Nia Dinata: Film fests
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Director Nia Dinata (36) just won last week the Halekulani Golden Orchid Award for Best Feature Film at the 2006 Louis Vuitton Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF).

The jury's statement said that Berbagi Suami (Love for Share) fluently addresses social and political issues and shows captivatingly strong Asian women characters. Here, she speaks to The Jakarta Post's contributing film writer Lisabona Rahman about her experiences with film festivals and how it affects the market's reaction to her works.

Lisabona: How do you choose which festivals your film should enter?

Nia Dinata: I have always been excited to see film festivals in Asia, and send my works there. I wasn't too familiar with HIFF, although I have read about it in magazines and was very interested to see its focus and characters. Also, the way they select films is very close to that in the Pusan and Tokyo festivals.

I happened to meet the HIFF director who saw Berbagi Suami at the Tribeca Film Festival. He encouraged me to take part in the festival's competition.

In fact, the festival itself is already familiar with the Indonesian film scene. Slamet Rahardjo was invited to be a jury member and Arifin C. Noer's Bibir Mer was nominated for best feature. The HIFF have established a focus on Asia-Pacific films over the 26 years of their existence. It is a very well organized festival and a highly enjoyable one.

How did the audience react to your film?

[Laughs] Well, one of the questions from a critic was about whether I was trying to defend Islam by depicting the polygamous nature of non-Muslims. I just said that it was a fact that polygamy is practiced by people from so many different backgrounds in Indonesia.

And then the Q&A session developed into a discussion about Indonesian films, its hibernation, condition of movie theaters and even about censorship.

Do awards like this generally influence your market?

Of course, there is a big impact on international distributor's response to our work. Festivals always provide the chance to build relationships with international distributors. It brings us closer to different people in the industry and also, they (festivals) have a lot of knowledge about trends and mapping international audience's preferences.

Kalyana Shira Films, which produced Berbagi Suami, is currently following up some interest in our films from international distributors.

We also have a lot of things to learn about how to build strategies for different films and to find out what will be best for us to support our production base here.

Is there any difference between the reactions inside Indonesia and abroad?

Awards do have an impact on the Indonesian audience, though not always. But audiences also have wide variety of tastes and I begin to know who my audiences are.

I know that making films about adults and their lives wouldn't be attracting millions of viewers. If I wanted that, I probably should make films for teenagers.

But the lives of grown-ups are what interest me and I'd be so happy just to see people coming to watch my films. As long as the production company gets enough to cover production costs and everything, I don't think so much about getting an audience of a million viewers.

And the market also consists of people who go to the cinema and (those) who buy DVDs. So far, the DVD sales is also quite encouraging.

But generally, awards from international film festivals are a credible acknowledgement of our works. I always try to submit my works to different festivals in different parts of the world because it's always interesting to see audiences' reaction to our story.

I personally love festivals because of the environment of so many different films and interesting people.

Do you think there's still a gap between commercially successful films and the ""festival achievers""?

No, (and) there shouldn't be. It would be great if a film can do well on both sides, because in the end, it's the commercial screening that keeps productions running.

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