[Film] “Memoria”: Beyond Politics....It’s Humanity!

Warning: spoiler alert!


“Memoria” is a recent short film directed by Kamila Andini and produced by Treewater Production, together with Hivos Southeast Asia. The film had its world premiere in Busan Film Festival 2016 and competed in Wide Angle Asian Shorts Film Competition. While in Indonesia, Memoria was nominated as one of the best short films in Indonesian Film Festival 2016 and won two awards in Jogja Asian Film Festival for Blencong Awards and Student Choice Awards. The film has also screened in Timor Leste - where the adapted background of the true story took place. Screenings in Timor Leste includes an event in the Survivors Conference, and in many Timor Leste's districts with hardly-found adequate screening equipment.

So, what is it about “Memoria” that attracts interest and appreciation from many parties? The film cinematically portrays various issues ranging from sexual violence to young people's ignorance on history, and also adapted portrayal of Timor Leste's context on cultural discrimination to narratives on women’s empowerment. In such a short duration, “Memoria” is able to capture a humanity perspective, beyond the hard surrounding politics. 


The Survivors: Healed and Empowered

“Memoria” narrates a story about the sexual violence victims during the conflict in Timor Leste in the year 1975-1999. Women are perceived useless in wartime. And that, during the war, women were sexually violated and was used as war tools. According to the United Nations Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict, women in particular can face devastating forms of sexual violence, which are sometimes deployed systematically to achieve military or political objectives. Rape committed during war is often intended to terrorize the population, break up families, destroy communities, and, in some instances, change the ethnic make-up of the next generation.

The main character of "Memoria".

The main character of "Memoria".

The sexual violence during wartime in Timor Leste, has caused massive trauma to the woman victims as they were brutally abused and then discriminated by the society. The violence does not stop until the war ended, it is indeed such a vicious cycle. They live in stigma as ex of Indonesian soldier’s wife. 

The opening of the film narrates a heartbreaking and original experiences from the survivors themselves. It took their whole courage to share their stories for the viewers to listen to. The wound they had/ have is the main exploration of this film, said the film director. How the wound was there and is always present, for instance in the form of their children and how the wound healed through reconciliation and self-confidence. The bottom line of this exploration is about their struggle within and their survival from the wound, to be nothing more than a memory. A memory to be embraced.

The survivors hardly live in peace. Their pasts haunt them. The ways they deal with their traumatic experiences varies, and quite unique. The methods used in the film are inspired by the actual activities the survivors did to heal, through facilitation from the Survivor's project executed by Hivos Southeast Asia, Fokupers and Acbit. In the film, the survivor sews her dress that she wore when she was raped. It’s a symbolic yet healing process for her to fix the trauma through sewing which was inspired by one of the survivor's true story. Another type of healing method, is through the postcard method, which is also shown in the film. This method allows the survivors to write a postcard for the perpetrators. One of the survivors jokingly said that she writes asu (literal translation: dog) for her rapist.


Intergenerational Relations: Ignorance and Truth

“Memoria” is also a story about a mother and her daughter, which played greatly by the actors with such strong chemistry, through the laughs and tears. The film shows contradictory perspective of the mother and daughter’s generations. The mother is very traumatic with war-associated issues and places. She cries seeing the dress she wore during the rape, she feels a great fear remembering the place she was raped. While the daughter is seen casually playing with a knife, and even takes a selfie with it. This contradiction describes the absence of intergenerational historical knowledge sharing, as well as the ignorance of the younger generation to understand more. In order to achieve a comprehensive transitional justice, a country must first find the truth, have a reconciliation among the parties involved and endeavour reformation afterwards. The process requires strong intergenerational relations to keep justice maintained and sustained. 

The mother and daughter relationship in frame.

The mother and daughter relationship in frame.

The film also triggers deep discussion to explore about the discriminative tradition towards women that is actually a form of sexual violence. This was portrayed with a scene regarding dowry. How the dowry concept is rejected by the mother, because it belittles women. And rejection of dowry gave her conflict with her daughter, and her male relatives.


Holistic Approach: The Director’s Memorabilia

Kamila Andini was 7-month pregnant while directing “Memoria”. The shoot was operationalized with limited crew members, in the disrict of Ermera. Ermera is 3 hours from Dili, with limited access to clean water, accommodation and infrastructure. It was a challenge for Kamila to lead the filming process in such condition. But she found great motivation by listening to all the moving stories from the survivors; she gained her strength to direct the film wholeheartedly. She felt ashamed if she could not survive the hardship while the survivors have had experiences that are much worse.

When Kamila Andini directed "Memoria" in Ermera, Timor Leste.

When Kamila Andini directed "Memoria" in Ermera, Timor Leste.

Kamila Andini is fully supported by her family on her desired career in film-making no matter how unfriendly the environment is for mostly women. Together with her husband, Ifa Isfansyah, they believe what they are doing now is a living example for their two daughters, Rintik and Binar, that in the future they can be anything they want to regardless their gender identity and socially-constructed role and norms.


Important notes:

  • All the actors in the film "Memoria" are non-professional actors.
  • The main character is a survivor herself.
  • The film is in Tetum language. And that the director had a local crew as translator to ensure the dialogue was correctly-spoken. The film editor had a hard time editing because of the language barrier.
  • The total professional crew involved were only 8 people.