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Darwin International Film Festival

The Darwin International Film Festival is looking to its closest neighbours this year, with a huge focus on the incredible stories from Australasia. 

By Tamara Howie

Indonesian filmmaker Kamila Andini loves to see the world from the  point of view of children.

“Their curiosity is something fascinating,” she says.

“The idea to question and search for an answer, without having to have the real answer, is interesting.

“I think that is why children’s perspective has always interested me.”

This curiosity explains why her two feature films are told through the eyes of kids grappling with difficult situations.

Her acclaimed debut feature, The Mirror Never Lies, explores the death of the protagonist’s father and her latest film Sekala Niskala (The Seen and Unseen), which will screen at the Darwin International Film Festival (DIFF), also delves into the mind of a child dealing with loss.

“Adults understand life more than kids,” Andini says.“

Kids, they kind of know, but they  don’t really get the whole picture. Other than a feeling, there are always questions in every event that a kid experiences. 

“There is always ‘possibility’ inbetween things because of the unknown. I see this a lot in my kids.”

In Sekala Niskala, twin 10-year-olds Tantri and Tantra are inseparable. They spend their youth frolicking through fields and getting up to mischief, until Tantra falls gravely ill and into a coma.

To deal with the devastation of her brother’s condition, Tantri escapes into night-time visions, where the siblings say their farewells through dance, shadow puppetry and costumed play.

In the film, Andini, who is the daughter of veteran filmmaker Garin Nugroho, explores what grief and loss are to a child in Balinese culture.

She says in Bali, and in many places in Indonesia, people believe in the circle of life. 

“We believe in the unseen world, that death is not the end, it’s just that we enter the new world, new life.

“We see death become part of life. So talking about death is actually talking about life itself.”

Sekala Niskala will close out the 10-day festival, which has a strong-er focus on the Australasian region than ever before.

Among the films are fanciful an-imated features, shorts from the next batch of Territory filmmakers, and stories of love and passion.

This year, 80 per cent of the films are from the region, with a strong focus on local content.

Festival manager Alice Body says rather than trying to imitate Melbourne’s or Sydney’s International Film Festivals, DIFF is setting itself apart by bringing the best stories from the local area.

“From 2016, under the influence of creative director Tim Parish, DIFF really started coming into focus as a festival that would actively and consciously celebrate the films on our doorstep and be a meaningful event for the local film industry,” she says.

“From here, DIFF projects, including SPARK Film Initiative, which offers seed funding, mentorship and support to produce five short local films, plus the Capricornia Film Awards were established.

“It is now less an attempt to  provide local audiences with a smaller version of the Melbourne or Sydney International Film Festivals and more tapping into its own strengths, resulting in a unique, boutique festival that celebrates and is of relevance to the film industries of our region.”

The huge 10-day program features more than 25 films in a range of venues, including plenty under the stars, plus loads of workshops.

THU 13 – SUN 23 SEP | VARIOUS | VARIOUS | See the event listing

Header and top image from Sekala Niskala (The Seen and Unseen)

Thumbnail image from China Love

Bottom image from Finke: There and Back

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