A debut that highlights Asian cinema

October 19th, 2011 - 1:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Oct 19 (IANS) If cinema had its child prodigies, she would be one - after all considering the maturity that direction requires, mid 20s could be seen as the teenage of a director’s life. Meet 26-year-old Indonesian Kamila Andini who debuts with “Mirror Never Lies”, probably one of the most accomplished Asian debuts in recent years.

“Mirror Never Lies” was showcased at the Mumbai Film Festival, organised by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI).

This might seem like a huge load on young shoulders; yet see “Mirror Never Lies” and you’ll shake your head with incredulity at both the control and intuition of the film.

Knowing that this is her first film, you’d expect it to have come from a tight script but she controls the time and space with experience and wisdom.

“I wrote only 80 percent of the script, intending to explore the rest 20 percent. The exploration has gone way beyond that,” Kamila told IANS, an impish smile lighting up her petite face.

The various metaphors in the film thus come as a surprise. A teenage girl, whose father has been missing at sea, refuses to believe that he won’t return. She keeps looking for him in a mirror. Her young mother constantly scolds her for this infatuation but herself hides behind a sunscreen, refusing to reveal her youth to others. It is as if the mother is aware that till her daughter is free from her illusion, she cannot be free from hers.

The images and the split images, the mirrors and their reflections, the calmness of the ocean surface and its serenity below, the characters’ perceptions and their reflections in the ocean - all come together in an adept, aesthetic and lyrical fable.

“A mirror and the sea have the same mystery to me and contain a lot of questions, reflections and stories. It is these stories that I wanted to explore through the film,” says Kamila.

Unlike many self-indulgent films in competition in MAMI this year, hers is surprisingly free of forced control and yet has a strong spiritual core.

The beautiful Bajonese people, who literally build their high wooden homes in the middle of the sea and live both in harmony and strife with the ocean around, couldn’t have found a better ambassador.

The underwater shots are haunting. They are like the mythical universe, the door to which lies in the mirror that the young girl holds in her hands.

Kamila shares the penchant for making children the centre of her film just like her father, the celebrated Indonesian director Garin Nugroho.

Yet ask her about his influence and she says, “I was on my own. My father saw the film only while it was being edited and even then he merely laughed at my mistakes.”

The influence of Worldwide Fund for Nature, which was part of the film, is evident.

At another level it is about man’s relationship with nature. It calls people to preserve their nurturer, but does so metaphorically instead of being overbearing.

Considering the films in competition at MAMI being held from Oct 13 to 20, there is a perceptible difference between films from developed worlds like Europe, North America and Australia and those from developing worlds.

The former have intellectual control while the ones from Latin America (”Las Acacias”) and Asia (”Mirror Never Lies” and “Death Is My Profession”) carry a spiritual strength rarely achieved in cinema.

Seeing and putting these films in perspective, it is evident that the hope of cinema lies in the latter.

(Satyen K. Bordoloi can be contacted at satyens@gmail.com)

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