Centering the Fringe – The Films of Yudho Aditya


Fikri Jermadi discovers a new filmmaker in Yudho Aditya, and believe that we must know more of him in this Buzz of the Week.

I put a fair amount of thought into many of the titles here. Some may well be less suitable than first thought, but it remains true that a good title will always attract attention for the right reasons. I believe much of that same reasoning can be applied to the films of Yudho Aditya.

I came across his films on Vimeo, a potential treasure trove of quality films both short and long. The key word there is ‘potential’, because it can be a rabbit hole difficult to back out from. There are also hits and misses, with many minutes lost to films I thought would be more impactful.

466985455_1280x720Yudho’s works, however, does not fall under that category. In fact, in prioritising a more liberal sense of sexuality in the portrayal of his characters, it could be argued that his films challenges some of the more accepted norms of his host and home societies.

According to his official biography on IMDB, he was born in Jakarta, Indonesia. A diverse nation in its own right, the overt representation of equally diverse genders and sexuality remains limited, at best. Much of the country’s best film works tend to reinforce existing gender boundaries, notwithstanding certain outlier films and filmmakers.

Given that context, it is arguable that perhaps Yudho could only have grown as a filmmaker in as open a landscape as his host nation, the United States of America. At least, that is what I infer, as much of his films were set there. The American tendency to allow for greater acceptance of even greater varieties should not be ignored. He also appears to be studying films and filmmaking, which helps to explain his understanding of film language.

My favourite of the lot (and there is a lot!) is probably ‘Inbetween Nights’. Focusing on the tricky endeavours that are one night stands, the emotions swirling after such encounters were subtly but forcefully highlighted on screen, which is no mean feat in its own right. Starting off right in the middle of such a physical tryst, we are thrust into an intimate situation, with little room to breathe. However, it is the lingering aftermath that weighs down heavily on us as much as it does on the characters. A single location, two characters, and yet there was so much in the air.

midnights-adam-_2A similar tension could be noted with ‘Midnights with Adam’, though I am thankful for the longer duration, allowing for a slower build up and a bigger payday. It concerns a young man, who’s grappling not only with his sexuality, but also the perceived notions of that sexuality with another whom he may secretly be in love with. It is this lover’s apparent preference for women that makes it difficult for him to reconcile the dilemmas of his heart. At the same time, there is also another who wishes to be with him, if only for his body. Matters of the heart (and body) comes to a head near the film’s end, but what’s interesting here is that this love triangle plays out without much need for extra focus on the character’s gender and sexuality; you could have switched the genders around for a more conventional pattern, if you will, and still have a very effective and heartfelt film.

The same applies to ‘Missed’, the story of a young woman who was about to depart for another place. Her lover struggles with this particular decision, and the story plays out in a series of montages and Polaroids of their memories, adequately establishing their relationship. The power of this film lies in the two leads, Hannah Balagot and Amanda Kathleen Ward; Ward herself co-starred in ‘Midnights with Adam’, but would truly shine in its equally-effective companion film ‘After Hours’, directed by Yudho’s frequent collaborator Alicia Goff.

She helped to produce ‘Lilies’, which again featured same-sex lovers without making a big deal out of it. If anything, I fear may well be making a bigger deal out of it than the filmmakers did, but such is Yudho’s focus on what is important. Similar to ‘Missed’, it is not afraid to utilise montages of flashback to establish the past, yet its use of a singular prop, imbued with great meaning, tied it all together. I had tried something similar in the past, and while I was happy enough with it, I did not effect the same result in as effective a manner. ‘Lilies’ is an exercise both the simplicity and efficiency of meaning making.

Screen shot 2016-04-13 at 10.12.15 PMThere are others, too. ‘The Morning After’ treads on similar grounds to ‘Inbetween Nights’, yet the story’s slightly different outcome and approach gives it a different feel to the rest of his films mentioned here. Speaking of different, ‘On The D to the Coney’ is a single take exercise that pushed the limits of technical filmmaking; featuring two different characters, only one of them was wired up with a mic. Add in a cacophonous environment like a train, and you have real difficulty of making out what the other was trying to say. It’s a bit of a shame, because the performance of the actors was something to behold. The same could be said for ‘Heart & Soles’. The minimal approach to the elements meant a greater reliance on the performers, and we are not let down by this. I shared this film with a friend, and she noted that “it leaves one with thoughts even after the conversation is over.”

Less, indeed, is more, and in the films of Yudho Aditya, that more is above and beyond what many other films offer. Like I said at the start of this write up, his films brings to the fore many on the fringe, especially if we are to take into consideration his Indonesian background. The American film landscape has seen a greater sense of diversity from the ground up, if not necessarily from the top-down side of things.

What I would like to see is Yudho operating in a more Indonesian context. His short film ‘Pria’, currently listed as being in post-production, appears to be this. What he has done is portray a reality many won’t usually associate with alternative communities. A lot of other works of art can’t help but sensationalise the very homocentrism they seek to unpack. Here, however, what I found is a great filmmaker and storyteller, peeling away at the layers as he treats issues of love, matters of the heart, and desires of the body as only and exactly that.

In centering the fringe, Yudho Aditya has succeeded in representing human beings as essentially humans. It is a perspective we would do well to remember.

You can watch all the films above here. He is a part of DTF Pictures, whose other films are also equally worth checking out.

Featured image credit: Bon Vivant

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