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[InC-terview] Kan Lume, the Director of hUSh

By Edric  /  22 Nov 2017 (Wednesday)

Why did you and your fellow co-director Djenar Maesa Ayu want to tell this story?

This is a film featuring the face to face confessions of a “wild, promiscuous girl”, the type that draws society’s condemnation for being loud, independent minded and outside the norm. She’s sexually open-minded and vulgar, a pariah in “normal” circles. We wanted to present our audience with this character, so that they can follow her thought path to its surprising conclusion. Every time we see someone like that, we judge them, it’s always because we only see the surface of that person’s behaviour. We almost never get to see the complete story before we jump to a conclusion. In hUSh, you get to see her, judge her, and empathise with her. This is why we wanted to tell this story.


Why did you use a mockumentary format?

Djenar, my co-writer-producer-director, saw my film The Naked DJ and wanted to make a film in a similar format. Basically, she wanted to paint an intimate portrait of a survivor of sexual abuse. The film doesn’t dwell on the victimization of the abused, as you’d imagine documentaries of similar themes would do. We wanted the tone of the film to be as far from victimhood as possible. It is about a survivor thriving in spite of abuse. We wanted the audience to follow this strong woman through a brief journey and watch as the perpetual gaze of the camera slowly breaks down her defenses revealing an innermost core. It was never about documenting a real story of abuse. Such documentaries already exist and are relatively common – The story of a victim who must slowly learn to put their life back in order. hUSh takes the opposite approach. We wanted the character to arrive on screen fully formed as a woman who takes charge of her life and celebrates it. She’s a construct, displaying many exaggerated traits survivors of sexual abuse have. We wanted to orchestrate the audience’s response towards her – shock at the beginning, and then stretch it beyond what most normal audiences can bear. And then hopefully, offer a paradigm shift by the time the film ends.


This is a very woman-centric film that is set in Indonesia. How did you, as a male Singaporean filmmaker, approach directing this film? What were some of the challenges you faced and how did you try to overcome them? 

Most of my films feature a female protagonist, so this isn’t something new for me. I merely spent a lot of my preparation time listening, taking notes, and staying true to the voice of the victims. Despite this being a scripted film, all of the stories Cinta’s character tells are based off real life stories we discovered during research. The film was a real pleasure to make. The challenge, as always, was in terms of budget. There is never enough money to make a film whether you are a Hollywood production or a one-man crew. I overcame it by never letting budget constrain me. If I couldn’t get a particular piece of equipment, I’d just shoot with whatever I had. I never subscribed to the rules of filmmaking. It isn’t because I couldn’t care less about filmmaking. It’s just the opposite. I care so much about filmmaking that I wouldn’t let anything or anyone stand in my way.

All around the world, because of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, we are seeing more and more women having the courage to speak out. How do you think films can help? 

Whatever we say or do has repercussions in this life. Whatever thoughts, intentions, words and actions we put out is our life’s “work”. Harvey Weinstein was responsible for many award-winning films that I’m sure touched many people’s lives positively. However, that success also fueled the insecure monster that existed within him and actually empowered him to hurt more people than had he been a nobody. Such is the irony of man’s work. I have huge mistrust towards people who develop self-importance resulting from their work and the more I see of life, the less enthusiastic I am of man’s outward “achievements”. Most of the abuse that happens in this life, whether to humans, animals, or nature, is a result of man’s relentless pursuit of “achievement”. Films can help to spread a message, that much is obvious, but in the case of Harvey Weinstein, was it worth it if the price was more victims? Without Harvey Weinstein and his bullying ego, I do believe his company would have been as successful, and many well-known, award-winning films would have existed. In his case, films were his greatest contribution as well as his weapon to hurt. They helped, but they hurt as well. My conclusion then, is to examine ourselves. Our lives; our thoughts, intentions, words and actions are our greatest “work” and also the most effective tool to help this world. Everything else we should hold lightly and not take too seriously. I make films, but I’m not going to change the world through them. I change this world by changing myself


You are one of Singapore’s most consistent and prolific filmmakers, making virtually a film a year. How do you keep up that level of productivity whilst making a living? 

I have been comfortable, suffered in poverty and everything in-between. No matter what state I’ve been in, I’ve been consistent in my goal to make films. That kind of intention aligns your life and causes things to fall into place bit by bit. It wasn’t easy at times. In fact, it never is. There is always a major hurdle that comes my way every time I am about to experience a breakthrough. Most people would give up at that point. The challenges I’ve faced are extraordinary. But perhaps my belief and idealism, coupled with naivety and a rebellious streak have kept me overcoming those challenges and moving forward. To be productive, one must have fun and keep taking risks. It’s important to enjoy the process of creation.

You have made so many films. Do you fear running out of ideas? How do you ensure that you continue to tell stories that are relevant today?

I do not fear running out of ideas. Because the ideas don’t come from me. They come from listening to people around me. They come like rain from the sky, filling the well within me. The stories are relevant because they have been carefully collected, sorted, arranged, re-written and presented from up-to-date sources.

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