Arts & Culture

Kiki Febriyanti on Film and Representation

Representation is important. Here's why.
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Together with SeaShorts Festival, B-Side City will be featuring one filmmaker per country within the Southeast Asian region to shed some light on the creatives and industry. We have Indonesia's Kiki Febriyanti.

Kiki Febriyanti | A graduate in Indonesian literature from Universitas Jember, Kiki is a self-taught filmmaker born in Bondowoso, a small town in the East Java province. In 2013, her short film Jangan Bilang Aku Gila! won Best Film at the STEPS International Film Festival in Ukraine. Her next effort, Calalai: in Betweenness, explores the five genders within the Bugis community. It made the rounds at various film festivals the likes of Equality Festival (Ukraine), Salaya International Documentary Film Festival (Thailand), Seoul International Women's Film Festival (Korea), Mzansi Women’s Film Festival (South Africa), the Pärnu International Anthropology & Documentary Film Festival (Estonia), IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival (India) and Woman Make Waves Film Festival (Taiwan). In addition to documentaries, Kiki is also a writer and directs music videos.

Roti will be screened as part of S-Express Indonesia.

Read Aznniel Yunus here.

Read Danech San here.


From body image to purchasing sanitary pads, Kiki Febriyanti covers them in her films and continues to look into womanhood. It is once said that we choose to write about and create things we truly care about, and these creations will find their way into the future through documentation and archival. This seems to be true for Kiki as her works all have a specific messaging and seek to share her own opinions about issues that are important for the world today.

She shares with B-Side her motivations for making film and how she got into this career of creation.

Your films seem to have a strong slant towards gender and women. Share with us what draws you to tell these stories.

Back then, I didn't even know what gender and feminism were. All things flow because I am a woman; I feel and experience something difficult on a daily basis because of my gender. I also saw other people in the same situation. These became my inspiration, something that is close to me. My films and characters always have deep connections with myself. As a filmmaker, I feel it is important to speak up and share my thoughts through film and art in the hope that change would come in the future.

Do you think that representation is important in media and film?  Why or why not?

Very important, of course.  Female filmmakers and other minority groups are still few in number, and it's not only in Indonesia. Some people think that women can't work or don't know how to work in film. I once met a male crew member who said he doesn't like working with women in the same department as him. He thought a woman’s place is in the wardrobe or make-up department. He yelled at me on set in front of people out of nonsense reasons, because I often speak up and perhaps because I am a woman.

On screen, women and minorities are usually objectified, stereotyped, or mocked. They are often portrayed through the male gaze and from the patriarchal point of view. Therefore, representation is important. It is not simply about numbers but also giving space to women and minority groups to convey that we exist, to convey things that are more real and not stereotypes.

Share with us your choice to get into film instead of pursuing another avenue of making work.

My curiosity and love for film stems from my parents frequently taking me to watch movies at a small cinema in my hometown. The guard even allowed me in to look at the posters and play inside the building after school. Since kindergarten, I’ve always aspired to become a journalist but when I grew up I went to a pharmaceutical high school and worked as an assistant pharmacist upon graduation.

I couldn’t erase my dream though, so I left and continued my studies at the faculty of letters, majoring in Indonesian literature. I then decided to become a filmmaker after attending a Kickstart! documentary filmmaking workshop held by In-Docs, where I learned that a journalist and documentary filmmaker are “same same but different”.

I realised that being a filmmaker is not only a profession or a hobby, but also a passion and way of life.

Film is the perfect medium for me. It is very difficult for me to imagine my life working in another field. Dreams do come true. It's tough but I love it.

How did Roti come about, and why do you think there is a sense of shame or embarrassment when it comes to purchasing sanitary napkins?

The story of the film Roti actually came from my experience as a child, when I helped my grandmother at her grocery store. I experienced a situation that was almost exactly like it was in the film; a woman bought "bread" and she was upset because what I gave to her was actual bread, not sanitary napkins. Ironically, these days I still hear people refer to sanitary napkins as "bread". I think the moniker remains in use because menstruation is still considered dirty, disgusting, embarrassing, and taboo, and I strongly disagree with this. So in this film I try to depict the unnecessarily "funny" situation as a tragicomedy.

Tell us more about Calalai In-Betweenness and your research process so far.

My team and I came to Sulawesi several times and we stayed, met local people, and made observations. We also read some books and articles.

The film, Calalai In-Betweenness, for me is an effort to learn and then to share knowledge about gender diversity in Indonesia.

Perhaps, my research and learning process actually never ended even though the film has already been completed. I continue to learn that our ancestors had wisdoms and cultures about gender diversity and equality.

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