Malaysian documentary producer Indrani Kopal has hit big time, with her first production selected for the Cannes Film Festival. Her documentary, "The Game Changer", will be shown at The American Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase and the Cannes Short Film Corner.
"The Game Changer" tells the story of Susan Slotnick, who uses dance as a form for rehabilitation for inmates at the Woodbourne Correctional Facility in New York, United States.
Indrani ( left ), a Fulbright scholar at the Hofstra University in New York, documented Slotnick's work, which over the last seven years helped prisoners heal and prepare themselves for life outside the prison walls.
The documentary has been selected for screening at an unprecedented 14 film festivals, including the now world-renowned Cannes Film Festival. Watch the trailer here .
The Cannes International Film Festival originated in Cannes, France, in the late 1930s. It is an annual film festival that previews new films of all genres, including documentaries, from around the world and is one of the most prestigious and publicised film festivals.
“Cannes is every filmmaker’s dream,” said Indrani. “Even though I’m just participating in a small part of the larger festival, I’m so humbled. Being one of the finalists in this showcase will provide me the stepping stone for the future,” she added.
Indrani Kopal was one of the original staff of Malaysiakini TV , when it was launched in 2006. She worked on English and Tamil news features, helping grow Malaysiakini TV to be the top online news video site.
While producing short news features, Indrani won her first award, at the 2007 Freedom Film Festival for a documentary titled 'She is my son". The documentary has now been watched over 2.2 million times on YouTube.
Shufiyan Shukur, who led Malaysiakini TV then, expected her to succeed.
"I see Indrani as having this unique ability to empathise entirely with the subject of her story; immersing herself in it to communicate the story in the most emotionally-charged and visually stunning way," Shufiyan said.
"The fact that her work is now at Cannes is no surprise to me, for I have always expected that she will be at there, or at Sundance or at both festivals as a filmmaker. I've been so honoured to see her bloom as a person and as a documentary filmmaker. She’ll do us proud," he added.
Born in Sentul, Kuala Lumpur, Indrani went attended the Setapak Air Panas Girls School before completing her Bachelors degree in Multimedia Communications at Open University of Malaysia, while still working with Malaysiakini .
“I’m ever grateful to Malaysiakini for providing me a sound foundation under the tutelage of Shufiyan Shukur and the independence given by Premesh Chandran and Steven Gan to produce stories without any interference,” Indrani said.
As Malaysiakini CEO, I must say that we are immensely proud of Indrani, for she has shown the world what Malaysians can do, when given the opportunity. We hope that she will help strengthen the film industry here in Malaysia, upon her return.
While famous as a documentary maker, fortune remains at bay for Indrani. Her trip to Cannes, France, will cost her about US$5,000 (RM18,512). Malaysiakini is raising funds to help fund her trip, including a possible stopover in Kuala Lumpur.
We believe Indrani well deserves our support. We call on our readers to help get her to Cannes.
Readers who would like to support Indra's trip in May can donate to the following Malaysiakini bank account:
Account name: Mkini Dotcom Sdn Bhd
Account No: 514178153586
Branch: Seapark, Petaling Jaya
Please email a copy of the payment details to [email protected] for acknowledgment.
Brief Q&A with Indrani Kopal
What made you decide to do documentaries?
At a very early stage of my film-making career, I knew I didn't have much interest in the making of fiction films. I was so drawn to real life experiences, real people and real emotions.
I love to listen to people and their stories, and I became addicted to that experience. And more so, I love the flexibility that documentaries offer in storytelling, where I don't have any pressure to be objective, as required in journalism.
What do you hope to gain from attending the Cannes Film Festival?
Speaking of Cannes, this actually creates a lot pressure for me, as it brings the spotlight on me as a filmmaker. Now that I’ve reached Cannes, the question that lingers in my mind is, what comes next?
I sincerely hope the exposure in Cannes will open doors for me to do a feature-length documentary, which is my ultimate dream, and at the same time to learn and network among my film-making peers. It’s the place to be and now I have the chance to move forward.
How has The Game Changer changed you?
The Game Changer reaffirmed my own belief that dance does heal and art does have the power to transform. And that no matter who you are, or what hideous crime you commit, at end of the day you are still a human being and if you open your heart to change, you can change and you will change.
People like Susan Slotnick chose to make a difference in the world with a small act of kindness and sheer belief that everyone deserves a second chance.
My personal experience after spending almost two years filming and interviewing the released dancers of “Figures-in-Flight Released” Dance company revealed that these men were armed with confidence and positive self-image when they got released.
The importance of these gains in confidence should not be underestimated. Their experiences are no different than my very own, when I discovered dance in 2001 during a period when I was seeking confidence and gaining my own self-esteem.
The video recording of the interview with Indrani can be viewed here .