VIFF: The Mirror Never Lies
A first feature for Indonesian director Kamila Andini, this stunning film tells the story of a young girl name Pakis from the Bajo tribe, whose heritage deeply connects her to the sea. Co-produced by WWF- Indonesia, it celebrates the rich marine biodiversity of the Coral Triangle and a way of life dramatically affected by our changing oceans. I spoke online to Kamila Andini – ‘Dini’ – about her film:
1. Dini, tell us a bit about yourself.
I live in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia. Every part of Indonesia is surrounded by ocean. But because I live in the big city, all I can find near me is an industrial harbour and a recreational beach area (not a clean one). I always believed there was more hidden in the Indonesian ocean than what I found in Jakarta. So I learned to dive when I was in junior high and have been in love with the Indonesian ocean ever since. That was 13 years ago. It was different back then and so many changes are taking place – I felt I had to express something about my sea through a movie.
2. What inspired you to tell this story about the Bajo people and the sea?
For many years, the life of the Bajonesse’s (the sea wanderers) always amazed me. They are spread along the Indonesian coast. I always feel there is a big connection with them and the ocean. There is a freedom to the way they live.
In 2009, I went diving in Wakatobi with one of the producers of The Mirror Never Lies, Nadine Chandrawinata. At that time, not many Indonesians even knew this region existed in Indonesia. Wakatobi contains hundreds of little islands, in the middle of the world’s Coral Triangle. It’s an important place in Indonesia that we need to preserve. I felt we needed to bring this issue to Indonesian cinema.
As an archipelago country, a lot of Indonesian families migrate from one island to another. They separate and meet for many reasons. The Bajonesse believe that, as sea wanderers, they live to connect one place to another. And I think that is what our ocean does. It connects every island and makes Indonesia a whole.
3. How did WWF-Indonesia get involved in this film?
When I started writing this movie, I was working on a documentary with WWF Indonesia, about the Wakatobi’s sea turtles. I was also looking for co-producer for this movie but finding a producer for a movie about the environment is not easy in Indonesia. I wanted to talk about the sea wanderer’s life and the Indonesian ocean itself, and I needed a co-producer who shared my vision. I talked to WWF Indonesia about why am I making this film and they said, ‘We don’t want to sponsor it, we want to be a part of what you do’.
4. Some time after Pakis’s father disappears while fishing at sea, a young dolphin scientist appears in the village, searching for increasingly rare dolphins. What is the significance of his appearance?
First, a lot of marine research happens in Indonesia, from around the world. But we ourselves have very few scientists. We only have six dolphin scientists in Indonesia and only one who specializes in the acoustic aspect of the dolphin. Yet we have a large number of dolphins. It is a very significant animal to scientists because it indicates balance in our ecosystems. And for fisherman, the dolphin always helps show them where the fish are. Our dolphins are decreasing in number and it is really a problem.
Secondly, for the family living in an isolated village, a stranger always bring something new. For a young girl with a dream, the scientist brings her knowledge about the world. And for a woman with a lost husband, the presence of the scientist feels like replacing something that has been missing.
5. How are the Wakatobi people being affected by the depletion of Indonesia’s ocean?
The changing ocean pretty much affects a lot of fishermen in Indonesia – especially in Wakatobi where 90 per cent of the people are fisherman. The decreasing number of fish in our ocean now force them to fish in the deeper part of the sea. It’s not safe for traditional fisherman with limited tools and small boats. Especially with the changing weather and unpredictable waves, it’s just harder for them to fish now.
6. How did you involve the Wakatobi people in the making of this film?
We made this movie with a small crew (30 people), so we needed the help of local people to finish the shooting in 25 days. So there we were, making a movie together with some of the fisherman as our crew. We shot the movie using the set of a village in the middle of the sea. These fishermen know a lot about living in this environment, about climate prediction, about construction, about what is ‘bajo’ and not. The making of this film was a completely new experience for Wakatobi’s people. They very much wanted to be involved and I could not thank them enough.
7. Will your movie be screened in local communities?
Absolutely, this movie will screen in every city in Indonesia. We will also show the movie in the middle of the bajonesse village, with the bajonesse watching it from their boats. After all, it’s their movie.