Jakarta. Garin Nugroho is back with a new film, "Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku," or "Memories of My Body." The avant-garde filmmaker's latest work will compete in the 75th Venice Film Festival in its Orizzonti section. The festival will be held from Aug. 29 to Sept. 8.
Garin competed in the same section in Venice 12 years ago with his now-classic Javanese musical "Opera Jawa" ("Requiem of Java").
The festival's website says its Orizzonti (Horizons) section is reserved for films that "represent the latest aesthetic and expressive trends in international cinema."
A total of 19 feature films and 20 short films will compete in the section this year.
Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku tells the story of a dancer who tries to embrace both his masculine and feminine traits.
When the dancer was a boy, he joined a Lengger dance troupe, where men regularly play female roles.
The boy grows up into a gender-fluid adult who has to deal with abuse and discrimination directed at his fluctuating gender identity.
The story of the film was inspired by the life of the famous Indonesian dancer and choreographer Rianto, who is also gender-fluid and has had to face years of discrimination because of it.
Rianto appears in this film with Muhammad Khan, Raditya Evandra, Sujiwo Tejo, Teuku Rifnu Wikana, Randy Pangalila and Endah Laras.
"A film is a medium for self-expression. It can be about ourselves, our aesthetic journey, what we see and feel in our social and political environment or a critique about the problems around us," Garin said in a statement.
Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku is Garin’s 19th feature film. It was produced by his son-in-law – also a renowned filmmaker – Ifa Isfansyah.
Ifa produced the film under the banner of his Fourcolours Films, a Yogyakarta-based production house that has released a slew of films exploring the lives of marginalized people in Indonesia, including Eddie Cahyono’s "Siti" (2015), Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo’s "Turah" (2016) and Garin's own daughter Kamila Andini’s "The Seen and Unseen" (2017).
Garin’s films are marked by their strong Javanese roots, as can be gleaned from their titles – Opera Jawa, "Setan Jawa" ("The Devil of Java," screened with a live Javanese gamelan orchestra) and his most recent work, "Nyai" ("A Woman from Java").
The director said at last year’s Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) that "a filmmaker is an anthropologist, psychologist and sociologist in one."
Ifa said Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku has been "an interesting collaboration between filmmakers of different generations."
Screen Daily reported that Asian Shadows has signed up with Fourcolours Films to be the international sales agent for Garin's new flick.
Asian Shadows also handled the international marketing for "Siti," Mouly Surya’s "Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts" (2017) and Yosep Anggi Noen’s "Solo, Solitude" (2016), his biopic of the disappeared poet Wiji Thukul.
"It’s hard to get a good international sales agent. Each agent normally only takes on two or three films per year. They only pick good quality films and show them at prestigious festivals to attract big distributors," Ifa said.
The Venice competition will be the film’s European premiere.
Ifa said Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku is on the booking list for several other big festivals in Europe, where Garin is considered a maestro.
"So far there are five, six other festivals confirmed, but I can’t tell you which ones yet," Ifa said.
The film is co-produced by Go-Studio, the entertainment arm of ride-sharing company Go-Jek.
Go-Studio has not been launched publicly but already has some film projects in the works.
Ifa said Go-Studio paid for half of Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku’s production cost.
There is no local release date yet for Garin’s film.
"This year we're going to focus on marketing it to the international market, because I think that's the main target market for this film," Ifa said.