From right, actresses Sekar Sari and Christine Hakim, Bakti Budaya Djarum Foundation program director Renitasari Adrian, director Kamila Andini and producers Happy Salma and Ifa Isfansyah during the press screening of 'Sekar,' a short film made to commemorate National Batik Day 2018. (Photo courtesy of Image Dynamics)

Kamila Andini’s Short Film ‘Sekar’ Celebrates Love for Batik


OCTOBER 02, 2018

Jakarta. "Sekar," a short film directed by "The Seen and Unseen" director Kamila Andini, was released today (02/10) as part of National Batik Day celebrations.

The film, now available on YouTube, was produced by Fourcolours Films and Titimangsa Foundation, with support from Bakti Budaya Djarum Foundation.

Bakti Budaya Djarum Foundation program director Renitasari Adrian said at the film's press conference on Monday that the foundation has launched a number of programs for National Batik Day in the past three years.

Their main goal is to introduce millenials to the different types, philosophies and production methods of batik, a traditional cloth from Java whose intricate patterns are made by discharging wax on a roll of cotton.

Last year, the foundation released a web series called "Menitik Hati," that tells the story of a woman falling in love with a man who likes to wear batik tulis (hand-drawn batik).

It turns out that the woman can't distinguish expensive, hand-drawn batik from its cheap printed cousin.

Renitasari said the series is intended to remind people of the importance of supporting fine batik artisans despite the popularity of cheaper, printed batik.

"Printed batik is a real threat to our fine batik artisans. There should be more appreciation for hand-drawn batik," Renitasari said.

The idea for Sekar came from a conversation between the director and actress Happy Salma from Titimangsa Foundation last year.

Happy at first wanted to make a promotional short film for her jewelry line, Tulola Jewelry.

But after she heard Kamila’s story idea, Happy decided to turn the project into something bigger.

Then Renitasari jumped on board and made the film part of the Djarum foundation's National Batik Day program.

Kamila said the idea of a film about batik had been in her mind for awhile.

"I had always wanted to make a film about batik-making. What many people don’t realize is that making batik requires a great deal of commitment and devotion. You can tell endless stories about a single piece of batik cloth. But I didn’t know how to turn my ideas into reality until I met Happy and Renitasari," Kamila said.

Director Kamila Andini said production for 'Sekar' took only two-and-a-half months. (Photo courtesy of Image Dynamics)

Sekar's plot revolves around a blind girl of the same name –– coincidentally played by an actress also of the same name, Sekar Sari.

As the daughter of an old batik artisan (played by Indonesia's own Meryl Streep, Christine Hakim), batik is a big part of Sekar's upbringing.

Every time her mother draws batik patterns with wax on a new fabric, Sekar would sit beside her to enjoy the smell of wax and the sound and heat of the stove on which the wax is heated.

To Sekar, batik and her batik-making mother make up the entirety of her world.

Sekar finally meets a boy (played by Marthino Lio), a silversmith who creates jewelry from batik patterns.

Sekar’s mother is initially worried that her daughter is going to grow apart from her and wants to keep Sekar to herself the way she hides her handmade batik, but finally warms up to the idea that her daughter sooner or later will have her own life.

Kamila said she chose a blind protagonist to show that batik has "layers that are more than meet the eye."

Actress Sekar Sari, who won third place in the Tourism Ministry’s Putra Putri Batik Nusantara pageant in 2011, said the mother-daughter relationship in the film can be seen as a metaphor for batik itself.

"The film is about a strong relationship between a mother and a daughter. I think if you can understand that, you can understand batik. A mother’s love and batik are both intangible. Sometimes we don’t see what batik is all about, but behind each batik pattern lie many philosophies and prayers. All we can do is try to interpret them. The same goes with a mother's love. Sometimes it's so abstract, so possessive. We can't comprehend it just by looking, we have to use all our senses," said Sekar, who won the Best Actor award in the 2014 Singapore International Film Festival for her turn as a karaoke prostitute in "Siti."

This is the first time senior actress Christine Hakim starred in a short film. Christine said she took inspirations from the late Indonesian batik designer Iwan Tirta for her role.

"I was lucky to have interviewed Iwan when he was still alive. He told me batik-making was like meditation. Whenever he was about to draw a long line, he would take a deep breath. And that's what I did in this movie. I was doing what he told me," said Christine, the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient at last year’s Indonesian Movie Actors Awards.

The actress said we should not just celebrate batik on this one day to commemorate UNESCO's decision to include it as one of its Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2009.

"Everyday we should be grateful for batik because it's part of our life. It's our breath, our soul, a key component of our civilization. We should always protect and preserve it," Christine said.

The version of Sekar on YouTube is only seven-minute long. The final version of the movie will run for 30 minutes.

Kamila said she will submit the full film to a number of festivals soon.