Fatimah Rony and Chants of Lotus

May 6, 2009 at 8:45 am 1 comment

Financed by the Kalyana Shira Foundation project and with the goal of giving Indonesian woman a right to voice their opinions, Chants Of Lotus is a film with four episodes, written by Vivian Idris and Melissa Karim and directed by Fatimah T. Rony, Upi Avianti, Nia diNata and Lasja Susatyo. The intention is to tell stories from a feminine point of view in different geographical and social contexts in Indonesia.

Chants of Lotus was the most controversial winner at the Indonesian Film Awards in 2008. Presented in the full original version as the closing movie at the Jakarta International Film Festival in 2007, Chants Of Lotus (Perempuan punya cerita, or “the women have stories”) met serious resistance from the from the Indonesian film censor board, who demanded heavy editing before authorizing the film’s release. The producer and one of the directors Nia Dinata launched a vigorous campaign to defend the artistic integrity of the film as a reaction to this, taking a request to the Constitutional Court for the MFI (Masyarakat Filem Indonesia or the Indonesian Film Society) to reform the censor system. A documentary was even made about this case, but unfortunately, a censured version of the film was released in Indonesia in the end, while the full version is only available of screening at festivals and international markets.

This film was heavily censored by the Indonesian government. The uncensored version (if available) will be screened. Some scenes are graphic and shocking. This film is intended for mature audiences.

Four women filmmakers tackle four different stories about lives of marginalized women in Indonesia: In “Chant From The Capital City”, Lasja Susatyo confronts the prejudices that women, even in modern and relatively western cities like Jakarta, still have to go through. Laksmi (Susan Bachtiar), found out that her husband has died of AIDS. Barely recovered from grieve, she has to deal with the fact that she is infected with the same virus. Her mother-in-law demand the custody of their grandchild, Belinda (Ranti Maria). Laksmi struggles to keep Belinda. Trying to survive without a job, Laksmi begin to see the harsh reality: she has to choose between her daughter and her fight with HIV.

Upi Avianto is an Indonesian film director, writer and producer. He has worked on recent films popular in Indonesia. In 2004, he directed 30 hari mencari cinta (a romantic comedy) and in 2007, he directed, wrote and produced the hit Coklat stroberi. (Chocolate Strawberry, a teen drama comedy.)

In Chants of Lotus, Avianto directs “Chant From a Tourist City” which is based on a group of young people in Yogyakarta. Yogyakarta is known as a center for higher education and is the second most popular tourist city behind Bali. This segment explores what happens as young people use the internet to explore sex.

In 2000, Nia diNata founded an independent film company. In 2004, she directed the hit Arisan!, which won many awards and was the first Indonesian film with a gay theme.

She has been known to expose gender issues in her film and continues in that tradition with “Chant From A Village.” This film is about a single mother who works in a nightclub and struggles to protect her daughter from sex trafficking.

In “Chant from an Island” Sumantri is a midwife who lives on a small island that is far away from the capital Jakarta. Her role on the island is very important, and she has not told anyone that she has stage 3 cancer. When the village’s autistic girl is raped, Sumantri has to decide whether or not to give the girl an abortion, against the wishes of the religious community.

“Chant from an Island” is directed by Fatimah Rony, who visited us during the screening. She is a filmmaker, author, and educator. Her films have been screened at several international film festivals and art museums. Her filmmography includes “Demon Lover” and “Everything in Between”, which both won Director’s Guild of American Student Film Awards. She has won the Kodak Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at the Cannes Film Festival twice, in addition to a miriad of awards: Rockerfeller Media Arts Fellowship, a Fulbright to Indonesia, and a Jim Morrison Directing award. She has written articles for many publications, including Film Quarterly, Afterimage, Artforum, and Camera Obscura. Fatimah has also lectured at many institutions around the world, and currently teachers at University of California Irvine.

-Posted by Liana Engie, written by Rylee Rubalcava, Michelle Fong, and Liana Engie

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1 Comment Add your own

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