ReelOzInd!: Q&A with Josephine Lie, winner of Best Collaboration

The winners of the inaugural ReelOzInd! Australia Indonesia Short Film Competition and Festival have been selected. The ReelOzInd! team caught up with Josephine Lie, winner of the Best Collaboration section to hear about her film Miner’s Walk: Supeno.

Miners Walk_Supeno
Miner’s Walk: Supeno. Photo: ReelOzInd!

Tell us a little about the project this documentary is a part of. How did you choose Supeno as a subject for the documentary?

Miner’s Walk is an interactive documentary exploring the stories and livelihoods of the sulphur miners working in the Ijen Crater, East Java, Indonesia. It will be available to experience on www.minerswalk.com in a few weeks. The documentary will allow audiences to literally follow a miner’s journey from the top of the crater’s rim down into the depths of the crater where the sulphur is collected and carried. Along the way, audiences will also be able to view 12 short videos which explore different aspects of the Kawah Ijen story – such as portrait documentaries like Supeno, and themes like the effect of tourism in the region. We are seeking to share the multifaceted and complicated environment that is entailed within the sulphur miner’s story.

Where was the film location? How many people made up the cast and crew? How long did it take to shoot and how long was post-production?

Supeno was filmed in part at the Kawah Ijen location, as well as Plampang village where Supeno lives with his family. It was important to me to speak with the miners away from the crater itself, because it was here where they could relax and be with their family. You see the miners in a completely different light by doing that.

We filmed over six days, and in that time did interviews with miners and others. We also attached GoPros to the backs of some of the miners themselves. Hence why audiences of Miner’s Walk will literally have the opportunity to follow the miner’s journey down into the crater.

The people involved in Miner’s Walk were basically any people who were willing to share their stories in the short six we were filming. So that ended up being five miners, and a mixture of people involved with the Kawah Ijen site, or connected sulphur factory.  Collectively about eight people were interviewed.

The crew was minimal, about two people. It was me shooting, with Niken helping with the video shooting and scouting for interview opportunities. We also had tremendous help from a local ranger and environmentalist Mas Kisma, who helped connect us with some of the miners. Day to day the crew expanded and shrunk to one to three people. Niken was the main other crew member. I am still in production for the ‘interactive’ side of Miner’s Walk, with my developer Martyn, here in London, building the website, as I design it. (I’m a User Experience Designer by trade.) The whole project has been in production for about nine months now, and hopefully it will be done soon.

What took you to Indonesia? Was this your first experience making films in Indonesia/with Indonesians?

I’ve been so fascinated by Indonesia since spending a year living there as a student. My family background is also Indonesian, and that’s always been a part of me. But what I love about the place is that it is so vibrant and unique culturally and geographically. Capturing its surreal beauty and human stories is a pleasure. This was not my first experience filming in Indonesia. In 2011 I filmed and designed a different interactive documentary Merapi: Stories from the Volcano, a piece that explores the 2010 eruption of Mount Merapi, and its impact on 21 different individuals.

What is your impression of the film/creative industry in Indonesia at the moment? Can you see yourself taking further opportunities for collaborations in Indonesia and with Indonesians?

My impression is that Indonesia has an incredibly rich tradition with the creative arts which permeates through the country. How that translates exactly to a commercial film/creative industry, I can’t really speak to. What I can say, is that the DIY spirit and genuine enthusiasm to create everything from exhibitions, arts, film and music is something Indonesians seem to have in bucket loads. That’s why I’m always so excited to see content made by Indonesians no matter what medium. Yes, I would definitely be interested in further opportunities to collaborate with Indonesians again.

How would you describe the collaborative process overall?  Would you encourage other Australians to do the same?

Suffice to say, if Niken, and the other local Indonesian people were not there, this project couldn’t have been made. There was too much cultural nuance, too much possibility to offend, to possibly attempt on my own. Niken had never filmed before (her background is fashion photography), but I was more than confident that she would be able to pick it up quickly. And in exchange I saw how effortlessly Niken smoothed over situations, ensured interviews were well executed, and in general made the whole filming process a team effort. She was an absolute sport, because some of the shooting environments were really challenging amongst the sulphur gas, and the trek there etc. Absolutely I would encourage other Australians to collaborate with Indonesians.

The ReelOzInd! Australian premiere festival screening will be hosted by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) at Federation Square, Melbourne on Sunday 21 August at 6.30pm, including the announcement of the jury selection of award winners. Entry is free, but reserve tickets here. On Monday 22 August, the Indonesian premiere festival screening will be hosted by Petra Little Theatre, Universitas Kristen Petra in Surabaya. After the premieres, ReelOzInd! hits the road. For all the info head here. To read a Q&A we did with the organiser of this groundbreaking initiative, head here.