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First film about queer women in Indonesia premieres at Berlin Film Festival

Children of Srikandi, made by an all female cast and crew, tells the stories of eight queer women in Indonesia
Still from the Children of Srikandi

Children of Srikandi, a film about lesbian, bisexual and transexual women will premier at the Berlin Film Festival on Saturday. The film, made by eight Indonesian directors and a German producer and editor, has an all female cast and crew, a soundtrack from Indonesia’s only female rapper and beautiful shadow puppet animation weaving between the segments.

The eight segments include Imelda Taurinamandala's story of a little girl who wants to be a boy, the personal tale of Eggie Dian who was rejected by her family for being a lesbian and became homeless and Edith’s journey coming to terms with her Muslim faith and her sexuality.

Gay Star News spoke to Stea Lim, one of the eight directors and executive producer, about how the film came about and how recent violent attacks against Indonesia's LGBT community from an Islamic organisation has made the visibility of LBT women in Indonesia so important.

How did the film come about?

Laura Coppens who curates film festivals and is an expert in Indonesian cinema set up a filmmaking workshop for LBT women two years ago. We did the workshop for one month full-time. The first one was more for the concept, getting the script done, choosing the filmmakers. Then we had our second workshop last year. That's when we did the shooting, editing, everything within that one month.

We have eight directors and Laura is the German producer. We were helped by another German, Angelika Levi, she's more of the art director she helped us with the cinematography, shaping the concept and editing the film.

I was the only one, amongst the eight directors, with a background in filmmaking. For the rest this is their first film. They come from all over Indonesia. One is still a student, one is an activist, one is involved in a youth programme organisation.

We spent two weeks in a house shooting. We lived together, slept together, shot together everyday. We argued and fought, then made-up.

How did the film change over the filmmaking process?

It started as an omnibus of eight short films but as we worked together we developed each others’ scripts, we helped each other with the shooting we were each others' crew, and cast sometimes. We all become involved in everyone's story. So now the film's become a collective film. You can't take one short film out and show it separately.

How did you get chosen for the Berlin Film Festival?

We did the editing process half in Indonesia and half in Germany. Laura and Angelika were here for two months and then we had the last post-production in Berlin. During that period I was in Berlin too and we submitted it to the Berlin Film Festival, we found out that they do support the film because it's unusual to have this kind of story, especially coming from Indonesia.

Who funded it?

When we first started we had help from the Goethe Cultural Centre. We applied to global foundations like Women Meets Films, Global Fund for Women. The Indonesian government didn't really help but some organisations in Indonesia helped by giving us a space for free, or some equipment.

That's how it started and then we used some of our own personal funds and finally we set up an appeal for crowd-funding to finish our post-production and to market the film. We managed to reach our $5,000 target before the due day. It was just spread through Facebook and Twitter.

Where else is the film going to be shown?

We're going to have a screening in Indonesia in April after Berlin. Hopefully after the Berlin Film Festival it's going to go places. Our premier is sold out now, so I hope that's a good indication. If you can get your film into the Berlin Film Festival the door is pretty much open for other film festivals.

We're also nominated for the Teddy Award at the film festival for queer films. I'm just glad that we got into the festival, if we win the Teddy award, wow, that will be an amazing 2012.

I noticed the soundtrack to the trailer is pretty cool, it sounds like an Indonesian TLC, who is that?

She's an Indonesian rapper, Yacko. She's very cool. I didn't know her before. We heard her song online then we met her and spoke about the film and asked her if she wanted to participate. She was very supportive and wrote a song just for the film.

The reason we love to work with her is that she has such a different profession. She's the only female rapper here in Indonesia.

And who did the Indonesian the shadow puppet animation? Because that looked really cool as well.

That was done by Fety Fithriya, she's a friend of ours. She wanted to be involved in the project from the beginning. It's amazing the level of support we've got since the beginning of the project we basically started with minimal funding and people want to support it, so they support it by donating their work or their time or energy. And Fety pretty much did this, almost for free.

What’s your aim for the film?

I really hope the film helps people, especially Indonesian women, to be inspired to make more films. We have such a talented people here. Hopefully having this film play out in international festivals it will inspire some people to go do it. All we started with was hope.

We only actually finished the film three weeks ago. When Berlin accepted it they hadn't even seen the finished film. I'm going to see the final final finished film at the premiere, along with everybody.

I'm really excited about the film. It's been a passionate project for us.

Who's Srikandi of the title?

Srikandi itself is a story, a mythological story from the Mahabharata, an ancient collection of stories. The story is still used in Javanese shadow puppet plays. It's about a female warrior, and that's how it ties into our film. It's a story about a strong independent woman defying expectations that society has of her. She represents struggles that modern women can relate to: struggles with identities, roles and expectations. That's how it becomes the backbone of our film.

Your film focuses on the stories of LBT women in Indonesia, what do you think is the biggest problem they face in 2012?

Visibility. I feel that it's a lot better than many many years ago but there's still this... issues within society about talking about LGBT, or sexuality actually.

In recent years there's been some violent incidents from Muslim organisations against the LGBT community. One of the biggest Muslim organisations attacked an LGBT conference and the Queer Film Festival in Jakarta in 2010. The film festival had been happening for nine years, and it's a small private festival.

We don't have a Pride march. I can't see Indonesia having a Pride march in the next few years. The thing is, this organisation that attacked the film festival is big in numbers and the government doesn't want to step in and the police don't want to step in.

Watch the trailer of Children of Srikandi here:
 

Anak-Anak Srikandi/ Children of Srikandi Official Trailer from Srikandi Films on Vimeo.

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