Arts & Culture

Kiki Febriyanti on Film and Representation

Representation is important. Here’s why.

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Together with SeaShorts Festival, B-Side will feature one filmmaker per country in South East Asia to shed some light on the creatives and industry. We have Indonesia’s Kiki Febriyanti.

Kiki Febriyanti | A graduate in Indonesian literature from Universitas Jember, Kiki is a self-taught filmmaker who was born in Bondowoso, a small town in East Java province. In 2013, her short film Jangan Bilang Aku Gila! won Best Film at the STEPS International Film Festival in Ukraine. Her next effort Calalai: in Betweenness explores the five genders within the Bugis community. It made the rounds at various film festivals such as the Equality Festival (Ukraine), Salaya International Documentary Film Festival (Thailand), Seoul International Women’s Film Festival (Korea), Mzansi Women’s Film Festival (South Africa), Pärnu International Anthropology & Documentary Film Festival (Estonia), IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival (India) and Woman Make Waves Film Festival (Taiwan). In addition to making documentaries, Kiki also directs music videos and writes.

Roti will be screened as part of S-Express Indonesia.

Read Aznniel Yunus here.

Read Danech San here.

From body image to purchasing sanitary pads, Kiki Febriyanti covers them in her films and continues to look into womanhood. It is once said that we choose to write about and create things we truly care about, and these creations will find their way into the future through documentation and archival. This seems to be true for Kiki, as her works all have a specific messaging and reflect her opinions about issues that are important for the world today.

She shares with B-Side her motivations for making film and how she got into this career of creation.

Your films seem to have a strong slant towards gender and women. Share with us what draws you to tell these stories.

Back then, I didn’t even know what gender and feminism were. All things flow because I am a woman. I feel and experience something difficult on a daily basis because of my gender. I also saw other people in the same situation. These became my inspiration, something that is close to me. My films and characters always have deep connections with myself. As a filmmaker, I feel it is important to speak up and share my thoughts through film and art in the hope that change would come in the future.

Do you think representation is important in media and film? Why or why not?

Very important, of course. Female filmmakers and other minority groups are still few in number, and it’s not only in Indonesia. Some people think that women can’t work or don’t know how to work in film. I once met a male crew member who said he doesn’t like working with women. He thought a woman’s place is in the wardrobe or make-up department. He yelled at me on set for nonsensical reasons, because I often speak up and perhaps because I am a woman.

On screen, women and minorities are usually objectified, stereotyped or mocked. They are often portrayed through the male gaze and the patriarchal point of view. Therefore, representation is important. It is not simply about numbers, but also about giving space to women and minority groups to convey that we exist, to convey things that are more real and not stereotypes.

Share with us your decision to get into film instead of pursuing another avenue of making work.

My curiosity and love for film stems from my parents,who frequently took me to watch movies at a small cinema in my hometown. The guard even allowed me into the building to look at the posters and play after school. Since kindergarten, I’ve always aspired to become a journalist. But when I grew up, I went to a pharmaceutical high school and worked as an assistant pharmacist upon graduation.

I couldn’t erase my dream though, so I left and continued my studies at the faculty of letters, majoring in Indonesian literature. I then decided to become a filmmaker after attending a Kickstart! documentary filmmaking workshop held by In-Docs, where I learned that journalists and documentary filmmakers are “same same but different”.

I realised that being a filmmaker is not only a profession or hobby, but also a passion and way of life.

Film is the perfect medium for me. It is very difficult for me to imagine working in another field. Dreams do come true. It’s tough, but I love it.

How did Roti come about, and why do you think there is a sense of shame or embarrassment when it comes to purchasing sanitary napkins?

The story of the film actually came from my experience as a child, when I helped my grandmother at her grocery store. I experienced a situation that was almost exactly like it was in the film; a woman bought “bread” and she was upset because what I gave to her was actual bread, not sanitary napkins. Ironically, these days I still hear people refer to sanitary napkins as “bread”. I think the moniker remains in use because menstruation is still considered dirty, disgusting, embarrassing and taboo, and I strongly disagree. So in this film, I try to depict the unnecessarily “funny” situation as a tragicomedy.

Tell us more about Calalai In-Betweenness and your research process so far.

My team and I visited Sulawesi several times and we stayed, met local people and made observations. We also read some books and articles.

The film Calalai In-Betweenness, for me, is an effort to learn and then to share knowledge about gender diversity in Indonesia.

Perhaps my research and learning process actually never ended even though the film has already been completed. I continue to learn that our ancestors had wisdom and cultures about gender diversity and equality.

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