YIDFF 2007 New Asian Currents
Playing between Elephants
An Interview with Aryo Danusiri (Director)

Cinema Beyond Friendship

Q: Why did you choose an observation style of filming?

AD: I studied anthropology until graduate school, and furthermore studied visual ethnology. Because of this, I decided to make it as observational cinema. I studied filmmaking by myself, just while reading books. I decided to make a movie because movies are powerful. There are many of anthropology books but people do not read them a lot. I thought that showing what I had learned through a movie would be more powerful than reading a book. Even for my own research, I think that, more than writing a book, putting it in images would allow more people to have a look at it. Cultural knowledge is transmitted through written words but I think that there is something else movies can transmit. I think that what allows this the most is the fact of going through human beings.

Q: You are from Jakarta but why did you choose Aceh as material?

AD: As you know Indonesia is an island nation, we have few opportunities to receive information about the other islands, newspapers and television do not cross over islands. This lack of information makes us try to learn more about the others. There are also people in the world who carry stereotypes, have negative views. So I wanted to go and look by myself. This might be a negative view but for Indonesians, Aceh is seen as a war zone, a place of continual conflict. On another side, Aceh is one of the second poorest provinces of Indonesia. Even now, one year after the Aceh tsunami, reconstruction is not on its way. It is easy to build a house but why is it still not done over there? Especially, why is the reconstruction of Aceh not done? There are people who have negative and stereotypical views about all this, but in reality, building a house is quite difficult. I wanted to make a movie about what was difficult, the key questions of the problem.

Q: You started filming after building relationships?

AD: Yes. I use a method called research by camera. I use the camera as a catalyst between me and the people. This time I had one local with me and did all the filming. I tried as an experiment to film 3 lead characters but there is this aspect that stories are made by the relationships built. So I thought that reducing it to the village head was quite strategic. I am not sure if it is a proper record of things but he, as the youngest village head, was scrambling for rebuilding and reconstruction.

Q: It looked like you had a good relationship with the village head.

AD: Of course. We spent 9 months together. This is why I always say that observational cinema is a cinema beyond friendship.

(Compiled by Okuyama Kanako)

Interviewers: Okuyama Kanako, Kusunose Kaori / Interpreter: Sugiura Toshiko / Translator: Maxime Berson
Photography: Kaito Yoshimasa / Video: Sato Hiroaki / 2007-10-09