YIDFF 2009 Islands / I Lands—Cinemas in Exile
The Sorceress of Dirah
An Interview with Sardono W. Kusumo (Director)

Full Circle

Q: Why did you choose this particular Indonesian dance for your film? What did you want to show through this dance?

SWK: I chose this dance because I understand the body connects us with the long history of human existence and nature. In this film there are a lot of layers and the camera had become a part of my body, dancing with me, filming with me. The layers of characters and space created the complexity and ambiance of the film. All members of society had to participate to reveal the layers and fabric of society, establishing a sense of community and connectedness. Through dance I formed a connection/relationship with the villagers. We expressed ourselves, then we filmed our experience. In this film I filmed people as both characters in the story and characters functioning in society.

Q: In one scene in the film, men are sitting around a single figure in three circles. Other villagers enter the circles dressed up as a snake, and they dance inside the circles. Could you explain the message being conveyed in this scene?

SWK: What is interesting when you learn about the culture in Asia, as well as Africa, and other cultures around the world is that there are countless mythological stories connected with nature. The snake not only signifies danger and the caution we should practice in our own lives, but also fertility because as it slithers along it tills the land. The snake becomes a metaphor for ecological balance and the circle of life in that it poses a danger to humans if we are bitten by it, however, it also functions as our companion protecting us from rodents that eat our staple food, rice.

Q: You say, “My work is a search into the future through the past to recover the essential link between Man and Nature.” How do you maintain your connection with nature in your personal life?

SWK: Since I was young man, I was trained in Javanese martial arts. The inspiration behind the movements in these martial arts comes from mimicking animal movements in nature. The idea that the life of the human body is related to other animals is important. Movements from the snake, movements from the monkey, the grace of the bird and other animals only reaffirm our connection to nature because each person embodies these certain animalistic characteristics. The birdness of our body, the snakeness of our body, the multiple functions of the snake in nature also represents the multiplicity of humans in society. My training as a dancer/martial artist has also taught me that breathing is the most significant movement that we do in our lives. If you have problems with breathing, and you do not necessarily have to be ill, you have problems with your health/life.

(Compiled by Isom Winton)

Interviewers: Isom Winton, Nomura Yukihiro
Photography: Minai Kyoko / Video: Chiku Hiroko / 2009-10-12