Camila Andini is a mother and film director based in Jakarta, Indonesia. She released her first feature film “The Mirror Never Lies” in 2011 and her second feature film “Visible and Invisible” in 2017; NSBoth films have been shown jointly in more than 50 film festivals around the world and have received nearly 30 awards nationally and internationally. In addition to her feature projects, Andini directs short films and stage shows. sHe is currently working on her next movie “Before, Now, and Then” (working title).
Uni will premiere at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival on September 12. The festival takes place from September 9-18.
W&H: Describe the movie to us in your own words.
A: “Uni” is the story of a girl who is still figuring out what she wants to do with her life. She sees a lot of potential in herself. She thinks she can be anything she wants and her choices seem exciting. For now, all she wants to do is continue her studies, but then marriage proposals arrive. Suddenly, her choices aren’t that interesting anymore and they become burdens on her mind.
“Yoni” is about experiencing those little feelings of growing up and making mistakes to find out who we are as women. Uni is more about listening to ourselves than to society. The word “uni” is about our own definition of editing.
W&H: What drew you to this story?
Khaled: One day, a woman who worked in my house told me the story of her daughter, who was about to give birth at the age of 18 and had a very high-risk pregnancy. She told me the story of her engagement and how she remembers her wedding day. “It was raining heavily…all day,” she said. This isn’t the first story I’ve heard about child marriage in Indonesia, but for some reason this story stays in my head, especially when I see my daughters. Then I wonder how I’m going to tell stories about their wedding days.
The story was a reflection of me as a mother and a woman. I wondered if a movie could be it, so I started writing ‘Yoni’. These are stories of women I have heard, seen and read about in Indonesia, I think [need to be shared]. Not the sound of a loud scream, but a feeling underneath, a quiet moment in front of the mirror, and the start of a conversation. [between girls].
I remember the famous poem by Indonesian poet Sabardi Djoko Damono, “Rain in June”. It’s about the rain that falls in the summer, just like the movie “Uni” about a girl who has to bloom [before she is ready]. The rain becomes the biggest anomaly in this movie and the poem becomes an important element of the movie as well.
W&H: What do you want people to think after watching the movie?
Khaled: I want them to think of their daughters or other teenage girls out there. They are the people who need our support to know what they want to do in the future. I want the public to see that the choices are difficult for girls during this time [in life].
W&H: What is the biggest challenge in the film industry?
Khaled: The challenge was to stay right. From the start, my vision has been to tell stories about my people with our own characteristics. The Muslim community in Indonesia is different. Sometimes in the process of cooperation, people already have their own idea of Islamic countries – their kinds of problems, rebellion, resistance – but we have different history, culture and personality of people. Making a film that is honest with Indonesia is actually not easy.
Also, we produce a lot of teen films in Indonesia. There are a lot of stories about teens released throughout the year, but most of them are stories of teens in the city. While I think most teenagers in Indonesia do not live like them. I want to tell their true stories and I think it’s hard to stay within that vision with all the production requirements.
W&H: How did you get your film financed? Share some ideas of how the movie was made.
Khaled: I’m keen to share financial information, but not because it’s a sensitive topic or I don’t want to, but because I’m the writer and director of this movie. I think, professionally, there is one particular person who is more apt to talk about financial information: the product.
But overall, I can tell you that we, Fourcolours Films, started to fund the film with an Indonesian co-producer initially, but then the rest of the film was financed through international funding and co-production. We co-produced the film with Akanga Film Asia (Singapore), Manny Films (France), and Starvision (Indonesia), with financial support from Aide Aux Cinémas Du Monde CNC (France), Infocomm Media Development Authority (Singapore), Visions Sud Est (Singapore). Switzerland), Ministry of Culture and Education (Republic of Indonesia), MPA APSA Academy Film Fund (Australia), Purin Pictures (Thailand).
W&H: What inspired you to become a director?
Khaled: The people and culture in my country are what inspired me the most to become a filmmaker. Life itself is the biggest inspiration. I have a lot of things on my mind to share, but I’m not very good with words.
I’ve loved art since I was a kid. I learned a lot of things, like dance, music, painting and photography, but there was always a time when I felt like it was the end or felt like it wasn’t for me. Since I learned filmmaking, I feel like it’s the medium for me, so I can share everything inside of me, my thoughts and feelings. I can talk about everything I love about the movie, from my interests to my culture. I think it’s just my calling.
W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?
A.: The best advice I’ve ever received is that we all have our own version of the pros and cons in life. We should acknowledge them all and aim to be the best version of ourselves. We live by accepting all that is bad and good in life.
In fact, I don’t remember if I received bad advice, I think each tip is useful in its own way. But I ran into the worst idea of myself. One day a fellow filmmaker asked me if I wanted to have a child – I was married but didn’t have children yet at the time – and I said, “Yes, I want to be a mother.” Then she asked me, “Really?” And she told me that she thinks it’s impossible for women to have the greatest success in the film industry with children.
Well, I have two daughters and I’m still working hard to pursue a lot of things in the film industry. I just hope and believe that what she said is not true. I still think that cinema is a limitless medium.
W&H: What’s your advice for other female directors?
CA: I think as a mother and a filmmaker, it takes the whole family to make a movie. I think it’s important to find your own support system – people who believe in you no matter what. It is also important to believe in yourself.
Make the movie with your personality and approach. I think it’s okay to be feminine, to be a crying baby, or to be emotional easily in a group. Make your collaborators understand your vision more than sex. Put yourself in your work to create diversity in cinema.
W&H: Name your favorite female-directed movie and why.
Khaled: What I love about cinema is that it shows possibilities. These are some of the films directed by female directors who show me the possibilities: “The Apple” and “Blackboards” by Samira Makhmalbaf, “Mukhsin” and “Sepet” by Yasmine Ahmed, “Fat Girl” by Catherine Brillat, and “The Mourning Forest”. Naomi Qawassi and “Caramel” by Nadine Labaki and many more!
W&H: How are you coping with life during the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you maintain your creativity, and if so, how?
A.: Well, Yoni was shot before the epidemic started in Indonesia. Immediately after filming ended, the shutdown began. Almost the entire post-production phase of the film is completed, from home. Originally, we were supposed to do editing and color grading in Thailand, music in Paris, sound mixing in Singapore, [but because of COVID] It was impossible to travel, so I had to do almost everything.
It was frustrating, frankly, not being able to work with your film in the studio with the editor, music director, and sound designer. Designing everything on your laptop isn’t something you ever want to do. You feel like you want to do everything for your movie, but at the same time, as a mother, you also have to be responsible for [children] during the pandemic. He was frustrated. But we all had to come to terms with the circumstances. I felt that I should be able to work and do my best [even with the] delimiters.
We finished the movie, and I had another movie to shoot just a couple of months ago. This is also another story, shooting [a film] During a pandemic it is more challenging, but I think we all have to accept this as the new normal.
W&H: The film industry has a long history of underrepresenting people of color on screen and behind the scenes and promoting – and creating – negative stereotypes. What actions do you think should be taken to make it more inclusive?
Khaled: Cinema has evolved through time and history. Change is always required from time to time, as humanity evolves. Obviously, there are things that don’t work anymore and need to change. At the moment, for me, it is very important to make more and more films that recognize the differences.
Over the years, we all develop stereotypes of other people and this is what creates hatred and conflicts. But I think cinema acts as a window to get to know others. Cinema allows us to recognize and understand the differences in the world. It is a powerful way to bring about change.