What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘borders’? I have always correlated borders with walls. Walls that separate geographical areas or internal walls that people built to separate us from other people. Recently, I learned that borders exist in a multitude of ways from Kelly Lui, notably known as the shorts and special programmer of the Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival, a member of OUAT Media, and the co-founder of The Asian-Canadian Living Archive (TACLA). Along with my other fellow interns, I got the opportunity to meet Kelly from the Minikino Hybrid Internship Film Festival Writers program.
Films transcend borders. It breaks language and cultural barriers. As long as we have good internet connection, watching films online could be done anywhere. I watched Tiger and Ox (2019, Seunghee Kim, South Korea) from the Reel Asian Archives in my bedroom. The 5290 km distance and borders certainly dissolved when I watched the South Korea production film in my Bali bedroom while it is probably streamed from the festival server in Toronto 15,866 km away.
“Film is about telling stories and all stories are allowed to tell.” As Kelly said during our meeting session. But to do so, Kelly continued her statement by saying, “Storytelling comes with responsibility. What are the things that we want to prioritize and how are we taking the responsibility for it?” It took me aback, I realized that was the question I have to ask myself as a filmmaker more often. Anyone can make their own stories, be it inspired by their own personal experience or others. Through the process of telling the stories, it could transcends borders.
Being in film studies, I was taught to make loglines, create background stories, find the key-selling points in our films, and the other textbook formulas. I do not remember getting questions about the responsibility I have as a filmmaker to make a particular film. No one reminds me about the impact films can have on the people that the story is based on, especially when the stories came from a marginalized background.
The need to have responsible filmmaking mindset is that a great film could serve new ways of being and seeing. For that reason, responsible filmmaking will have the power to amplify marginalized voices, elevate society’s consciousness of their issues, and provide attention to their personal sentiments. But the interest in films with diverse characters and authentic stories is still lacking and considered as a less box-office success.
Indonesian film school students might struggle (or not even aware) of responsible filmmaking. We spent more time thinking about which loglines would be considered more successful and spent little time on knowing the core purpose of why we are making a film. Hence the reason many Indonesian film students might still not be successful in doing justice to the stories that they adapt into their films. I think most students short films production would just fall into male-gaze, poverty porn, or cultural appropriation.
Snap! Back to Kelly Lui’s session. Time flies and suddenly there are only 15 minutes left of our meeting. She ended her presentation with a list of things she could have told her past self, one of them that hits home, “It’s better to admit what you don’t know and sit with that discomfort.” I still have so many things to learn and improve as a person and as a filmmaker. At the end of the day, stories are the main human connector. So, I’ll keep telling my stories. And I believe, you should, too!