Overcoming intergenerational trauma is a powerful theme in Alkisah Si Dewa (The Myth of Dewa) which has taken out the best film award at the 2023 ReelOzInd film festival.
The film was directed by Brahmma Putra Wijaya and produced by Annisa Adjam, both from Indonesia. It depicts a small boy who seeks out a village shaman to help him find his missing older brother.
While it is partially inspired by the story of Siddhartha (the Buddha), it also draws heavily upon the suffering experienced by the Chinese Indonesian community.
Director Brahmma’s family is Chinese Indonesian, a community that has experienced violent persecution, particularly during the 1960s.
Brahmma says the film relates to his own intergenerational trauma as well as the need to address mental health in Indonesia.
He says he was driven to make Dewa because “there are few films that discuss the mental health aspect of growing up as a child in Indonesia”.
“As a Chinese-Indonesian filmmaker, Dewa is also very much influenced by my personal life and how I grew up in a trauma-ridden household,” he said.
“It’s a constant struggle to find a sense of home and safety. I want to do my best to save my family from their past sorrows, but I know that I have to first save myself.”
Brahmma says the film is also about a sense of home and that in Dewa “I want to show that a sense of home can be found in the journey itself”.
Reflecting on trauma, he says it is important to talk about it now as he feels incidents from the 1960s and 1990s are rarely discussed but are keenly felt.
“Documentaries that recount the events themselves have been made, though never enough,” he said.
“But the trauma management that the following generations must deal with, who grew up within families that are impacted by these events, has never been addressed in any feature-length fiction I know.
“I think it’s important to make a film accessible to teenagers or older adults that discuss this topic in an entertaining way so it can be more casually discussed and addressed by a wider audience. I want this topic to no longer be taboo to talk about within families.”
Brahmma said he intends to expand the 10-minute film into a feature-length movie.
Reflecting upon the festival overall, Dewa producer Annisa Adjam says ReelOzInd! “offers unique experiences for filmmakers from Indonesia and Australia to be inspired from each other’s crafts and give cultural understanding through the curation program”.
“We were impressed by the diversity of each year’s jury members from professional artists to scholars who ultimately bring valuable feedback to the filmmakers,” she says.
Festival director Jemma Purdey said this year’s entries fitted well with the theme of ‘pencarian’ or ‘quest’.
“In our festival reel of ten short films, there are stories about a young woman searching for meaning after the loss of her father; and a boy for his long-lost brother,” said Dr Purdey.
“There are quests for creative inspiration, for ways to live lightly and sustainably on our planet and to adapt to change impacting the way we work and earn a living for our families.
“Our filmmakers also remind us of the power of storytelling in the search for truth about the past, as we seek to understand the present and what lies ahead. And of course, there is the timeless quest for true love.”
The 2023 premieres were held in Yogyakarta at STMM MMTC and in Melbourne at ACMI, with a pop-up travelling festival now running until 21 December with screenings scheduled in Jakarta, Makassar and Perth, to name a few.
Visit our website for our pop-up festival dates and to view this year’s ReelOzInd! Festival Reel online.