November 29, 2021

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TIFF 2021 Women Directors: Meet Kamila Andini – “Yuni”

TIFF 2021 Women Directors: Meet Kamila Andini – “Yuni”

TIFF 2021 Women Directors: Meet Kamila Andini – “Yuni”

Kamila Andini is a mother and filmmaker based in Jakarta, Indonesia. She released her debut feature film, “The Mirror Never Lies,” in 2011 and her second feature, “The Seen and Unseen,” in 2017; both films combined showed at more than 50 film festivals around the world and received about 30 awards nationally and internationally. In addition to her feature projects, Andini directs short films and theater productions. She is currently working on her next film, “Before, Now, and Then” (working title).

“Yuni” will premiere at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival on September 12. The fest is taking place September 9-18.

W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.

KA: “Yuni” is a story of a girl who is still figuring out what she wants to do with her life. She sees a lot of potential in herself. She thinks she could be anything she wants and her choices seem exciting. For now, all she wants to do is continue with her studies, but then marriage proposals arrive. Suddenly, her choices are not interesting anymore and they become burdens to her mind.

“Yuni” is about experiencing those little feelings of growing up and making mistakes to find out who we are as women. “Yuni” is about listening to ourselves more than society. “Yuni” is about having our own definition of liberation.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

KA: One day, a woman who worked in my house told me the story of her daughter, who was about to deliver her baby at the age of 18 and had a high-risk pregnancy. She told me the story of her proposal and how she remembers her wedding day. “It was heavily raining… all day,” she said. This is not the first story I’ve heard about child marriage in Indonesia, but for some reason this story stays in my head, especially when I see my daughters. Then, I wonder how I will tell stories about their wedding days.

The story was very reflective to me as a mother and as a woman. I wondered if a film could be that reflective too, so I started to write “Yuni.” These are stories of women that I have heard, seen, and read about in Indonesia I believe [need to be shared]. It is not a loud screaming voice, but a feeling underneath, a serene moment in front of a mirror, and the beginning of a conversation [between girls].

I remember the famous poem, from the Indonesian poet Sapardi Djoko Damono, “The Rain in June.” It is about the rain that falls in the summertime, just like “Yuni” is about a girl who has to bloom [before she is ready]. Rain becomes the biggest anomaly in this film and the poem becomes an important element of the film as well.

W&H: What do you want people to think about after they watch the film?

KA: I want them to think about their daughters or other teenage girls out there. They are the ones who need our support to figure out what they want to do in the future. I want audiences to see that choices are hard for girls during that time [in life].

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

KA: The challenge was to stay true. Since the beginning, my vision was to tell stories about my people with our own characteristics. Indonesia’s Muslim society is different. Sometimes in the process of collaboration, people already have their own idea of Muslim countries — their kinds of problems, rebellion, resistance — but we have a different history, culture, and character of people. Making a film that is honest to what Indonesia is is actually not easy.

Also, we produce a lot of teenage films in Indonesia. There are so many stories about teenagers released throughout the year, but most of them are stories of teenagers in the city. Whereas I think most teenagers in Indonesia are not living like them. I want to tell their true stories and I think it is challenging to stay within that vision with all the production demands.

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

KA: I am careful of sharing financial information, but it is not because it’s a sensitive subject or I don’t want to, but because I am the writer and director of this film. I believe, professionally, there is a particular person who is more suitable to talk about the financial information: the producer.

But generally, I could tell you that we, Fourcolours Films, started to fund the film with an Indonesian co-producer in the beginning, but then the rest of the film was funded through international funding and co-productions. We co-produced the film with Akanga Film Asia (Singapore), Manny Films (France), and Starvision (Indonesia), with financial support from Aide Aux Cinémas Du Monde CNC (France), Infocomm Media Development Authority (Singapore), Visions Sud Est (Switzerland), Ministry of Culture and Education (Republic of Indonesia), MPA APSA Academy Film Fund (Australia), and Purin Pictures (Thailand).

W&H: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

KA: The people and the culture in my country are what inspired me the most to become a filmmaker. Life itself is the biggest inspiration. I have so many things in my mind to share, but I am not so good with words.

I have loved art since I was a kid. I learned a lot of things, like dancing, music, painting, and photography, but there was always a time that I felt it was the end or I felt that it wasn’t for me. Since I learned about filmmaking, I feel that it’s the medium that works for me, so I’m able to share everything inside me, my thoughts and my feelings. I can talk about everything that I like in film, from my concerns to my culture. I think it’s just simply my calling.

W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?

KA: The best advice I ever received was that we all have our own version of advantages and disadvantages in life. We should acknowledge all of them and aim to be the best version of ourselves. We live in acceptance of everything that is bad and good in life.

Actually, I don’t remember if I ever received bad advice, I think every piece of advice is useful in its own way. I did experience the worst thought of myself, though. One day a fellow female filmmaker asked me if I wanted a child — I was married but did not yet have children at the time — and I said, “Yes I do, I want to be a mother.” Then she asked me, “Really?,” and told me she thought it was impossible for women to be able to achieve the biggest successes in filmmaking with children.

Well, I have two daughters and I am still working hard to pursue a lot of things in filmmaking. I just hope and believe what she said is not true. I still believe cinema is a medium that is beyond limitation.

W&H: What advice do you have for other women directors?

KA: I think as a mother and woman filmmaker, it takes the whole family to make a film. I think it’s important to find your support system — people that believe in you no matter what. It is also important to believe in yourself.

Make the film with your own personality and approach. I think it is okay to be feminine, to be a cry baby, or to be easily emotional on set. Make your collaborators understand your vision more than gender. Put yourself into your work to create diversity in cinema.

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

KA: What I love about cinema is that it shows possibilities. So these are some films directed by women directors that show me possibilities: “The Apple” and “Blackboards” by Samira Makhmalbaf, “Mukhsin” and “Sepet” by Yasmin Ahmad, “Fat Girl” by Catherine Breillat, “The Mourning Forest” by Naomi Kawase, “Caramel” by Nadine Labaki, and so many more!

W&H: How are you adjusting to life during the COVID-19 pandemic? Are you keeping creative, and if so, how?

KA: Well, “Yuni” was shot just before the pandemic started in Indonesia; right after shooting finished, lockdown began. The whole post-production of the film was done virtually, from home. Originally, we were supposed to do the editing and color grading in Thailand, the music in Paris, and the sound mixing in Singapore, [but because of COVID] it was impossible to travel, so I had to do everything virtually.

It was frustrating, to be honest, not being able to work with your film inside the studio together with the editor, music director, and the sound designer. Designing everything on your laptop is not something you ever want to do. You feel like you want to do everything for your film, but at the same time, as a mother, you also have to be responsible for your [children] during the pandemic. It was frustrating. But we all had to make peace with the conditions. I felt I had to be able to work and give my best [even with the] limitations.

We finished the film, and I had another film to shoot just a couple months ago. That’s also another story, shooting [a film] during the pandemic is even more challenging, but I think we all have to accept this as the new normal.

W&H: The film industry has a long history of underrepresenting people of color onscreen and behind the scenes and reinforcing — and creating — negative stereotypes. What actions do you think need to be taken to make it more inclusive?

KA: Cinema is developed through time and history. Change is always needed from time to time, as humanity evolves. Clearly, there are things that are not working anymore and need to change. Right now, for me, it is very important to produce more and more films that acknowledge differences.

Over the years, we all develop stereotypes of other people and that is what creates hate and conflicts. But I believe cinema works as a window to get to know others. Cinema allows us to acknowledge and understand differences in the world. It is a powerful medium to create change.

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