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Berlinale Bloggers 2018 Magical worlds in-between and smart cinematic escapism

Production photograph
Production photograph | © Treewater Productions / Sofyan Syamsul

How to say goodbye to a beloved person? „Sekala Niskala“ (The Seen and Unseen) shows in enchanting pictures how fantasy provides an escape for a ten-year-old facing the loss of her twin brother.

By Sarah Ward

While Tantra (Ida Bagus Putu Radithya Mahijasena) lays unconscious in hospital, Tantri (Thaly Titi Kasih) finds their bond continuing into a dream-like realm. When the night is deep and the real world is asleep, the siblings play, in a time and a space where matters of life and death have no influence. A much-needed respite from the sorrow she can’t convey, it's also an effective way of processing a difficult situation.


Indeed, Indonesian filmmaker Kamila Andini understands how shaking off reality, if only temporarily, can assist in times of trauma — particularly when the parties involved are just learning about the world. It's a concept her Indonesian-Australian-Dutch-Qatari co-production handles perceptively and intelligently, as told with poetic images to match its resonant narrative. More than that, however, it's also a notion that the film itself thoroughly embodies.
  Taking a bath Taking a bath | © Treewater Productions / Sofyan Syamsul Cinema as escapism might typically conjure thoughts of mindless Hollywood blockbusters, but it's also something that smart youth-focused films can, should and do offer young audiences. Taking viewers into stories of pain, separation, bullying, death and more, as Australia's recent inclusions in Berlinale's Generation program all have, both reflects facets of everyday life and the coming-of-age experience, and proves a cathartic opportunity to confront bigger troubles.


Accordingly, when Paper Planes' (Film of 2014) young protagonist embraces his new hobby as a way of coping with his mother's passing and father's mourning, and when Girl Asleep's awkward teenager flees into alternate reality at her eventful birthday party, the power of escapism shines through as part of their thoughtful tales. It's there when a rust-coloured canine gives a lonely boy a friend and a purpose in Red Dog: True Blue, and when high-school outcasts break into song in Emo the Musical as well.

Amassing an expanding collection of youth-oriented features — including those screening at the Berlinale, and those reaching audiences elsewhere — Australian cinema has been flying this flag with gusto, with The Seen and Unseen the latest example. Andini studied in Melbourne, and though her film beguiles minds young and old on its own merits, and proves steeped in Indonesian culture, her efforts warmly and winningly demonstrate the importance of the growing Aussie prowess.