“’What is it that you want by studying filmmaking?’” Kennedy Jennifer Dhillon recalled her mother asking her, when she decided to pursue studies in film.
“’Who would want to marry a filmmaker? What would our relatives say?’’”
Kennedy didn’t give up on her dreams, however. During a screening of her latest film at the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) last week, she told of how she gathered some money and some help from her father, so she could attend the expensive film school. Since then she has directed three films and published six books.
Reflecting on her personal experience, Kennedy realized that she is just one among many women who face challenges while trying to reach for what they aspire to. In the Women and Impact documentary, which she directed with photographer and videographer Mindo Carlo Sopar Pasaribu, she reflects this through the lives of 15 women of diverse backgrounds. Each woman expresses their thoughts to encourage other women to pursue each of their unique potential.
One of the women featured in the film that is produced by Kusen Dony Hermansyah, is Erni Suyanti Musabine, who spends most of her lives in the forest to save wild animals. Erni says that “every women can contribute according to their capabilities”. Housewife and a Pilates instructor Santi Maria says about being a housewife: “We never stop making impact, whether it’s on our family, among our friends and in our community.”
The message is that women are often underappreciated and denied of their rights to be what they want to be. Women’s right activist and singer Kartika Jahja points at the fact that men’s privilege in the world is real.
“As an analogy, if men and women are about to compete in a running tracks. The men wear running shoes, while the women wear high heels,” Kartika says.
Women are also still often underestimated, judged and even mistreated for what they do. Christine Siahaan, an activist for HIV/AIDS, tells of how people assume she has AIDS because of her activism. But she knows better than to dwell on what people say. Her priority is to raise awareness that people with HIV should not be discriminated against, she says.
Baby Jim Aditya, a sexual psychologist concurs: “The fact is, these days, housewives are the most vulnerable to HIV as they are infected by their husbands.”
“We all know, it’s impossible to stop prostitution if there’s still a high demand from the male customers. Men have been spoiled by our patriarchal norms, while women continue to be unlucky just for having a uterus.”
People’s focus on women’s appearance often pose a burden to them. Two women activists in the film, Liana Andriani and Terry Endropoetro, are bald, fact that often triggers people to ask them what illness they are suffering, or if they are monks.
“Every woman has to be brave to be themselves and to keep spreading their positive vibes to their surroundings,” Terry says.
Rapper Yacko also experiences being stared at a lot at public places, while taking her kids out, because she wears sneakers, caps and the kind of clothing not associated with mothers in this culture. But she reminds other women “the most important thing is to express yourself as honestly as possible and not restricting others from being what they want to be.”
Kennedy has developed the film since 2014. The women involved in the film are chosen specifically, though some were selected in an audition.
“From over 20 women, we have settled with this 15 who have made real impact and have strong stories. Also because, well, not all of them actually supported the mission of this film.”
She is planning to work on a web series to portray more intimately the lives of more influential women.
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