Dadap dwitra: Voicing deeper exploration for documentary filmmaking in Bali
Documentary filmmaker Dwitra J. Ariana, 29, fondly called Dadap, has made his name on the national scene after his documentary Lampion-Lampion emerged as one of the nominations for best documentary film at the Indonesian Film Festival (FFI) in Jakarta last year.
Portraying the acculturation of the Chinese people and the Balinese Hindu faithful in Kintamani, the film was the champion of last year’s Bali Documentary Film Festival, as well as winning the Education and Culture Ministry’s award.
Dadap is currently completing his third documentary, Pura tanpa Daging Babi (Temple without Pork), which also depicts religious pluralism in the island.
Dadap is currently in the 14th semester of his law major at Udayana University, Denpasar. He has had plenty of study experience, including one month studying at STAN (the state accountancy school) in Manado, an architectural course at Udayana University, a graphic design diploma course from a private education institution and as a student of the Indonesian Arts Institute in Denpasar at some point in his life. This time, he pledged to complete his law study to honor his late mother’s wishes.
Below are excerpts of his views as shared with Bali Daily’s Agnes Winarti on the sidelines of the Bali Emerging Writers Festival in Denpasar.
Question: How did you start developing a passion for documentary film making?
Answer: I started by making art videos, which I submitted to festivals in Bandung, Semarang and Surabaya. My first fiction film was when I had just completed senior high school in 2002. After attending a documentary workshop in 2006, I came to realize that not many people engage in documentary films. I felt this is my chance for recognition. At the time, documentary festivals were still rare in Indonesia, as well as here. I’m basically an adventurer and traveler, and along the way, I’ve discovered many interesting ideas for documentary films. So I told myself, why not make them?
What’s your idealism in documentary film making?
There’s always an intriguing question in my mind: Why is it only foreigners who have voiced Bali in their films? For decades, so many films have been made, mostly by foreigners from channels like
National Geographic and the BBC. Bali has become an object of exploration and even exploitation. But why is there not one Balinese who wants to speak out about us? I felt that I was called to do that.
In 2006, my documentary film idea was selected to receive funding from the documentary workshop organized by Yayasan Masyarakat Mandiri Film Indonesia (In-Docs). They provided the equipment and covered operational costs. My first documentary was entitled Nangiang Barong (Membangunkan Barong), about the lives of villagers in Plaga village in northern Badung who consecutively experienced hardships, including storms that wrecked their harvests and typhoid fever. They found out that their Barong was being neglected in a warehouse.
After they performed the rituals to restore the Barong, their lives recovered. We had stock shots since 2004 of what happened in the village.
Thus, we only required two months to complete the making of this film. Without the stock shots, we wouldn’t have been able to do this film. We were among the 10 nominated documentary films in the Film Festival in Yogyakarta.
What is your goal for your documentary films to prevent them ending up in a dusty drawer?
To go to as many festivals and screenings as possible. I don’t think of selling my movies on DVD. So, money is never a target. The problem is, our first film was copyrighted by In-Docs, so whenever I want to screen the film I have to ask permission from their headquarters in Jakarta. That’s a lesson learned. Thus, I prefered to continue making my second film, Lampion Lampion. This year, I’m targeting participation for my film in an annual film festival in Trento, Italy, that is specifically designed for films on religion, spiritualism and pluralism. Making films has always been challenging in terms of funding. This second film is partly funded by the Cultural Agency of Bangli Regency who offered to fund its making after I had completed one-third of the production, which included research and shooting, which I managed to carry out by borrowing money here and there.
You also have a pig farm; can you tell us a bit about this other side of yours? Does this pig farm serve as your source of funding for the film making?
It’s a family pig farm. It used to be handled by my brother, who passed away seven months ago. There are 126 pigs at the moment and the cost to raise them is huge. The farming revenue is just enough to maintain the farm. So, it definitely does not serve as my funding source to make documentaries. The farm has covered my school tuition fees for years, so I feel obliged to my family to carry it on. If I could choose, I would rather not have a pig farm at all, but this is my responsibility.
You are quite consistent in your three documentaries; you always feature themes of religion and spiritualism. Why so?
Religious pluralism is a contextual theme, a phenomenon occurring in our nation, where there is disharmony between religions. For me, religion is an important topic to be unraveled. My third documentary (Pura tanpa Daging Babi — Temple without Pork) is controversial in nature because it depicts how the Muslims perform the sholat (Muslim prayer) at a pura (Balinese Hindu temple). This is a reality that certain people might not be able to accept.
To be able to fully develop the filmmaking potential in Bali, filmmakers need to have a community where they can discuss and share knowledge. Why does Bali not have any, whilst such communities thrive in Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta, and even in small city like Purbalingga?
Deeper exploration of arts, including audio-visual, can only happen if money does not serve as your main goal. But I find that many Balinese nowadays are so money-oriented, because they are aware of the nature of this island as a market. When money becomes a parameter of achievement, their exploration of arts will be shallow. People end up doing arts just for the money, as we can see, for example, in the traditional dances at hotels and the thriving business of wedding photography.
The Forum Filmmaker Bali that earlier this year you launched in Facebook, what do you expect from it?
There are about 150 people who have joined this group now. We are planning on gathering in screening and discussion sessions and also reaching out to schools and villages to better introduce filmmaking to a wider community on this island. Take, for example, poetry, many people here write poetry because they know how to write poetry from lessons at school, but film has yet to be taught in schools.