HOW DID I COME TO FILM IN ACEH, INDONESIA?

So we finally got a filming permit from the Embassy of Indonesia in Helsinki. We were to go to film evidence of a glorious paradise, a model of a holy city, built according to Sharia´s law. In this case, it is Banda Aceh, situated in the Northern tip of Sumatra, Indonesia. Marjaana Jauhola and I had accidentally met recently and her being an academic researcher and me a documentarist we decided to apply for a grant together. To our big surprise, we got almost the biggest grant the Finnish Cultural Foundation delivers, 80 000€. 

We rented an office space, got a producer to join our team and started to plan a documentary. Marjaana had been in Banda Aceh many times before and was deeply involved in ethnographic research of the aftermath of the Tsunami, civil war and peace process mediated by the former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari. She had had an idea to do further research in the form of a documentary film and this is what we were aiming to do together.

POWER CUTOFFS & STOMACH BUGS

I had sewn myself linen clothes, long dresses and long-sleeved shirts to be properly dressed there. Head cover was also needed by a tourist when entering holy places, offices etc. We had a driver booked all the time to make it easier to move in the heat. To tell the truth, we weren’t going to film the glorious paradise model but instead the opposite.

Marjaana had followed stories of people who were discriminated against and criminalized there because they did not fit into this paradise model! Their sanctions were quite heavy from behavior remodeling camps to public caning and shaming!

 

So we filmed with a transperson, a Christian woman and a city gardener who lost everything in th eTsunami and is very poor despite huge humanitarian efforts (money ending somewhere else). Also with a poet and activist who was trying to help in even poorer villages after guerrilla wars and many videos with an ex-fighter turned into Sufi healer. He is living in poverty and wounded by many ways of injustice. We also met with the professor and head of the Shari’a Islam Department to get his opinion on everything. And followed two ladies who were small business owners and tried to make it there with all kinds of inventions to sell.

Of course, I got a stomach bug and some most memorable filming moments were in a slum where I was lying on a floor almost vomiting and heavily sweating and asked Marjaana to tell me when exactly to stand up to film. Also often after a long day of filming the electricity went off in the city. No water. No lights. In the dark, I tried to transfer all the material of the day from memory cards to two different hard drives before allowing myself to go to sleep.

SO WHAT DID I LEARN?

I learned how to follow the Indonesian language and cut it in the right place on the timeline. I also learned how to blur everything that reveals locations and often faces too, which is hard work!

We ended up making many short documentaries instead of one. Marjaana teaches in many universities around the world and attends many conferences and shorter videos were easier to present according to each topic she was to teach.

 

INTRO VIDEO TO OUR SCRAPS OF HOPE PROJECT

HOW DID I COME TO FILM IN ACEH, INDONESIA?

So we finally got a filming permit from the Embassy of Indonesia in Helsinki. We were to go to film evidence of a glorious paradise, a model of a holy city, built according to Sharia´s law. In this case, it is Banda Aceh, situated in the Northern tip of Sumatra, Indonesia. Marjaana Jauhola and I had accidentally met recently and her being an academic researcher and me a documentarist we decided to apply for a grant together. To our big surprise, we got almost the biggest grant the Finnish Cultural Foundation delivers, 80 000€. 

We rented an office space, got a producer to join our team and started to plan a documentary. Marjaana had been in Banda Aceh many times before and was deeply involved in ethnographic research of the aftermath of the Tsunami, civil war and peace process mediated by the former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari. She had had an idea to do further research in the form of a documentary film and this is what we were aiming to do together.

POWER CUTOFFS & STOMACH BUGS

I had sewn myself linen clothes, long dresses and long-sleeved shirts to be properly dressed there. Head cover was also needed by a tourist when entering holy places, offices etc. We had a driver booked all the time to make it easier to move in the heat. To tell the truth, we weren’t going to film the glorious paradise model but instead the opposite.

Marjaana had followed stories of people who were discriminated against and criminalized there because they did not fit into this paradise model! Their sanctions were quite heavy from behavior remodeling camps to public caning and shaming!

INTRO TO OUR SCRAPS OF HOPE PROJECT

So we filmed with a transperson, a Christian woman and a city gardener who lost everything in th eTsunami and is very poor despite huge humanitarian efforts (money ending somewhere else). Also with a poet and activist who was trying to help in even poorer villages after guerrilla wars and many videos with an ex-fighter turned into Sufi healer. He is living in poverty and wounded by many ways of injustice. We also met with the professor and head of the Shari’a Islam Department to get his opinion on everything. And followed two ladies who were small business owners and tried to make it there with all kinds of inventions to sell.

Of course, I got a stomach bug and some most memorable filming moments were in a slum where I was lying on a floor almost vomiting and heavily sweating and asked Marjaana to tell me when exactly to stand up to film. Also often after a long day of filming the electricity went off in the city. No water. No lights. In the dark, I tried to transfer all the material of the day from memory cards to two different hard drives before allowing myself to go to sleep.

SO WHAT DID I LEARN?

I learned how to follow the Indonesian language and cut it in the right place on the timeline. I also learned how to blur everything that reveals locations and often faces too, which is hard work!

We ended up making many short documentaries instead of one. Marjaana teaches in many universities around the world and attends many conferences and shorter videos were easier to present according to each topic she was to teach.

SEE BELOW SOME OF THE VIDEOS I CAN SHOW. MOST ARE NOT MADE PUBLIC FOR SECURITY REASONS.

Aziza is a single mother and a skillful gardener living in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. What is life like for women in Aceh, after the war & post-Tsunami and a strict Islamic city under Sharia´s law?
2015-16

Cha Cha is a Chinese Christian woman living in a strict Islamic country. Her life story carries sorrows from the Tsunami and a hard struggle with her mother. She is a believer of hope.
2015-16

SEE BELOW SOME OF THE VIDEOS I CAN SHOW. MOST ARE NOT MADE PUBLIC FOR SECURITY REASONS.

Cha Cha is a Chinese Christian woman living in a strict Islamic country. Her life story carries sorrows from the Tsunami and a hard struggle with her mother. She is a believer of hope.
2015-16

Aziza is a single mother and a skillful gardener living in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. What is life like for women in Aceh, after the war & post-Tsunami and a strict Islamic city under Sharia´s law?
2015-16

Video collage and a poem by Indonesian activist, researcher, poet and dancer Zubaidah Djohar. Is there real peace for people in Aceh, after war & post Tsunami?
2015-16

Interview with Syahrizal Abbas, professor and head of the Shari’a Islam Department, Government of Aceh, Indonesia. His views on the development of the country.
2015-16

Video collage and a poem by Indonesian activist, researcher, poet and dancer Zubaidah Djohar. Is there real peace for people in Aceh, after the war & post-Tsunami?
2015-16

Interview with Syahrizal Abbas, professor and head of the Shari’a Islam Department, Government of Aceh, Indonesia. His views on the development of the country.
2015-16

These photos tell rest of the story

Seija Hirstiö
Documentarist
Designer
Artist
Contact
seija(at)heartwavesdesign.com
I have expressed myself visually since early youth, with film, photography, online videos, graphic design, web design and performance art. I am open to collaboration! Please, contact.

 

Contact
seija@heartwavesdesign.com
I have expressed myself visually since early youth, with film, photography, online videos, graphic design, web design and performance art. I am open to collaboration! Please, contact.

 

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