Stories of the reality of life are better told concisely so that the message can be delivered directly. That’s what Southeast Asian filmmakers did in this year’s Minikino International Short Film Festival. From the various stories that are presented, some stories highlight the fighting spirit of people fighting discrimination.
Minikino Film Week 8 (MFW8) which took place in Bali from 2-10 September 2022 has just ended. This international short film festival has become a place for hundreds of individuals working in the short film industry to cross paths. Not to mention, many interesting stories were shown in the short films they brought from their respective countries.
Minikino received 925 short films from 85 countries. A total of 169 films were selected and had the opportunity to be screened at several locations in Bali. The category for the selected films are dominated by fiction (57,4 percent), followed by animation (15,38 percent), documentary (14,79 percent), and experimental (12,43 percent). As usual, the themes that are in the short film festival are very diverse.
“Everyone can make a short film, therefore the stories are diverse. I might say that all filmmakers on average make personal stories, stories that start from experiences in their city or country, so it seems as if the problems that exist have their own faces,” said Fransiska Prihadi or Cika, Program Director of MFW8 in Denpasar, Thursday (8/9/2022).
From several short films that were screened, it seems that the filmmakers had their thoughts manifested in the form of audio-visual moving images. From Great Britain, for example, directors Soren Bendt and Paul Arion present Fieldtrip (2022) which explores the relationship between humans, machines, and their consequences.
Lebanese-Canadian director, Dania Bdeir, tells of the social pressures that force a man to live in secret through Warsha (2021). From Hong Kong, director To Chun Him wittily shows the clash of young people and gangs over a smartphone in Fly (2022).
Variations in themes also occur in short films of the Southeast Asian region which are currently growing. Wravong Phrachanh from Laos discusses teenage love through Mou Tem (A Friend Request, 2021), while Jessica Heng from Singapore in Breaking News (2022) talks about teenage pregnancy.
Some filmmakers take the point of view of people who have to face various kinds of discrimination. These films remind us to never lose hope and keep fighting for happiness.
Take for example a film from Indonesia, Ride to Nowhere (2022) a film by Khozy Rizal, that addresses the issue of gender discrimination. The film, which won the 2022 MFW National Competition Award, tells the story of Ade, a woman who makes a living as an online motorcycle taxi driver.
Ade’s life is not easy. The patriarchal culture influences people to think that women are not meant and do not deserve to be in this profession. The perception that women’s status is below men’s seems to have not been completely gone.
Alas, at the climax of the story, Ade had to change his appearance. Even though her job has become easier, Ade is not happy. “Hopefully Ade’s story can reach anywhere and to anyone because everyone, regardless of gender, can get the same opportunity and a safe space to work,” said Mega Herdiyanti, who plays Ade.
In Pha Hom (The Blanket, 2021), Lao director Mitpasa Sitthihakpanya tells the story of Aiy, a seven-year-old boy who lives in a remote village. Aiy’s family is poor, Aiy doesn’t go to school and has to help her mother take care of his younger siblings. His father went to earn a living in the city because there was nothing to pursue in the village.
However, Aiy misses his father. No doubt about it, as it can clearly be seen from his demeanor. Aiy’s eyes always stare into the empty road. One day, Aiy’s father finally came home, not in perfect condition. Implicitly, this shows that there are no job opportunities for job seekers with disabilities in the city. “This is a story about the poor in my country. We are fighting for our life, some are lucky and others are not. But, for Aiy, his father is like a warm blanket,” said Kongchan Phiennachit, aka Dawn, co-producer of The Blanket (2021).
Apart from these two films, several other Southeast Asian films also show a similar spirit, one of which is Bagan (Sudden Uncertainty, 2021) by Firdaus Balam. This film from Malaysia shows the social discrimination experienced by Frankie.
As a poor boy who is illiterate, he often gets bullied by other village boys. Even so, he did not give up, and he even continued to learn to read and write by himself. Ride to Nowhere, Pha Hom, and Bagan are the nominees for the Raoul Wallenberg Institute (RWI) Asia Pacific Award. Bagan came out as the winner of the award.
Cika explained that Southeast Asian countries produce short films with their own characteristics. The Philippines, for example, produces a lot of experimental and political films. Meanwhile, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand have similarities in terms of various types of film production with a large number of productions.
“Short films are interesting because we can acknowledge and get to know something that is not in the news,” said Cika. The final judge for the 2022 MFW National Competition Award, Jaime E Manrique, added that he found that filmmakers in the Southeast Asian region had been able to make high-quality films. Interestingly, when evaluating Indonesian short films, Jaime realized the similarity of themes with Latin American short films.
“We have too much in common. Apart from the weather, we have problems with poverty, violence, and how society seeks a better life. It is reflected in their work,” said the founder of the Bogotá Short Film Festival or Bogoshorts in Colombia.