An Interview with Yuslam Fikri Anshari (Yufik) (Director)
Before It Drowns
Q: What led you to take up rural problems as a theme?
YFA: Farmers provide us with food, but they themselves live in at a very low living standard. I wanted to help in some way to raise their living standard, so I got interested in the problems they are facing. Agriculture and fishing are very prominent in nature-blessed Indonesia. But by the introduction of capitalism, the natural systems have been altered considerably. The farmers’ and fishermen’s lives were turned upside down before they even noticed. In Indonesia, under the banner of “green revolution,” mass production was advocated. They would reap rice crops three times a year from the same field. As a result of abusing agricultural chemicals to match the new production rate, the land has become gradually sterile. The first time I filmed my country, it was because of love for my own nation and culture. Though Indonesia is a united country, it is ethnically diverse. If you take a look at the history, it was colonized by Holland at one point. But at the roots of this culture, one cannot ignore the fact that Indonesia has a strong agricultural foundation. The country is surrounded by wide oceans and has much fertile land, but the inhabitants of this land do not get the chance to enjoy life where they are. I am not such a good writer, so I figured the best I could do was to describe the life of these inhabitants using my camera, going over borders between villages and people.
Q: What do you mean by your title The Drown Sea?
YFA: Well, there are places where sea turns into land, and other places where land turns into sea. The cause of these changes in nature is solely because of the economy and development. When I look at that fact, I think humans are really just self-destructing. I know how it is hard to say that the ocean drowns, but I realized that even water can drown, and seize to harbor life. That’s what I mean by that title.
Q: In the film you didn’t get into the specifics of why the bay is filling up with dirt, but rather you filmed the words and the lifestyle of the people living there. Why?
YFA: In my films, I don’t do problem solving. They are my films because they are portraying the villagers’ lives, what they talk about, and their thoughts. I would be satisfied if they could use this film as a tool to fight for their rights to live. Those people in the film do not know anything about the definition of human rights as a lawyer would recite it. They just want to live where they are as they like. Democracy rapidly developed in Indonesia after it gained its independence. However, the lands that they live on are, in fact, owned by foreign capitalists. The natural gas plants, oil mine, and cement factories are all owned by that same group of people. People who live there struggle to go to school. “Life rights” in those areas are almost non-existent.
Q: What do you want the audience to get from your film?
YFA: I want them to feel pity for the villagers who live there. I made this film as a discussion-starter, so I hope that the right people will be able to communicate their thoughts about this topic. The only thing I am good at is using my camera, so I wish to continue filming farmers.
(Compiled by Hiroya Motoko)
Interviewers: Hiroya Motoko, Yokoyama Sara / Interpreter: Sugiura Toshiko / Translator: Paul Mikaelsen
Photography: Suzuki Takashi / Video: Takada Ayumi / 2007-10-07