Daily Tiger #5 (English)

Page 5

Woman on the moon

Life on Mars By Harriet Warman

By Tina Poglajen

There is a distinct quality to Ismail Basbeth’s film Another Trip to the Moon. It walks an almost ethereal line between losing itself in the richness of Indonesia’s mythological narratives – poetically shot streams, vast woods and picturesque herbs, spices and colourful fabrics of Southeast Asia – while at the same time subtly mocking it all, playing with the “seriousness of oral lore transmitted from one generation to another, that still holds a prominent place in Indonesia’s culture.” Apart from this, Basbeth comments on the symbolic power of film

“the culture is very patriarchal” as a medium: “It enables us to legitimise our own re-telling of these narratives, even as a joke.” In an almost camp combination of Indonesian legends, animals are often played by people in costumes instead of actual animals. Featuring them in the film would be difficult to pull off exactly as planned, and expensive too. Instead, Basbeth turned to the rich theatrical heritage of Yogyakarta. “The city has a history of hosting stage performances and plays and is particularly famous for its art scene. I studied filmmaking here, so maybe it became second nature to use several art forms to help me tell the story. That is why on this film, we collaborated with many artists and musicians. I think it works, but I’m curious as to what the audiences are going to say about this.” Asa, the daughter of a seer, lives in a forest together with her girlfriend to escape her mother’s clutches. Are stories with such prominent female characters common in Indonesia’s mythological narratives? Not at all, it turns out. “Here in Indonesia, the culture is very patriarchal. There’s not a lot of power given to

women – neither in their personal nor public lives.” So was switching traditional gender roles a political statement for Basbeth? Yes and no. “I’m definitely a supporter of women’s rights. Let’s respect each other as human beings – the world will be a better place.” On the other hand, femininity is something specific to his artistic mode of expression, it seems. “I always seem to invest all of my hopes and expectations into female characters. I’m not sure why, but almost every short film I’ve made so far has turned like that. Maybe a part of me is more feminine than I’m aware of.” “The legends featured in Another Trip to the Moon are well-known to Indonesia’s youth – they will probably notice that I am interpreting them in my own way,” explains Basbeth. “It would be a great experience for me to watch them watch the film,” he adds. “I am hoping that will happen soon after Rotterdam. I am not sure it will get the chance to have a theatrical release here [in Indonesia], since we have an unfriendly Censor Board, but we will try. Our plan B is to have it screened in film communities and film clubs.”

For his second feature film, director Nicolas Steiner set out to discover people hidden from the world. Those who have chosen a life away from the cities and communities – and the luxuries therein – that most ordinary folk take for granted. Above and Below documents the lives of Cindy, Rick, and Lalo who live in the flood tunnels below Las Vegas; David, who lives in a reclaimed military bunker in the Californian desert; and April, a geologist living out a red planet expedition simulation for the Mars Society. Though each protagonist seems to be wilfully rejecting a normal life, for Steiner they all represent the will to survive that is natural to all of us, and have created their own kind of ‘normal’ within which to do this: “It’s amazing how fast human beings attach to their surroundings and what the formula of three walls and a ceiling can be.” What’s striking about Above and Below is how successfully it makes seemingly ignored lives cinematically epic, whilst retaining an intimacy with the protagonists. Shooting wide and employing strategic use of a crane, Steiner and DoP Markus Nestroy convey the scale of the desert, the Mars-like terrain and the Las Vegas skyline in such a way that the individuals who inhabit these mostly forgotten lands, appear heroic in their choice to live apart from the mainstream. For Steiner, this wide scope was essential to the concept of Above and Below, allowing him to visualise the connections between his star-gazing and tunnel-dwelling protagonists.

For the most part however, a looser, more spontaneous approach was needed in order to remain discrete. “We didn’t want to attract too much attention from the ‘outside’ world, because especially in the underground of Las Vegas, we were shooting illegally. We were constantly trespassing.” Building an intimacy with his subjects was also vital to achieving Steiner’s vision for the film. Before shooting, he spent months with each protagonist without the film’s crew, which allowed the director to gain their trust and, whilst filming, this effort to respect their lives remained important. “[During the] shooting period, which was over two and a half months, we didn’t shoot that much daily. Instead, we spent a lot of time with them. Often-

“The true story is sometimes so much harder” times we went down into the tunnels, for example, without any equipment. It was more to hang out and help them: driving around, organizing stuff, collecting bottles, trying to help fix Dave’s RV, etc. We did what we could to be part of the whole life system within.” Such respect and empathy for the subject is what makes Above and Below so effective, allowing for moments in which the protagonists reveal the difficulties that have come from their life choices. For Steiner, this closeness dismantled what he had imagined such hidden lives to involve: “The true story is sometimes so much harder than anything that you could possibly even think of.”

Another Trip to the Moon

Above and Below

Hivos Tiger Awards Competition

Hivos Tiger Awards Competition

Mon 26 Jan 19:15 PA7; Tue 27 Jan 12:15 PA6;

Mon 26 Jan 18:45 PA4; Tue 27 Jan 11:30 DJZ (P&I);

Wed 28 Jan 22:00 PA7; Thu 29 Jan 18:00 LV3;

Tue 27 Jan 12:15 PA2; Wed 28 Jan 21:45 PA2;

Thu 29 Jan 19:30 DWBZ (P&I); Sat 31 Jan 09:15 CI2

Thu 29 Jan 15:00 LV3; Sat 31 Jan 14:15 CI2