THE FOREVER YOUNG AND RESTLESS
NIA DINATA
Feminist Filmmaker, Founder of
KALYANA SHIRA FILMS & FOUNDATION
“First, films must inspire independence, each excels as a vessel to voice togetherness in spite of differences. That’s diversity, inclusion in action.”

The history of film is the history of survival. We all tell stories in order to live. Some sings. Some sits in solitary and writes. Some stars in movies. Some make movies.  Charged with enigmatic energy—culturally-and-historically informed, Nia Dinata’s brilliant and bold movies sit at the intersection of inclusion and creative conceptualization in action.

Nia Dinata’s show-a-story-when-all-else-fails flair is faultlessly built on her restless belief that more than a few conflicts in the world started from simple misunderstanding of one another. While diversity adds colors to societies, the rejection and ignorance of it often result in cynicism, prejudice, and even wars.

Certain cultural omnivorousness is obviously seen in Nia Dinata as her colorful childhood was spent among colors of cultures around the world. She encountered eclectic experiences of faux pas, misinterpretation and reverse culture shock. “Experiences embellished by our minds. Each is interesting—it incites conversation, when it is shared through visual stories.”

Studied Mass Communications at Elizabethtown College, Pennsylvania and Filmmaking at New York University, New York, Nia Dinata is driven to build the bridge between human-centered themes in her movies and the realities that are too often not poetic. “Rejection is real—in all forms,” she said, “Be it in race, religion, relationship—whom you can or cannot love. My movies makes silence audible—amplifying a call to change. I present choices for everyone to explore—to think beyond boundaries.”

“My work will always amplify silence, to make minority
audible—a call to change.”
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Since 2002, when Nia Dinata won the Most Promising New Director Award in the Asia Pacific Film Festival in Seoul, she has been a master of her own choices. “Ca Bau Kan” (2002), her first Feature Film, bravely and beguilingly tackles interracial marriage issue between an Indonesian and an Indonesian-Chinese minority with Dutch Indies Colonial period as the backdrop of the story. Submitted to officially represent Indonesia in the 75TH Academy Awards in 2003, “Ca Bau Kan” was one of the nominees shortlisted under “Best Foreign Language Film”. It is also a testament to the talents of Nia Dinata as one of the few frontiers of Feminist Indonesian Cinema, chronicling Indonesian life in the 1930s to 1950s.

The backdrop of Nia Dinata’s film work is far broader than bed-of-
roses, beautiful-everything experience visually. Born on March 4, 1970 in Jakarta, Indonesia, she studied Film in the United States
before returning to Indonesia and became part of the post-1998
Political Reform Indonesian Filmmakers. Steadfastly paying tribute to the power of every issue she seeks to start the conversation about, the enduring feminist in Nia Dinata emerges every time an injustice is committed against women—mainly, minorities and transgender
people. “The Gathering” (“Arisan”, 2003)—second Feature Film of Nia Dinata, is a satirical comedy that fearlessly features a gay character as the protagonist. It was nominated for Annual Emerging Director Award at the Asian American International Film Festival in New York (2004).

“To be young in Indonesia means to avoid staying stealthy by
championing the causes that are closest to your heart,” she says,
sipping her cappuccino. More art house than happily-ever-after type,
the sheer perfection of her work is positioned at ambitions and
achievements of hers in tackling too-taboo-to-touch subjects.

“Does my work seek to teach tolerance? Let’s see—you need to tolerate certain things because it is negative. From religions to relationships—there is nothing negative to be tolerated. We are human beings. My movies model the kind of world we want to live in—where everyone is safe, accepted and able to be himself or herself.

Shifting through a manifesto book about #metoo movement all over
the world—sitting side by side with me, the woman who was narrated
by The New York Times as “Indonesia’s most talented new
filmmaker—without a doubt,” started searching her thoughts. “What I want through my work is to visually decode the denials and sadness
behind the smiles of wives who say they accept being one of a crowd—just another version but not the only one.” She spoke of the packed
screenings of “Love For Share” (“Berbagi Suami”)—her 2006 poignant movie on polygamy at Cannes that attracted the attention of The New York Times: “An authenticity bred of experience,” wrote Jane Perlez under “Cinéma Vérité: Portrait of Indonesian Polygamy”.

She has an artist’s eye for detail, for story and thought-provoking
tales, which makes her memorable as the young generation’s premier
idea of what an outspoken, passionate young filmmaker can do.
Warm, wise, and avoiding the indulgence of an accomplishment too
long, she stated winning the Eisenhower Fellowship in 2008 and
chosen to be the Young Global Leader (YGL) by YGL Forum (Davos,
Switzerland) in 2009 is a token towards taking action, “To voice an
opinion instead of driving division.”

She was and has always been consciously choosing the life of
indescribable, incredible adventure not as her peers see, but as she
sees the reality per se. Everything she does is the extension of her
unconquerable soul shaped by what she sees and experiences
everyday. Acutely aware that access to information about Human
Rights is still inadequate in Indonesia, Nia Dinata determines on
cultivating change in the country by constantly writes various column about Corrupted Culture, Women, LGBTIQ and Social Injustice issues published by major national newspapers. With wide-ranging fervor from working with woman icons from all around the world to workshop-conducting, her ambitions and accomplishments are translated into Kalyana Shira Foundation where she conducts Master Class: PROJECT CHANGE!, a bi-annual Film Workshop fostering filmmakers—new, young and talented ones such as Lucky Kuswandi, Yosep Anggi Noen and Sammaria Simanjuntak.

The strong conception of herself that exists beyond the films she
directs has driven the tirelessness to take part in transforming
Indonesia. Talking about the tumultuous, chaotic era everywhere
where change is the only thing that’s constant these days, she says,
“Trust the process.” Continuing her commitment to develop scripts,
direct films, documentary films-and-shot produce that carry
dimensions of different social realms of modern Indonesia is her way
to trust what’s ahead.

“I just want to work—when you are young, you must make. What kind of world do you want to live in? Demonstrate the demand through what you do. Write that book you’ve always had
in your head. Make the music. Shoot the films. Don’t wait.”

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