, telecommunications, and publishing would be opened to investment and businessmen would be able to obtain indefinitely renewable visas for the other territories. It would become easier for businesses to set up offices and branches in other territories and for large stakes in businesses to be sold to other investors.


In March 2014, the Sunflower Student Movement began. The movement opposed the CSSTA, protesting the agreement on the grounds that the Kuomintang (KMT) leadership in Taiwan negotiated and attempted ratification through undemocratic processes.

After the Sunflower Student Movement, some people set up a social movement called Taiwan March. In addition to achieving their demands on the CSSTA, Taiwan March also put lots of effort into modifying the referendum law in Taiwan. As for other citizens in Taiwan, they still continue campaigning for other social issues and want to make their own movements different after they were inspired by the spirit of the Sunflower Student Movement.

I was among several hundreds of students and protesters who occupied the Taiwanese parliament building. We were there to protest against the legislative ambush by the ruling nationalist party, which passed the Service trade agreement with China in a joint committee meeting. This agreement is expected to cast huge impacts on the lives of ordinary people, including considerable job losses or worsened working conditions in several industries. It is also feared that the agreement would pave ways by which China could increase its dominance in Taiwan’s economy and even politics.

The process of developing this agreement has been criticized for the lack of transparency and participation by those affected, and has caused great concern in Taiwan. In the last round of cross-party negotiations, it was agreed that it should be debated and voted item by item in the parliament. However, the Nationalist Party broke this promise, passing the agreement with some unimaginable legislative tactics. The violation of democratic values caused mass outrage.

5. Tell us about your favourite video among those you have made in regards to social justice or the environment.
My favourite video is ‘
Dapu Case‘, which is about an inappropriate land expropriation. The government of Miaoli secretly tore down people’s houses, and caused the occupation of the Ministry of the Interior. Two months after the tearing down, the host Sen-Wen Chang drowned accidentally. This video was filmed four years ago at a local protest, and interviewed Jen-Hung Liu who is the head of the Miaoli government.

6. How do you think online distribution is changing the field of independent video making and how do you use online tools in your work?
We have an official website, but few people visit the website directly. Using Facebook as a medium can help distribution, however it relatively limits our target audience. Our video only shows to a specific audience due to the algorithm. We also cooperate with the mainstream media website, Apple Daily, therefore our video can appear in the mainstream media to approach more different targets.