‘We tell ourselves stories in order to live’ wrote Joan Didion. It is also true that we can tell stories in order to live more harmoniously with each other. This is precisely what the ReelOzInd! – hopes to achieve in sharing the stories of two neighbouring countries – Australia and Indonesia – through film.
Organised by the Australia-Indonesia Centre, with premiere nights at both ACMI in Melbourne and the ITB in Bandung, the short-film festival will travel in both Indonesia and Australia until the 31st of December this year. Given the reputations of both Bandung and Melbourne as creative hubs, and given the recent partnerships created by the Victorian Government and the province of West Java, the selection of locations for the festival was certainly apt.
All 24 short-films explore the 2019 theme of ‘Change/Berubah’: be that personal transformation, political upheaval, environmental degradation, or the liminal zones between life and death. By coupling a medium as readily accessible as film with a theme as universal as change, the festival hopes to bring Australians and Indonesians closer together. In its exposition of stories and life worlds, of the Indonesian and Australian people, the festival both illuminates the commonalities and aims to reconcile the differences between the two nations. Just as with any relationship, shared stories allow for recognition of shared humanity and as such, they bring us closer to one another. ReelOzInd! is one, very effective, tool in continuing to guide Indonesian-Australian relations beyond that of mere geography and towards one of mutual respect, and friendship.
I was fortunate enough to attend the premiere event at the Institute of Technology Bandung with AIYA West Java, as part of my West Java Field Study Program at Universitas Katolik Parahyangan (UNPAR). Of the films screened on opening night, I was particularly moved by Broto’s film ‘Melangun’, which follows a family as they navigate the traditions and transitions of life in the Sumatran jungle as Orang Rimba.
Equally poignant was Barretto’s ‘Posko Palu/Palu Post’, a candid account of three young earthquake and tsunami survivors as they find their feet, and selves, on unstable ground in the aftermath of island’s tragedy. With chilling imagery of Mosques, once tethered to land, now resting in the ocean, and children recounting stories of their last encounters with their parents, this film at once captures the heartbreak and humanity of these young survivors in their makeshift homes.
Lastly, Masukor’s Polychromatic, which also screened on opening night, is a wonderful documentary highlighting the challenges faced by curators from culturally diverse backgrounds as they work within galleries disproportionally lead by white men. The protagonists illuminate the under-representation of people of colour in curatorial positions within the Australian art landscape, ultimately showing that Australian galleries are ‘White Cubes’ in more ways than one.
Although we were only able to get through half of the succulent 2019 ReelOzInd! program on evening night, I will surely chase down the remaining films at pop-up screenings across Indonesia. I encourage everyone to do the same. Whether you are in Indonesia or Australia there will be a screening for you.
Check out the official website and social media feeds of ReelOzInd! to find out about dates and locations, in both Australia and Indonesia, using the links below:
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