PETALING JAYA: When local filmmaker Indrani Kopal was first asked to submit her short documentaries to film festivals in the United States, she was against the idea.
However, after her film was accepted for five film festivals – a rare success for a student’s work – Indrani, who is studying at the Hofstra University in New York, has her lecturer to thank for the success.
“I didn’t believe in film festivals because I thought it was attention-seeking. But I was so happy when my film was accepted.
“I see it now as a recognition that my film is worthy enough for the big screens,” said the 35-year-old, who grew up in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur.
Her 18-minute documentary The Game Changer highlights a teacher’s efforts to change the lives of convicts through modern dance.
“It deserves attention, not only in terms of emphasising the importance of prison rehabilitation programmes but also about masculine men doing modern dance and using art to make a living and reintegrate themselves into society,” said the Fulbright scholar.
What made Indrani’s film so successful was the trust that she had won from her subjects in allowing her to tell their stories.
For the film, Indrani interviewed the dance teacher along with six prisoners, documenting their daily routines.
“I guess this is a skill that I’ve mastered throughout the years. I put in a lot to gain their trust.
“After all, I’m just a student and a foreigner,” said the video journalist, who worked with a local news portal for six years before leaving for the United States.
Indrani first traced the teacher through a magazine article she had read and then contacted her via Facebook.
“Susan (the teacher) was also sceptical when I first approached her because what most people do is ask about the prisoners’ crime but what I did was give them time,” she added.
The determined Indrani made friends with the dancers for six months before she started filming them, making the two-hour journey daily to the detention centre from her home.
“Today, they tell me ‘Indrani, we trust you’, knowing that I won’t violate their trust.
“This is important because I want to be in their lives in the years to come.
“I want to show the results of a prison rehabilitation programme,” Indrani said.
She plans to do a sequel in the future.