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Indie Filmmaker Creates Local Film Fund in Indonesia : Interview

System Administrator Wednesday May 13, 2015


Indie Filmmaker Creates Local Film Fund in Indonesia

Being invited as a NETPAC jury member for the 32nd Busan International Short Film Festival (BISFF, Apr 24-28 2015) was the first time during my 10-year short-filmmaking career, to attend a specialised short film festival. In addition, after working for 10 years in the Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival (JAFF, Indonesia), it was the first time that I witnessed a film festival joining NETPAC and instituting its award. Now I could experience another festival having the same spirit as JAFF (when we joined), to support the development of Asian cinema and actively highlight Asian filmmakers. Finally, I must express my pride for the three Indonesian films in selection; Myrna Paramita’s Cleaning the Fish, Sidi Saleh’s Maryam and Sinung Winahyoko’s The Taste of Fences. 

Unfortunately Myrna was the only film director from Indonesia who could attend the festival, together with her actress, Putri Ayunda. Myrna had cast cast Putri in her short before the latter was spotted and acted in Garin Nugroho’s new feature, Djokroaminoto (2015). Myrna is also one of the founders of Buttonijo (literally means Green Button), an alternative film distribution and funding platform based in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Ismail Basbeth: Cleaning the Fish is your first short film, could you please tell us how and why you made it?

Myrna Paramita: I am an active person who always worked really hard. During my school days, I worked as newspaper delivery, waking up at 4am, and then as cashier/cook/washer at a local Burger King after school. I learnt that nothing is beneath you, and had I not worked at Burger King, I wouldn’t have the personal insight that I needed to handle the McDonald’s account later in my career.

When my son was born, I decided to be a house mom. I did house chores like my mom and many housewives do. It was a different routine. But like other jobs that don't get appreciation or recognition, you can’t help feeling useless. Your husband doesn’t even realize how neat his shirts are folded or how clean you have kept the house. But he notices when the food is too spicy or too salty. On social media I heard that my colleagues were investing and getting good returns. I felt worthless and started to withdraw from social life. Even when I went to a civil office, to reinstate my ID, the officer asked me my occupation and when I said “Ibu rumah tangga” or Housewife, he instead put mengurus rumah tangga (translate: taking care of household). So even in society, the housewife is under appreciated. 

I needed a media to express my emotions and I felt that the short film was a medium where I could state my issues. I believe a good film should challenge the way we think and feel, without sounding too righteous.{

Ismail: I heard that before you jumped to filmmaking, you were working in advertising? 

Myrna: I worked in various advertising agencies as an art director for eight years, handling clients such as McDonalds, Pertamina, Hypermart, Indofood, Heinz-ABC, Gudang Garam cigarettes and so on.  In 2009, I worked at a fashion magazine, where I was exposed to the fashion industry and the transformative power of dressing up. During the 2014 Presidential campaign, I worked as a social media director for one of the political candidates who ran for vice president. I had the chance to learn and work with the Carville-Greenberg consultants who handled Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. How did your advertising background influence your film work? In an advertising campaign we convey messages and themes through TVCs, Print Ads and other media placements. You need to know your target market, who you are speaking to, the positioning of the brand and the strategy in a specific time frame.  In my commercial work I try to have a real human interest or human truth that people can relate to; simple, good art direction and a memorable twist or element of surprise that motivates a strong call to action. I think those elements are still valid in filmmaking, and you can also see them in my short film.

Could you please tell us how you see the position of Indonesian short films in film festivals? 

There are not many Asian shorts; except films from Japan, China, Thailand and Korea that are being selected into film festivals. I think this is where we need NETPAC as a hub to support more films from Asia to connect with more and bigger audiences.

As one of the founders of Buttonijo, how does this company help filmmakers?

Buttonijo gives chances to new filmmakers, to gain more opportunities to screen their films nationally and internationally. The Indonesian film market is flooded by films, made by big film producers, and forced into market positions decided by them. Many films are now stuck on the same stories and formulas. On the independent side, there is a huge variety but only few of them are able to get their films screened in theaters nationally. As distributor, Buttonijo works with cultural agencies, universities, galleries and other alternatives spaces where we can sell and screen these independent films online and offline.  When I visited JAFF (Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival) last December, I met many young film directors who need distribution. We also have a funding program. Every year we select three short films and one feature film to fund. Then Buttonijo will have the right to distribute these films nationally and internationally. We want to do this because we think creative artists should not have to beg and grovel to fund their work!

What is your dream and your future plans for Buttonijo and also as filmmaker? 

For Buttonijo, we want to distribute not only Indonesian independent films, but also Asian independent films in the future. We hope that by providing the local film industry with diverse films we can keep the film communities alive, and raise the standards of independent filmmaking.With Cleaning The Fish entering film festivals, I feel the confidence to explore filmmaking, to tackle issues from various angles. 

Buttonijo is at www.buttonijo.com

by Ismael Basbeth

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