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10/29 [Q&A] Asian Future – “The Crescent Moon” by Ismail Basbeth


©2015 TIFF

The Crescent Moon” Q&A session took place on Oct 29, 2015
Ismail Basbeth (Director/Screenplay)(left), Ajish Dibyo (Line Producer)(right)
Greetings to the audience.
Ismail Basbeth: We really appreciate you for coming to our screening. This film was an international premiere screening at the Tokyo International Film Festival. We are very happy to be with the audience and are looking forward to receive the feedbacks from you.
Ajish Dibyo: I hope you have enjoyed this film. The theme that The Crescent Moon is handling is a very important matter in Indonesia. That is why we would like to receive various feedbacks and impressions from you.
Q: Would you briefly provide the theme behind the background of the film? There were Islamic customs that we were not very familiar with and would like you to explain it to us.
Ismail Basbeth: Indonesia has one of the biggest Muslim population in the world. We live with different groups of Islam such as Sunni Islam. What is happening in the world today for the Islam are that every group believe they are superior to the others. If you realize that Indonesia has 1,700 islands in the country with different cultures and languages you might understand that it has been always difficult for us to make a strong definition of what the freedom is in Indonesia and what Islam means to Indonesia. In this film we try to elaborate more about the idea and realize somehow that the Islam is a way of life.
In religion, there are perspective that if you ask for something then we get the answer of some kind. However in this film, we realize that the religion searches for a way to ask but not to find an answer. We don’t support any particular group but we support conversation, understanding and acceptance.
Q: Is following of Hilal in the film a popular way to count Islamic months in Indonesia?
Ismail Basbeth: This is about Indonesian calendar. It is a way to count when the fasting ends and the fasting starts the following year. The Indonesians have two ways to count the month. Hyssop is one way to count the dates in the calendar and is possible to calculate. With Hyssop we count 365 days from Shawwal which is the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the next lunar month. But certain group of people think that it is not accurate unless we see it with our own eyes. In the way of Hilal, the counting of the Islamic month is made according to the moon. It is an old tradition because if you want to see hilal clearly, you will have to go to a very special place where we can see the horizon.
In this film, Mahmud who studied at the religious school believes that by seeing hilal, it is easier and cheaper for people to find out when the next month begins. Now in Indonesia, the government wants to make no differentiation among all the Islam group and invites all the groups to Jakarta for the meeting. But as you may know, there are rumors that the Indonesian government is corrupted so they spend a lot of money to invite those groups. So Mahmud tries to prove that the old way is better as it doesn’t cost much amount of money and that you can see hilal with your own eyes. We talked about it in the film too. That’s why the film is important to us as hilal in Islam is a symbol of time, which refers that all Muslims are connected to the moon. So it is not necessarily just one religion but all the groups that are to decide the basic idea of Islam.
Moon is very important in Islam and is also a symbol of prophets, who shine light in the darkness. That’s why Muslims count the months and decide everything according on the moon but not the sun.
Q: I know the film was shot in central Jawa, part of Jakarta. Why did you choose this location for the film?
Ismail Basbeth: I chose the place as the location because I was living in that area and wanted to make the film where I was familiar with.
Q: In the film where Mahmud and Heli quarrels, there is a line of untranslated Arabic. What does it mean?
Ismail Basbeth: It refers to “everything is based on what you wish from deep in your heart”.
Q: I would like to mention that many Indonesian film makers including Garin Nugroho are from Yogyakarta which has an impression of an artistic type of place. Are there many people in Indonesian Film Industry that are from Yogyakarta?
Ajish Dibyo: There are other directors who are making Yogyakarta as the place of the film making. The place feels close to us and we can sympathize with it. Since Jakarta has become the center of the country we wanted to find the place for film making outside of Jakarta in Yogyakarta. Yogyakarta is an energetic place for filmmakers, artist and intellectuals. However the finance is centered in Jakarta and we would like to change that. Both Garin Nugroho and Ismail Basbeth feels the same way.
Ismail Basbeth: Yogyakarta is not only a place for filmmaking but also is a cultural city with many universities where students come all over from Indonesia. In this case, we can feel a sense of multiculturalism from the very beginning when we enter the city. For example, there is a scene in which the church is invaded by the Islamic group, this scene is actually shot in a small village famous of its openness to the religion. People won’t even ask what your religion is.
I picked this village because that house in the scene was the house I rented when my son was born. My mother was a very conservative person. The problem occurred when I became a father of the newly born. We didn’t know what to do with our child. The Catholic family lived in a house in front of us. The woman who lived there was really kind to me and helped me take care of the baby. My mother found that out and asked me why I would seek help from a Catholic. We argued over it. But she finally realized that the kindness exceeded the boundary of the religious difference. Even now, when my wife and I need to work outside the city; we still seek help from this woman to take care of our son. My mother knows that and agrees with it. It changes the way how my mother sees things. So I picked that location for the scene and it is really important for the film.
Q: What Japanese film do you like?
Ismail Basbeth: Dreams by Akira Kurosawa. That’s the inspiration of my first feature film.
Few words from the guests in the end.
Ajish Dibyo: I hope you learned about the situation in Indonesia through the way the director depicted his thoughts in the film. What is happening currently in Indonesia is told in this film.
Ismail Basbeth: I was happy to show my second film to the audience. I learned a lot during the process of filmmaking and I really hope this film can give you some sense about what is happening in Indonesia. If that is too much to ask, I would appreciate if you can remember me as director of this film and follow what I will be doing next.

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KEIRIN.JPThe 28th Tokyo International Film Festival will be held with funds provided by Japan Keirin Association.TIFF History
27th Tokyo International Film Festival(2014)