All her life, FFF2023 film grant winner, Megan Wonowidjoyo tried to be different from her mother. Yet when she was going through a divorce, which she describes as her lowest point, she found herself running back to her mother. It was then that she discovered that despite her efforts to chart a different course, there were uncanny parallels between their lives. For one, they both became single mothers at the same age.
Megan and her mother are also women who have craved the freedom to forge paths outside their expected roles as women in a Chinese Indonesian family. For Megan’s mother that meant moving her young daughters to Singapore for an education, an anomaly in a community that prized sons over daughters. While in Megan’s case, she has explored her identity beyond her roles as wife and mother. In both women, there is a determination for more than what life has offered them.
This revelation became the inspiration for her documentary, which Megan describes as an exploration of “the memory landscape of the mother, daughter and her childhood memories”. Through her film, Megan hopes to encourage more women to tell difficult stories and the importance of confronting trauma.
Q&A with Megan
As Megan works to complete her film, we asked her about the challenges of telling such a personal story, the filmmakers who have inspired her and what advice she has for anyone embarking on a similar journey.
What first attracted you to filmmaking?
I have always loved the arts and graduated with a degree in architecture. Then I married a filmmaker and fell in love with cinema. We would watch films, talk films, breathe films. Soon I became his partner in crime and we both started making films fervently.
Could you describe your visual style for the documentary?
As an artist and filmmaker, my visual style is very much influenced by my drawing practice inspired by personal memory. The characters, objects and filmic space are surreal, as narratives move between dream and reality, personal meditations and fantasy.
Are there any films or documentaries that inspired you?
What has it been like making a film about and with your mother?
In the past, conversations with my mom would trigger memories that left me knotted in frustration. I realised I needed to make a film about my mom to resolve these buried issues. Making the film with my mother allowed me to observe her more closely, as I learnt more about my mother which I would otherwise not know. But it has also been extremely difficult to make this film and process the unresolved trauma between us.
Where in the production process are you for the film?
I am 50% in production of the film, having completed footage about my mom and creating footage for my side of the story now.
How will the film grant help you to complete the film?
Making a film about my mother is difficult. This grant by Freedom Film Festival gives me the courage to complete the film and tell this intimate story. The grant will help me to get more collaborators for the project, like a music composer and colour grading artist, maybe assistant editor.
How do you think your film can be used to explore issues faced by women? Are there advocacy groups you would like to work with once your film is finished?
The film shares the challenges of women through their memories – either verbally or through their subconscious. I would love to show the film to women’s groups in Malaysia or Singapore.
Do you have any advice for filmmakers looking to make films about their personal stories?
Making films is hard but it is also a privilege. If it’s an issue that has been bugging you for a long time or something you care about a lot, make a film about it. Get connected to film grants and workshops that can help you tell a good story. Filmmaking is like embarking on a boat out to sea, you will not know what adventure lies ahead until you take your first step.
Megan’s film ‘Home Sweet Home’ will premiere at FreedomFilmFest 2024 along with two other films that received the grant.
Every year the festival calls for proposal entries from interested filmmakers and activists across Malaysia & Singapore who have a story to tell. The two selected proposals will win a film grant of RM15,000 / SGD5,000 each to produce the film.
The selection was based on the 20th edition of the FreedomFilmFest theme ‘Why Freedom?’, answering the questions why freedom is crucial for us to be fully human? And what happens to our environment when our freedom is curtailed?