Kamila Andini’s enchanting film The Seen and Unseen opened Helsinki Cine Aasia on Thursday 15th March. We spoke to the director about her sources of inspiration, influences and future plans, and asked her for recommendations from the Helsinki Cine Aasia programme. Andini is currently visiting the festival and will be attending the second screening of her film at Helsinki Cine Aasia on Saturday 17th March. After the screening, she will discuss film and film-making with Ulla Heikkilä from Women in Film and Television Finland.
What inspired you to make The Seen and Unseen?
I started working on The Seen and Unseen right after I had finished working on my first feature, The Mirror Never Lies. In my second film, I wanted to explore who I am as an Indonesian and how we are connected to each other and to the universe.
Then, I heard about this philosophy from Bali called Sekala Niskala – which in English means the seen and unseen. In short, sekala niskala is a belief that life is a balance between those things that you can see and those things that you cannot see, between good and bad, between life and death. The philosophy really connected with me, and I wanted to try to portray this both dualistic and also holistic idea in a film.
Of course, an idea like that is not easy to transfer into a film, into a narrative and characters. It took me six years to make! Four years of research and writing and two years in post-production. The Seen and Unseen is not based on a story but on an expression and a feeling. In a way, it became to be also about finding out, who I am as a creator. That’s why I first wanted to write it, but soon it became clear that in order to protect my freedom of expression and the integrity of the film, I also needed to produce it. In making of The Seen and Unseen, financing it was the hardest part.
Who are the directors that you admire the most?
I am mostly inspired by Asian directors. Directors who have influenced my work are all Asian. They include Samira Makhmalbaf from Iran, Kim Ki-Duk whom I love, also Hirokazu Kore-eda (whose latest film, The Third Murder, is also seen at this year’s Helsinki Cine Aasia) and Naomi Kawase from Japan and Apichatpong Weerasethakul from Thailand – a lot of film-makers have influenced me. Of course, my own father (director Garin Nughoro) has also had a big influence on me but it is difficult for me to distinguish between his influence on me as my father and the influence he has had on my work as a director.
Right now, there is a young generation of Asian filmmakers that is very promising also. Our generation of film-makers is privileged in a way. For us, the world appears borderless and the previously distant cultures are so much closer to us than they they were to people just 10 years ago. But at the same time, we are also questioning ourselves a lot, searching for our own selves and our place in the world. I think that’s what’s interesting in Asian cinema right now.
What does the future hold for you?
Right now, I am writing my third film. I am on the second draft now so it is in the early stages. It is inspired by true stories about teenage marriage in Indonesia. But that’s about as much as I can say at the moment!
What films from the Helsinki Cine Aasia programme your would recommend?
Everything! Basically, you always have THE Asian films of the year at Helsinki Cine Aasia.
At the minimum, I think everyone should see the two Indonesian films that are in the programme this year (The Seen and Unseen and Mouly Surya’s Marlina the Murdered in Four Acts). Myself, I am really looking forward to finally catching Angels Wear White of which I have heard a lot but which I have not had a chance to see yet, and Pop Aye is also very interesting I think. Its director Kirsten Tan is a prime example of the kind of new generation of Asian directors that I was referring to earlier. She is a young Singaporean woman but Pop Aye is story about a middle-aged man and it is set in Thailand!