Tuesday, October 18, 2011

An Accomplished Debut Puts Asian Cinema In The Spotlight

If cinema had its child prodigies, she would be one. After all considering the maturity that direction requires, mid 20s could be seen as the teenage of a director’s life. With one of the most accomplished Asian debuts in recent years, 26 year old Kamila Andini makes a great case for Asian cinema. And conservation.

This might seem like a huge load put on a young shoulder, yet see ‘Mirror Never Lies’ and you’ll shake your head with incredulity at both the control and intuition of the film. Kamila has control over time and space that usually comes with experience, and wisdom. Knowing that this is her first film, you’d expect it to have come from a tight script.

“I wrote only 80% of the script, intending to explore the rest 20%. The exploration has gone way beyond that,” she says, an impish smile lighting up her petite face.

The various metaphors in the film thus come as a surprise. A teenage girl, whose father has been missing at sea, refuses to believe that he won’t return. She keeps looking for him in a mirror. Her young mother constantly scolds her for this infatuation but herself hides behind a sunscreen, refusing to reveal her youth to others. It is as if the mother is aware that till her daughter is free from her illusion, she cannot be free from hers.

The images and the split images, the mirrors and their reflections, the calmness of the ocean surface and its serenity below, the characters perceptions and their reflections in the ocean, all come together in an adept, aesthetic and lyrical fable.

“A mirror and the sea have the same mystery to me and contain a lot of questions, reflections and stories. It is these stories that I wanted to explore through the film,” says Kamila.

Unlike many self indulgent films in competition in MAMI this year, hers is surprisingly free of forced control, yet has a strong spiritual core. The beautiful Bajonese people who literally build their high wooden homes in the middle of the sea and live both in harmony and strife with the ocean around, couldn’t have found a better ambassador.

The beautiful underwater shots are haunting. They are like the mythical universe whose door lies in the mirror that the young girl holds in her hands.

Kamila shares the penchant for making children the centre of her film just her father, the celebrated Indonesian director Garin Nugroho. Yet ask her about his influence and she says, “I was on my own. My father saw the film only while it was being edited and even then he merely laughed at my mistakes.” 

The influence of WWF (World Wildlife Fund), who were part of the film, is evident. For at another level it is about mans relationship with nature. It calls people to preserve their nurturer, but does so metaphorically instead of being overbearing.

At MAMI this year, considering the films in competition, there is perceptible difference between films from developed worlds like Europe, North America and Australia and those from developing worlds. Whereas the former have intellectual control, the ones from Latin America (Las Acacias) and Asia (‘Mirror Never Lies’ and ‘Death Is My Profession’) carry a spiritual strength rarely achieved in cinema. Seeing and putting these films into perspective, it is evident, that the hope of cinema lies in the latter.

This feature story has been written for the wire service, IANS (Indo-Asian News Service). 

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