Reaching the village of Pedawa takes a three hour scenic ride from busy Denpasar into the mountains of Northern Bali. The village is nestled among a fragrant forest of clove trees, the main production here along with palm sugar, reputedly the best in all Bali. What strikes the visitor upon arrival is the overall feeling of cleanliness and peacefulness that seems to permeate the very air.
People start to gather at the village’s communal hall, where a screen is being put up for tonight’s pop up cinema screening, one of three held this year around Bali as part of Minikino Film Week.
Every year the festival organizes screenings in remote villages on the island, where people have little or no opportunity to watch movies on a big screen. It is the third time Minikino is putting up its silver screen in Pedawa, where the audience is one of the most eager to watch films.
This edition is however marked by special circumstances, as Bali, like the rest of the world, has been hit by the COVID 19 pandemic. Following months of uncertainty, the festival organizers decided to go ahead with the festival’s 6th edition. “We are a community festival, we want to create a personal connection with people with our films. Going online would not make sense for us”, explains festival director Edo Wulia.
All is in place to make the event safe. It is surreal to see people happily setting up a community event and offering home-made snacks to visitors armed with disinfectant, masks and face shields. In order to respect social distancing measures, the screening has been moved to the larger open-air communal hall, instead of the grounds of the “rumah adat”, a beautifully preserved traditional house, the pride of the village’s Bali Aga heritage.
Before the actual screening, the Minikino team organizes a talk to introduce the village’s youth to the concept of filmmaking from the origins of cinema. For the occasion, the festival director Edo Wulia himself built a zoetrope so that the children can have fun experiencing the magic of animated images. Young students and their teacher have joined and look on mesmerized as drawings start to turn into a film as the wheel spins.
As the sun goes down, villagers slowly gather, taking their seats or watching from a distance. Minikino’s screenings are usually popular and attract a couple of hundred people. Although the villagers are more weary to join public gatherings because of the pandemic, a small audience, mainly the local youth, sits on the floor, ready for the entertainment to begin.
Tonight’s programme includes a best of children animated short films from the revered Clermont-Ferrand film festival, one of the biggest festivals in the world dedicated to short films. Both festivals have been collaborating for a few years to bring the best of their respective programmes to a wider audience. The next programme is dedicated to Indonesian films, as Minikino makes a point to present to their Indonesian audience the best short films their own country has to offer and showcase the diversity of Indonesian cinema.
Observing the audience is as entertaining as watching the movies. People go in and out, sometimes laugh out loud, comment on or react vividly to what is happening on screen. Although the crowd behaves very differently and interacts differently with the films than film festival audiences, the “togetherness” is palpable and reminds you that cinema truly is a magic shared experience, whatever the setting.
As a wrap up of the night, short films made by the villagers themselves are shown, the result of a basic filmmaking workshop held a few days before. The participants have decided to make films to showcase their heritage and the rumah adat features prominently. Seeing the villagers beaming with pride and glee as they see themselves acting on the big screen is the best reward for the Minikino team, whose hard work and effort to engage communities through film is paying off.
Witnessing the joyous atmosphere and the dedication of the festival organizers and volunteers, it is clear that Minikino lives up to its motto to bring you a “healthy dose of short films” amidst this difficult time.
Based in Laos since 2008, Hélène Ouvrard is a consultant working in the Lao cultural sector. She is the co-director of the Vientianale film festival.
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