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Two working filmmaker mothers, Japan’s Yukiko Sode and Indonesia’s Kamila Andini, talked about their craft and the particular challenges they face in an industry not known for its family-friendly working environments as part of the Conversation Series at the Tokyo International Film Festival.
The talk was one of the series of events at the Asia Lounge, the brainchild of director Hirokazu Kore-eda and co-presented by the festival and the Japan Foundation.
Andini praised Sode’s film Aristocrats, which played at the festival last year, for being “written and delivered with a female gaze,” and for “characters [that] are truly Asian,” adding, “I also found it very memorable that you depict women form different classes of society, but both you and the film see them equally, which is very inspiring.”
Sode pointed out that there was a widely-believed illusion that Japan was a classless society, but that in reality, people start their lives at different points depending on what kind of family they’re born into, something she addresses in the film.
Discussing the difficulties in being a working mother director, Sode explained how her mother-in-law took care of her four-year-old son for months while she shot Aristocrats, “but he had some psychological issues around the separation and cried all the time.”
She then took the decision not to tell people at work when she had her second child about a year ago, being able to hide the fact she was pregnant during the pandemic because meetings were all being held online. Sode spoke of how hard it is to be a female filmmaker with young children in Japan and the “anxiety about how we can continue to work.”
Andini admitted she considered giving up filmmaking after her daughter was born to focus on looking after her. She returned to directing after getting pregnant for a second time, “It reminded me how much I loved film, and I realized I didn’t want to give it up.”
Married to a filmmaker and born into a filmmaking family, Andini recalled her father being absent for months when he was away on shoots. She and her husband opted for a different approach.
“I want them to know everything, so we decided to take them everywhere – I breastfeed on location – we take them to the studio and even to festivals, so they know exactly what we do and how much we love doing it,” said Andini, who believes this shows other women in the industry what is possible.
The two directors discussed the differences in the childcare situation in their respective countries, leaving Sode envious of the cheapness of babysitting services in Indonesia, where it is common for households to employ domestic help. Sode explained that she had to move out of Tokyo because of the scarcity of nursery places in the Japanese capital.
Sode was impressed that mothers can take their children to work, adding, “When I think of the younger generation here, maybe I’m not helping them by keeping my pregnancy secret.”
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