Locarno 2019: Director Yosep Anggi Noen Talks ‘The Science Of Fictions’

The Science Of Fictions begins with a mute man who witnesses a fake moon landing. After he is caught and his tongue cut out, the man tries to convince people in his village of what he has seen by dancing and wearing space outfits. However, all the villagers think he is insane.

Director Yosep Anggi Noen (Peculiar Vacation And Other Illnesses and Solo, Solitude) stops by on Close-up Culture to tell us more ahead of the film’s world premiere at the 2019 Locarno Film Festival.

Q: What does it mean to screen ‘The Science Of Fictions’ at the Locarno Film Festival?

A: My first two feature films competed in Cineaste del Presente, and my third feature film, The Science of Fictions, has now made it to the main competition. Locarno gives space to films with its unique and daring vision, it makes me feel at home and boosts my confidence.

In Indonesia, the film industry is growing and the audience for art films is increasing. Having The Science of Fictions screened in Locarno will give a greater opportunity to introduce Indonesia in the global context through art film, as well as something good to present to potential audiences in Indonesia.

I realise that my film is not easy to comprehend and market. But after being a part of Locarno, my last film [Solo, Solitude] was screened at an Indonesian commercial cinema for an audience of 54,000 people. That counted as a fantastic number for art-house film. The film has also motivated many young people to create political discussion on the disappearance of activists in the 1990s, due to the film’s context of a missing poet. Locarno is the first step for the film, like The Science Of Fictions, to be known and then watched by wider audiences.

‘The Science Of Fictions’

Q: I’m fascinated by the starting point for ‘Science Of Fictions’. Why did you want to open with a fake moon landing and in the 1960s?

A: It was the Cold War epoch and one of the highlights in the space race. I am interested to show the impact of huge political conflict on an individual. History is intimate and personal for ordinary people, yet its intimacy is misused by politicians to gain their power.

In 1965 there was also a historical moment in Indonesia, a coup, which is still a mystery up to now. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed by the ruler to justify defending the state from any threat. I say it is still a mystery because 32 years after the coup, people were diffused by a fiction of pseudo nationalism through history courses in school and propaganda films.

Q: Siman is a silent lead character. What interested you about having a central character who cannot properly communicate with those around him?

A: Since Siman cannot talk, the challenge for the actor is to deliver the story through his body and movements. Because of these difficulties, I and Gunawan Maryanto have a vast space to make our language. The audience can guess [what his body movements mean] and that is another thing to create excitement. 

Q: I understand the film also explores the exploitation facing other villages. Is there exploitation different to Siman’s? Or is it linked?

A: At first, Siman is the center of the story, then gradually he is ousted and exploited. Exploitation is a linked process. In this film, I want to show that now exploitation works as simple as if you take a picture of other people with your phone and make a caption for gaining likes on your social media account. 

Q: I read something in which you mentioned cinema replacing reality. Can you expand on that?

A: It is not a statement but a question. My question about the future of cinema. If reality becomes more complex, will people seek the truth through cinema?

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