STOP10 Nov 2017: 'hUSH' by Kan Lumé and Djenar Maesa Ayu

The trailer for Kan Lumé and Djenar Maesa Ayu's hUSH opens with a voice saying "one of the most important thing in life is to be free". From there we see shots of Cinta Ramlan, an Indonesian musician, getting a tattoo, drinking, and partying - all while talking about trying new drugs, bungee jumping, and sleeping with a married man.

As the trailer progresses, these acts of uninhibited free-spiritedness seem to have a deeper, darker root. This film sheds light on the interwoven complexities of being a woman, but also the joy that comes with celebrating the beauty of that very same womanhood.

Ahead of it's international premiere during the 28th Singapore International Film Festival, we had the opportunity to interview Kan Lumé and get to know what went into making such a brave film.

How did you meet Cinta Ramlan, and why did you decide to make a film about her?

I met Cinta through Djenar. They had been friends through a past collaboration and they both share similar values in their respective works. Cinta is a musician and Djenar, an author and filmmaker. Both of them paint vivid portraits of what it’s like living in contemporary society as a woman. Djenar watched my film The Naked DJ, and was inspired to do a similar styled film with Cinta as the lead. We decided to make use of Cinta's life of a musician as the backdrop and interweave a fictitious plot about a wild, promiscuous girl who ultimately has a tragic past she has hidden.

What were some of the challenges you encountered as a filmmaker when dealing with such an intimate depiction of someone's life?

My challenge as always was not giving much thought about what people thought. Our script mentions all kinds of sexual taboos, from affairs to threesomes and everything in between. Djenar has dealt with similar content throughout her career, so it wasn't particularly tough for her, but Cinta had to pretend to be that wild, damaged girl and I wondered if she would take the role. We had discussed with her from the beginning our intention of mixing fiction with her life in a mockumentary format and that she'd have to say things like, "I want to fuck a black guy". Cinta knew her character would be an object of scorn, but it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. She trusted us as directors and was bravely on board from the very beginning. The production of the film was a joy from conception to birth.

How was this film received in Indonesia? Were you worried about audience reception, given the provocative nature of the film?

hUSh was well received by audience members everywhere it played in Indonesia. We had very targeted screenings, Jogja-NETPAC, smaller festivals, art house screening venues, and the audience members who showed up knew roughly what they were about to watch and were open enough to receive it. The responses were very positive, with many victims of sexual abuse writing to tell us how they could relate and thank us for making the film. Initially, being unfamiliar with Indonesia, I was cautious, but Djenar made it clear to me that not only did we have nothing to worry about, the ones who should worry are the perpetrators of sexual abuse.

Behind the scenes with Kan Lume and Cinta Ramlan

What do you hope the audiences in Singapore take away from watching this film?

I hope audiences in Singapore will embrace the film. The film is about a survivor of sexual abuse and the effects it has on her psychology. As a result, it is highly confrontational and may not be easy to watch. I hope people realise we need to look beneath a person's behaviour to fully understand them. So often, we judge each other and create segregations. We attack each other based on differences. But there are similarities to all of humanity if we care to pay attention and look beneath the surface. That is the only way to develop empathy. Because this will be an International premiere, I am curious to see if the audience response in Singapore will be different from those in Indonesia. The important thing is we made the film we wanted to make. I am always grateful to be part of the SGIFF line-up.

Images courtesy of Kan Lumé

Catch hUSH as part of Singapore Panorama at the 28th SGIFF.

27 Nov, Mon, 9.30 PM
National Museum of Singapore
International Premiere
Indonesia, 2016, 107min
English, Bahasa Indonesia           

Ticketing details here

Interview by Tanvi Rajvanshi

For the full list of November 2017's 10 films under STOP10, click here.
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