An Interview with Dwi Sujanti Nugraheni (Director)
Because I Love Them
Q: All the members of Denok and Gareng’s family have such beautiful smiles, and they showed me that a genuinely rich life does not come from materialistic wealth. Your documentary presents religion, poverty, and family from many angles, but what was your approach to this film?
DSN: I made this film about Denok and Gareng because I love them, and I wanted to make this film in the spirit of their life. I learned a lot from their life—to me, they seemed like cartoon characters who could survive anything, who could bounce back from anything that happened to them, and this film was about their indomitable spirit. When I visited their family, I experienced many things with them, and in the film I wanted to invite the audience to know them and feel their rich spirit.
Q: Where did Denok and Gareng find the courage to laugh at themselves and make jokes about their own life?
DSN: Denok lived in the street for over ten years, and Gareng for more than five. Street life is a really hard life, so they had to laugh to survive—and I think that was their natural habit. For me, there seem to be two options. You can laugh at your problems, or you can cry and get depressed, and they chose to laugh and move ahead. After his brother’s accident, Gareng did cry, but the next day he was already making jokes, and he was brave about trying to solve his problems. They had a hard life, but their way of making it easier was to make jokes about it.
Q: How did audiences in Indonesia react to this film?
DSN: In Indonesia, there’s no place in our cinemas for documentaries, so I showed it through community screenings. The audiences liked the film because it showed something that was close to them. I also filmed this documentary in an observational style, which was quite new for them, and they enjoyed that too.
Q: You’ve been involved in NGO activities in the past—how has this influenced your filmmaking?
DSN: I did field work and research for some NGOs, and I also helped set up a free health clinic for street children, who cannot go to the hospital when they are sick because they have no ID cards. We made a clinic for them so they could have access to health care, and it was while working with the street children that I met Denok and Gareng. When I worked with the NGOs, I wrote reports, but I felt that I wanted to do something more than just writing reports. I found that films could reach a wider audience, and influence more people. Of course films cannot change a situation directly, but the viewers have the ability to bring about change, and when I make my films, I hope that it may influence my audience to do something.
Q: Finally, can you tell us about your new projects?
DSN: In a new project I’m filming a village that is only 3.5 km from the peak of Mount Merapi, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. It’s a really dangerous place to live, but even if the government tries to move the villagers, they refuse to leave. I’m interested in their mindset, and I plan to continue filming until the next time the volcano erupts.
My other project is about three 30-something Asian women, including myself, who are unmarried and feeling pressure from our families and society. In Asia, I think people are often interested in your business, and I want to portray what we are feeling and the pressure of being Asian women like us.
(Compiled by Masuya Shoko)
Interviewers: Oki Kayako, Iida Yukako / Interpreter: Kawaguchi Takao / Translator: Kato Lisa Somers
Photography: Yamazaki Shiori / Video: Yamazaki Shiori / 2013-10-14