The social and ceremonial life of Indonesia’s Toraja region is the subject of a new audio-visual project from Dogmilk Films to be screened in Melbourne next month.
Directed and edited by Wahyu Al Mardhani and Chris Cochrance Friedrich, All Circles The Moon And Dirt Shines In The Sun will showcase more than 4,000 video clips simultaneously across four channels as part of an immersive experience designed to offer insight into the area’s public and private community events.
Located in the South Sulawesi province, Toraja is known for its distinctive funeral rites, in which the deceased are kept in the family house and cared for until the clan can afford a proper ceremonial burial, which can last for up to seven days.
Four years ago, a team from Dogmilk Films travelled to Makassar with the aim of documenting the rituals, only to discover there were other camera crews with similar interests.
Videographer and broadcaster Delta Sangalla’ TV (DSTV) has been filming the cultural practices of the highland community since 2006, footage which has since garnered a wider audience via the establishment of a cable television network and designated YouTube channel.
After making contact with DSTV during its first trip, Dogmilk Films returned to Makassar in 2019 and set up Sipakatuo (Glorify One Another) – a cross-cultural exchange program designed to connect screen and sound practitioners between Australia and Indonesia.
The ensuing collaborative partnership would form the foundation for All Circles The Moon And Dirt Shines, which consists exclusively of clips taken by DSTV camerapeople Victor Konda, Egy Tonapa, Edwar Kevin Ada, Paul Tandiayu and Arnold Sirenden Souisa.
The film is accompanied by an online interview series featuring the project’s contributors in conversation with artists, activists, and researchers.
Producing is Sam Hewison from Dogmilk Films, with the creative team rounded out by sound designer Josh Peters and researcher and translator Afifah Tasya.
Hewison told IF the contribution of Indonesian filmmakers had grown steadily throughout the project, especially as the pandemic had prevented Dogmilk from further travel to the country.
“After a couple of trips, we tried to get a few Indonesian filmmakers on board and when we met the crew from DSTV, we started swapping footage and ideas.
“Since the pandemic, we haven’t been able to continue shooting our stuff, so we thought it was a good opportunity to continue creative relationships with filmmakers in Makassar by making a film out of the huge archive that DSTV has got.”
He said the film was “one iteration” of an idea, with Dogmilk still planning to use what was captured by their own crew during the trips.
“We’re still hoping to create our own film from our footage, whilst also incorporating DSTV footage,” he said.
“In a way, this is a stepping stone and experiment on the way to a larger feature film.”
There will be five showings of All Circles The Moon And Dirt Shines In The Sun across December 11 and 12 in the North Magdalen Laundry of the Abbotsford Convent. The screenings are being conducted in partnership with Asialink Arts being supported by Creative Victoria. Find out more information here.