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Curatorial Notes


Knot (noun): 1) an interlacement of the parts of one or more flexible bodies forming a lump or knob (as for fastening or tying together), 2) a bond or union.

Knot (verb): to unite closely or intricately.

In nautical culture, ropes and their knots are an inevitability. The unpredictable surge of the ocean waves or the stormy winds call for such strong bonds. Hilmar Farid in his Cultural Speech for Jakarta Arts Council 2014 stated that we have long turned our backs on the sea. The knots that bond us with each other, with nature, and with God are unravelled while we turn away.

The currents of online presence have cornered the essence of “knots’’ into nothing but dyspeptic symptoms or a tool of black magic. The latter meaning derived from QS Al Falaaq: 4 where the word “uqad” was translated into “knots’ ‘ in the Indonesian translation, and the word was related to a witchcraft merchandise blown by “the female witches’’. However, interestingly, the negatively-connoted “uqad” derived from the same root for the word “aqad” (contract). The further derivation of that word refers to a term that has a meaning from which Madani IFF draws its theme: an alliance between humans.

Another fascinating fact that inspired this theme is how the word “knot” was translated in a positive manner when Al Baqarah: 256 supplied us with the term “urwatul wutsqa”. Literally translated, the words in use refer to tied-up strings that make a strong bond. It might be related to a word from the Banjar language that means “a tangling of ties”. The interpretation that relates to a union and a strong bond is how “knots” is represented in this year’s theme in Madani.

Throughout 2022-2023, we’ve witnessed more escalations of conflicts and great disasters fell upon many countries such as Palestine, Iran, Afghanistan, India, and Turkey. The knots of humanities need to be refastened, if not remade. A madani culture is the force needed to tie what was loosened. Beyond that, we are also facing the weakened knots between us and nature, between us and God. Only a strong bond will help us weather these storms.

Just as we’ve done every year, this year’s Madani IFF will screen international films, spark discussions and initiate classes with international speakers, as well as offering special programs with Tenggara, Relax, It’s Just Religion, and Puan Madani. This year, the focus film would be of Palestine, where the crises of humanity have reached its most concerning state. Films from and about Palestine in Madani IFF 2023 will provide us with further insights regarding the situation in the country, while unveiling an unexpected knot that ties Japanese filmmakers with Palestinians since 1970’s.

Madani IFF 2023 will also take a special approach to dive into the soul of Indonesian films through A Retrospective: 50 Years of Christine Hakim’s Artistry. Meanwhile, a programme from Tenggara will introduce us to a madani world of Southeast Asia, which promises a colourful conversation in addressing the global crises. Madani IFF 2023 curated 1,707 short films from across the globe to uncover how the knots that bond us as people, that bond our values as people, is the one chance for our lives as humans, and that it is worth fighting for.

Through the screen, we watch the many roles captured in frames. While our mind and senses fasten themselves with the lives on the screen, we hope for our knots to also be strengthened beyond it.

Hikmat Darmawan

Festival Board
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