There are times when people distinguish between understanding in consciousness and change. Understanding is often considered useless if it is not accompanied by change. However, that’s not how the connection between the two works. Change is only possible if there has first been a development of understanding in consciousness and mind. The shift of perception itself has shown a change. In various humanitarian issues, change is often difficult to attain as those who are powerless and oppressed initially don’t realize that the situation they are facing does not just happen naturally. On the other hand, just because someone isn’t aware of a problem doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Changes in the way we interpret life will then be reflected in our behaviour toward the world. This change, therefore, no longer affects only ourselves, but also many people and the environment: through questions, redefinitions, criticism, and resistance. With each of their own unique approaches to storytelling, we can see depictions of this situation in the main competition films of the Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival 2022.
“Leonor Will Never Die” (Martika Escobar Ramirez, Philippines) and “24” (Royston Tan, Singapore) made an element-in-film explicit to their films. “Leonor Will Never Die” shows the will of a scriptwriter to perfect his imagination. Meanwhile, “24” follows the journey of a sound recordist for the last time to capture the world through the sounds he presents. Like “24”, “Let Me Hear it Barefoot” (Riho Kudo, Japan) also features a voice recording story. This film makes the body explicit as a field of human experience, and the affective side is no exception. Along with the desire to explore the world with loved ones, humans understand distance and limitations.
By combining documentary, animation and collage, “Silver Bird and Rainbow Fish”, Lei Lei (China) tries to retrace the journey of his family’s life over three generations. Changes in identity are closely intertwined with changes in time and era. The effort to trace one’s origins is also present in “Return to Seoul” (Davy Chou, Cambodia). This film invites the audience to explore the existential crisis and the inner complexities of a person who “returns home”. Do acceptance and understanding necessarily mean forgiveness? Family dynamics are again present in “Like a Fish on the Moon” (Domaz Hajiha, Iran) which re-questions the existence of children in the family, and at the same time, in society.
In “Arnold is a Model Student” (Sorayos Prapapan, Thailand), a school that should be a place to study and humanize people has instead become an institution that teaches and perpetuates oppression from an early age. Schools seem to be a miniature of how the state works. Meanwhile, “Autobiography” (Makbul Mubarak, Indonesia) captures how terror comes along with loyalty perpetuating the hierarchy from generation to generation. Like “Arnold is a Model Student”, “Autobiography” also invites the audience to redefine the value of loyalty and obedience.
The cycle of violence reappears in “Killing the Eunuch Khan” (Abed Abest, Iran). Through the stunning cinematography in its red and dark colour palate, the audience is led through nightmares and endless horizons of destruction. “The Brittle Thread” (Ritesh Sharma, India) is a metaphor for how fragile humanity is in the face of difference. The sound of bells and loud prayers seem unable to save a multicultural city from tragedy. “The Newspaper” (Sarath Kothalawala, Kumara Thirimmadura, Sri Lanka) describes the long journey of searching for the truth after the “fate” of a family is shattered by the spread of information.
Two female directors in the main competition chose to portray women’s resistance in a patriarchal society. “Like & Share” (Gina S. Noer, Indonesia) highlights the link between women, technology, and violence. And finally, the film “Before, Now and Then” (Kamila Andini, Indonesia) underlines how the effort of women to achieve freedom cannot be separated from the context of the world they live in.
Those are the 13 films from 10 countries in the main competition. Eight of them are feature-length directorial debuts. The number thirteen itself is not intentional. Due to the large number of submissions, film recommendations, the process of curating and determining films included in the main competition program is not easy and highly competitive.