Since ancient times, the shining sun in the sky has inspired and influenced life in countless ways. Not only does it provide the essential energy needed for all life forms, but it also serves as a symbol of strength and wisdom, shaping the beliefs and cultures of humans around the world. The Rekam Matahari program is a unique initiative that seeks to document this very relationship between man and Sun. From February 1st to March 12th, 2023, anyone in Indonesia has the opportunity to participate in this program using pinhole cameras and solargraphy techniques to record the path of the sun’s equator.
Vifick Bolang, the initiator of Rekam Matahari, is a long time friend of Minikino and the advisory board member of Minikino Film Week Bali International Short Film Festival. Naturally the programming team of Minikino gets excited about the idea of collaboration. Fransiska Prihadi and Vifick Bolang teamed up to select short films and create a short film programme for Minikino Monthly Screening April 2023 that will resonate with the Rekam Matahari spirit. Aiming to showcase the diverse stories of man and sun, the program titled Eye of the Sun does this through five short films made by filmmakers from various parts around the world. The short film showcased in the program includes Kala Rau (Medy Mahasena, Indonesia, 2022), Eclipse (Jerrold Chong, USA, 2016), Abnormal Prime Time (이상 한철, Sinn Kirin, Korea, 2021), Solar Eclipse (Alireza Ghasemi, Raha Amirfazli, France-Iran, 2021), and Inside (Yann Chapotel, France, 2020).
Rekam Matahari translated as “Recording the Sun,” observes the sun’s movements from Indonesia. On the other hand, Eye of the Sun as a short film program broadens the scope and includes short films globally. This decision proved to be a stroke of beauty, because as each film featured characters from different cultures and languages, the sun acted as a constant presence, linking all the stories together as a powerful unifier.
Kala Rau starts off the audience’s journey in the Karangasem Village in Bali, Indonesia. The story centers around Sri, a young girl on a quest to find her missing father during the 1983 solar eclipse. Setting the film in his home village, director Medy Mahasena beautifully weaves together elements of folklore and mythology, focusing on the fearsome figure of Kala Rau, a demon who devours the sun and hunts those who venture outside during the eclipse. The film explores the deep significance of the sun as the symbolized source of life and hope, and the devastation that ensues when life is suddenly and mysteriously taken away.
Interestingly, like Kala Rau, the next film of the program, Eclipse also delves deep into the idea of symbolizing the sun (or the absence of it) as a bringer of hope. Using delightful stop-motion animation, Eclipse centers around a son who decides to reconnect with his long-estranged father on the day of a solar eclipse. Where this cosmic event of the sun being blocked by the moon coincides with an emotional revelation about the son and his father.
Though the two films are vastly different in their style and approach, they share a common thread of exploring the deeper meaning behind eclipses and the symbolic significance of the sun. Kala Rau offers a glimpse into the cultural significance of solar eclipse folklore in Bali, where the sun is considered a source of life and the eclipse a time of darkness and danger. I think Eclipse uses the idea of an eclipse to show how the son and his father are emotionally far apart. This emphasizes how looking inside oneself and reflecting on one’s own thoughts and feelings can bring personal change. Both films offer a fascinating insight into the complex symbolism and mythology surrounding solar eclipses, and watching them together brings a realization of how this celestial event has captivated and inspired storytellers across nations and backgrounds.
Taking the audience to Seoul, Abnormal Prime Time offers a modern, almost dystopian outlook on the importance of the sun’s presence in our daily lives. While Kala Rau and Eclipse remove the sun’s presence through a natural phenomenon, Abnormal Prime Time sets its world where the government mandates that humans stay indoors due to the supposed danger of sun rays. Abnormal Prime Time transports us to a world where the sun, a source of life and energy, has become a threat to human existence. The film paints a vivid picture of the psychological toll where the very idea of going outside is forbidden and staying indoors is the only way to stay safe.
This concept of the sun being a threat rather than a source of life is a stark contrast to the beliefs of Bali in Kala Rau and other cultures that revere the sun as a symbol of life. Abnormal Prime Time is about how humans long for “life” and the hopelessness that arises from its absence, as shown by the opening scene where a homeless person says that humans deeply need the sun. The film revolves this idea through the fragile relationship between two sisters who are forced to be together in isolation when the sun disappears, and the strain this puts on their relationship.
The Iranian short film, Solar Eclipse furtherly explores these themes in a modern and intriguing way. The film tells the story of a group of friends who venture out to Tehran’s largest park to witness a rare total eclipse. As the day progresses, they steal a camera stand and discuss their personal lives. However, their playful and carefree day takes a dark turn as they stumble upon something that Saaghi wishes she hadn’t seen. Following Kala Rau and Eclipse, Solar Eclipse masterfully uses the eclipse as a metaphor for the darkness that can overtake a person’s life. Where just as the sun is obscured by the moon during an eclipse, Saaghi’s bright and promising day is suddenly shrouded in darkness.
The first four shorts showcased in the program share a common theme of the sun’s absence and how it affects our relationships, both personal and societal. Whether it is through the lens of folklore and mythology, grief, a dystopian world, or a group of friends in Tehran, the films explore the symbolic significance of the sun. These short films show the moments when the sun is not shining that we often become more aware of its importance.
As the cherry on top, the program concludes with a more experimental approach to how the sun affects our lives. Yann Chapotel, the filmmaker behind the film Inside, presents a hyper-paced mosaic of different windows he filmed from his window, not only showcasing people’s daily lives but also the sun in various ways. Through rapid-fire editing and intense pace, viewers are forced to confront the idea of time passing quickly and the fleeting nature of life itself.
Kudos to the programmers, because ending the program with Inside becomes a beautiful touch as it encapsulates not only the complexity of our relationship with the sun and its impact on our lives but the stories the previous film tells. Inside wonderfully highlights the sun’s omnipresence and how it shapes our daily routines, even if we don’t always consciously acknowledge it.
Through the short films showcased in Eye of the Sun, we are reminded of the power of the sun to shape our beliefs, cultures, and artistic expressions, here, there, and everywhere. And, as Rekam Matahari continues to document the sun’s movements, we can only imagine the countless other stories and legends that will continue to emerge around this ancient and awe-inspiring source of life.
Discussion about this post