The 25-year-old recently made her directorial debut in The Mirror Never Lies, a film that brings with it a message about conservation.
Meet Kamila Andini, or simply call her Dini. She loves nature, admires Indonesia’s rich cultures and demonstrated her respect for the environment by creating a film featuring the fascinating beauty of the Wakatobi islands.
In The Mirror Never Lies, Dini also depicts the life of the Bajo people, known as sea wanderers who live nomadic lives and rely on the marine world for their livelihoods. The film is set in Wakatobi, Southeast Sulawesi, which is part of the global coral triangle.
The Bajo are, however, now under threat and thousands of key marine species are on the brink of extinction due to destructive fishing practices and climate change. The beauty of marine biodiversity and the challenges faced by the Bajo are represented by a Bajonese girl named Pakis, who is searching for her father who was lost at sea.
Along with her best friend Lumo, Pakis tries to find her father by performing a Bajo ritual using a mirror. While Pakis strongly believes that her father is still alive, her mother Tayung is pessimistic yet also more realistic in dealing with the loss.
The film, which was a collaborative work of WWF-Indonesia, the Wakatobi administration and the SET Film Workshop, focuses more on the conflict between the mother and daughter.
Talented actress Atiqah Hasiholan, recognized for her role in Jamila Sang President (Jamila the President), stars in the family drama alongside two-time Citra award – Indonesia’s equivalent of an Academy Award – winner Reza Rahadian.
Besides hiring the two established actors for her debut, Dini also brought in Bajonese kids, who she said played their parts well. The three young actors — Gita Novalista, Eko and Zainal – had remarkable performances in their debuts on the big screen.
Dini said her love of marine life inspired her to bring the story to the screen. “I always start a project from something that I am familiar with, something that I love because it will motivate me,” she said.
She likes spending her time in the sea – diving and finding excitement during her explorations of underwater Indonesia. “I have been fond of diving since I was in junior high and I am already certified. What’s fun about diving? It seems like you are in another world under the sea.”
Creating environmentally themed pieces is not new for Dini, as she has made documentaries exposing the marine world like Penyu dan Kerajaan Lautku (Turtle and My Ocean Kingdom) and A Song for Tukik.
Now, through The Mirror Never Lies, she wants to encourage moviegoers to love the environment and take a closer look at what has happened to our surroundings.
“I saw that there were only a few people who brought the story of sea wanderers to the big screen. Through this film, I hope Indonesians get to know more about the marine world in Wakatobi and about the Bajo people. I want to show people that the Bajo really exist in our waters,” said Dini, who co-wrote the story with Dirmawan Hatta.
It took more than two years for her to create the film due to a lack of literature and bad weather.
Dini said she had previously wanted to bring a local tale to the screen, but she dropped the plan as she failed to find suitable literature to support the story.
“There were only two books about the Bajo and they were written by foreigners. We had to go directly to Wakatobi back and forth to get to know everything about the tribe,” she says.
Back in 2009, she said, it was not easy to get to Wakatobi since there were no flights to the island. “We had to take a speed boat from Kendari [the capital city of Southeast Sulawesi] and the trip took between eight to 12 hours.
We would usually call our contact person in the island to find out about the weather before deciding to go.”
The filming process was delayed twice due to huge waves and hurricanes that occasionally struck the area.
“The weather was very unpredictable but the show had to go on. The project had been postponed for a year so we had to film under any circumstances,” she said.
She recalled her experiences in making the movie, which took more than two years. Dini said she faced some technical problems as she had to shoot scenes for one and a half months on the open sea.
“The kampong is not connected to the land so we had to use boats to get to the traditional kampong,” she said.
There are no paved roads there, only stacks of bamboo. And the crew had to practice their balance while shooting scene after scene.
Born in Jakarta on May 6, 1986, the eldest child of renowned producer/director/script writer Garin Nugroho, Dini said cinematography had not always been her passion.
“I hated it when people kept asking me whether I wanted to be a director like my father. That’s so annoying,” she said.
“Papa often asked me to go along with him when he was working on projects, but I wasn’t interested because I did not like cinematography.”
She later chose to study photography in junior high school. It turned out that photography drew her interest to the world of cinematography.
“During my time in senior high school, many of my school friends were crazy about making indie movies and they even asked Papa for advice,” Dini said. “I was ashamed because my friends were eager to learn from Papa, who is one of the best directors in Indonesia, while I myself knew nothing about his work.”
Her career in the movie industry began when she became a documentary worker and assistant director for videos for Slank, singer Tere and Ungu.
She has been actively involved in Indonesian Documenter (InDocs), Komunitas Film Independen (the Com-munity of Independent Film) and Popcorner workshops.
She also directed some TV shows and made-for-TV movies and several documentaries, including the 2009 musical Musik dan Kebangkitan Nasional (Music and the National Awakening).
Environmental issues and the study of human society have been her favorites since she was a teen.
“I decided to study photography because I wanted to capture people’s life and behavior,” said Dini, who graduated from the sociology and media arts department at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia.
“I later took sociology as my major in university because I wanted to tell stories about humans and the environment. Sociology is the study of people and I wanted to explore it.”
What did Garin say when he found out about her daughter’s presence in film?
“Papa was very surprised knowing that I finally got myself into this field. His surprise doubled when he found out that I learned about cinematography from other directors,” she said, giggling.
Making a feature film was a dream come true for Dini, and an experience that was a challenge. “Creating a feature film is every director’s dream. It requires a lot of effort to make feature films because the media is broader and the duration is longer. There are more people taking part in the project,” she said.
“In a documentary, I usually work with a small crew, while in Mirror I had to lead dozens of people, some who were even older than me. That’s the biggest challenge.”
Another test that she had to deal with was the fact that people always relate her presence in the local movie scene to her being Garin Nugroho’s daughter.
“I don’t take it as a burden. That just annoys me. Again, it’s another challenge for me. I want to prove that this movie was purely my creation,” she said.
“People might say that I became the way I am now because of Papa. Well, they’d better watch my films.”
Dini did not deny the fact that she still takes advice from her father, who helped to sharpen her directing skills.
“I always discuss every project with Papa. He allows me the freedom to do anything I want, keeps on supporting me and boosts my spirit even when I make mistakes,” she said.
Although her father is dubbed one of producers of the film, Dini said her father did not take part in the filming process.
“I am still new to this world and need to learn more. I asked him for some advice on this film and Papa gave me a lot of hints because he has been in this industry for a long time.”
Like it or not, Dini knows that she will be living under her father’s name, so she tries to see the positive side of that.
“It drives me to work harder than any other directors to show people that I can stand on my own two feet.”
No matter what people might think about her, Dini will keep on making movies and The Mirror Never Lies certainly won’t be her last environmentally themed film.
“I’m preparing two or three stories that center around the ocean and traditional culture. I’m doing some research on which part of Indonesia’s sea I will take as the main idea,” she said.
Dini added that she plans continue to stick to her passions: the environment and human societies.