Kamila Andini made her feature debut with “The Mirror Never Lies,” which portrays the life of a sea wanderer in the Indonesian ocean. Previous short films include “Following Diana” and “Memoria,” which tell the story of women’s issues both in an urban area of Jakarta and also in a post-conflict area of Timor-Leste.
“The Seen and Unseen” will premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival on September 12.
W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.
Ka: A story of the connection of twin siblings on a defining holistic cycle of life. By exploring Balinese belief of “The Seen and Unseen” (Sekala Nishkala), it continually questions realism in our cultural life. It’s poetically disturbing yet magical at the same time.
W&H: What drew you to this story?
Ka: After my first feature, I wanted to find out more about myself — what kind of film I should make and what kind of story I should tell. I wanted to go back to the roots; I wanted to portray what Asian humans, particularly Indonesian, are really constructed of.
In this case, Bali is a place where holism is still strongly felt in daily life. “The Seen and Unseen” is the philosophy they believe in life; life is in harmony with all the seen things, and the unseen as well. This concept well-defines Indonesia in my perspective, that we are shaped from belief, myth, and the holistic universe.
Then I found the story of Tantri, a princess from Balinese myth who tells fables. I also found a myth about “buncing” twin — boy-girl twins — and their mysterious relationship. This is where the story of “The Seen and Unseen” began.
W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?
Ka: I want the audience to be disturbed, in their own way, because of this film.
W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
Ka: This film has been produced since 2012. I have experienced many life changes ever since; I’ve developed both technically and substantially. I first wrote this story when I was single and now I’m a mother of two daughters.
The biggest challenge is really figuring out how to maintain the energy and keep the idea on its initial track. I questioned myself many times, asking whether all the effort is worthy and whether the film is able to deliver the idea as I expected.
W&H: How did you get your film funded?Share some insights into how you got the film made.
Ka: Since the beginning, we wanted to celebrate something in this film: independence. Independence with storytelling, expression, and production. Therefore, we try to not be bound by certain financial resource.
Mostly we funded this film independently, i.e. by making profit from commercial works. Crowdfunding also became the fuel to burn the independent spirit within us to have the film done.
Generous support we got for script development and post-production from funders including Hubert Bals Fund, Asia Pacific Screen Awards Children’s Film Fund, and Doha Film Institute Grants gave me independence to envision cinema in my own way.
W&H: What does it mean for you to have your film play at the Toronto International Film Festival?
Ka: My short film “Following Diana” screened during Tiff 2015. So the festival feels like home for me. However, to be selected and competing in the Platform section is a whole new level of excitement.
I’ve been following films in Platform for the last three years and am aware of Platform recognition for filmmakers’ unique voice in storytelling. So being a part of this list of visionary filmmakers is truly an appreciation for my film.
W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?
Ka: Best advice: My husband always reminds to have faith and be consistent with what I do.
Worst advice: I shot this film when I was four months pregnant with my second daughter and taking care of my two-year old daughter. We shot in the middle of paddy fields with limited access. I brought my two-week old second daughter to post-production studio. The worst advice was the social pressure trying to make me stop. Thank God I didn’t — I have the biggest, most supportive system around me.
W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?
Ka: We have to realize that the filmmaking environment is not female-friendly, especially for mothers, i.e. unpredictable working hours, facility, condition, etc.
It’s important to know who you are and what you love; be firm with your identity. That way, you can build a support system to allow you to fulfill your potential without being questioned for your roles as wives and mothers.
W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.
Ka: “Blackboards” by Samira Makhmalbaf. It’s one of first woman-directed films that I watched during my first introductory period to cinema. I watched the making of the film and was fascinated by her approach. Ever since, I believe nothing is impossible for women directing film.
W&H: There have been significant conversations over the last couple of years about increasing the amount of opportunities for women directors yet the numbers have not increased. Are you optimistic about the possibilities for change? Share any thoughts you might have on this topic.
This is not only happening in the film industry, but almost in every sector. I think numbers aren’t the only indicator of how we should measure women’s contribution.
Women have more complex roles and priorities that need to be considered on qualifying their contributions.
However, space and opportunity for women directors should always be encouraged and pushed forward. I think the number of women directing film will increase directly proportional with the number of feminist men who give as much space for their daughter, niece, sister, wife to do anything they love to do.
Tiff 2017 Women Directors: Meet Kamila Andini — “The Seen and Unseen” was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.