Exploring “Stories that Matter” - Bali International Indigenous Film Festival 2019
The Bali International Indigenous Film Festival, May 10-12, 2019 offered an immersion in inspirational films, talks and discussions centring on indigenous culture. Exploring the theme, “Stories that Matter”, 34 filmmakers presented their work to captivated audiences.
An amazing array of talent came together on the opening night, which began with a welcome blessing by Miliwanga Wurrben, an Australian Aboriginal elder and traditional medicine woman from Central Arnhem Land. This was followed by a stunning artistic performance of ‘SMOKE’ by an aboriginal dance group led by Jade Dewi and joined by Balinese artist performer, Tebo Aumbara. Next, the powerful Taiwanese Indigenous voice of Ado Kaliting Pacida took the audience across oceans to far shoresand back again to Kalimantan, with a mesmirising Dayak dance performance. Also performing was Uyau Moris, an international sape player from the Dayak Kenyah tribe (North Kalimantan) who flew in especiallyfor the night. These fine performances served as a fitting prelude to the 4 excellent short documentary films and the main feature ‘Small Island Big Song’. This film, by director Tim Cole (Australia) and producer BaoBao Chen (Taiwan), was a highlight of the evening.
Over the 3 days, powerful and beautiful films were screened from and about indigenous communities worldwide. These films served as an eloquent reminder that care for the environment is a universal value. They offered insights on why the solutions to climate change and other environmental challenges should be driven by indigenous communities and always keep them center-stage.
Young indigenous filmmakers like Yoni Revolt from Papua and Martison Siritoitet from the Mentawai Islands shared their stories and films. So too did the well-spoken and inspirational bilingual filmmaker, Kynan Tegar, who is only 14 years old. He shared his beautifully filmed documentary of a sacred ritual from the small village of Sungai Utik, a remote Dayak Iban settlement in West Kalimantan. The young filmmakers were joined by award-winning Indonesian filmmakers like Nanang Sujana, whose work has appeared on National Geographic, HBO and PBS and in The Guardian.
The presence of all this talent created an excellent platform for learning, sharing and collaboration. This was highlighted by particularly stimulating Q & A sessions. These for example included indigenous Canadian (Innu and Anishinaabe) filmmakers and award-winning directors from USA, Australia, Canada and UK. Presentations from large production houses like Global Oneness (USA) and If Not Us then Who (USA) also stimulated profound exchange, and productive exploration of the environmental, social and cultural issues presented.
The audience got to meet all the filmmakers and presenters, including Indonesia’s top Director, Kamila Andini (‘The Mirror Never Lies’ and ‘Sekala Niskala’). This was a wonderful opportunity for filmmakers too,with Hugo Metz from If Not Us then Who commenting, “I have never been around so many filmmakers ever at a film festival”.
To take advantage of having so many film industry leaders and thinkers in the same place, and offer more opportunities for exchange, the BIFF staged some additional events. These involved a screening of multiple documentaries at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts (ISI), and a fundraising dinner at the Hotel Tugu Bali.
Showcasing over 50 documentary and other indigenous cultural films was certain to foster a sense of validation. There were indeed moments of extreme emotion. It was especially inspirational to witness the passion of the young Indonesian people there. One particular presentation by Martison from the Mentawai’s moved a film participant so much that they gave him a Sony Action Cam so he could record his trip back into the jungle and no longer has to borrow equipment.
Indigenous Film Festival in Bali 2019
Kynan, a 14 year old filmmaker from Kalimantan (Borneo) was one of the stars of the festival, backed by a powerful grass root movement of a new generation of media activists, using all possible media to communicate with local and global audience – from Papua New Guinea filmmakers taking a risk touching political issues to Ibu Onet, communicating with a Orang Utan puppet as Instagram star to local audience or international productions like Small Island – Big Song showing Austronesian culture interwoven from Madagascar to Easter island.
Emmanuela Shinta, a young activist from Kalimantan, who just spoke in front of the UN, founded the festival together with David Metcalf.
Getting organized: the power behind the new grass root movement are organizations like Wapikoni Mobile in Kanada, which provides media technology and knowledge to indigenious communities in Canada and supports aspiring filmmakers, like Craig Commanda and Jani Bellfleur-Kaltush, who presented their films and the Wapikoni project.
Rizal Lanni comes from mountain area of Papua New Guinea only accessible by airplane – he is one of Papuan Voices, an initiative of videographers in Papua – check out Rizals youtube channel here . Yonri Revolt is a filmmaker and activist in Papua, also promoting archiving and presentation programs (more here).
Filmmakers as networkers: Hugo Metz is collaborating with many organizations and channels to give indigenious cultures a voice world wide- check out the huge youtube channel of “If not us then who?” here.
Multi-talent Charlie Hill Smith from Australia works as producer, networker & director in West Papua (trailer of his festival film here)
Music is a powerful messenger, as two other festival films showed, both based on the Austronesian migration over 5000 years, rediscovering common roots, deeply touching in the film Musical Healers of Land by Ado Kaliting Pacidal and vibrant charismatic in Small Island Big Songorchestrating musicians from Madagascar to Easter Island in a project by Bao Bao Chen and Tim Coles.
Sometimes nothing is more powerful then the spoken word – as special guest Miliwanga Wurrben, grown up in the outback of Australia, showed in her welcome speeches. It all comes back to basics – an open heart – thanks for a great festival.