A Punk Daydream compares the lifes of punks and tribes in a highly interesting manner, by way of investigating the stigma that such groups have subject to in Indonesia because of their tattoos. It is a moving, beautiful film about belonging and feeling a spiritual connection to one's enviroment, but also an energetic tale about the rebellion, frustration, and opposition that is inherent to punk music and culture. We had a quick q&a with the director, Jimmy Hendrickx.
What is your background?
- Me and Kristian Van der Heyden, the co-director and producer of the film pursued the same interdisciplinary Art education in Ghent/ Belgium, with a strong accent for cross-over experiment, theatre and performance. This seems to be very notable in our approach to the film. We never intended to fit in some kind of format; fiction or documentary.
Are you into punk yourself?
- As teenagers we spent our weekends skateboarding in empty parking lots, listening to Black Flag. I was also rebellious enough to make my mom scream when I dyed my hair during that time. I got sent out of school several times for my deviant behaviour, until my parents sent me to the art secondary. I had little knowledge of the true political content or philosophy of the skate-punk culture then. But I for sure enjoyed decorating my school books with skulls and anarchist symbols. I had a rebellious side from early on, and I ended up in the Art Academy, where this was just the standard. That time I got in touch with so many other ways of expressing myself, and the punk sentiment got a little lost. I guess it was Eka who reintroduced me to the beauty of this subculture. Maybe it was the connection to my own childhood that made me want to tell this story. I also had a psychedelic chapter in my life to process, as my name might insinuate.
The film gives us intimate stories and perspectives. For how long did you follow the group and how did you connect with the community? Where there any challenges concerning e.g. language?
- Actually the project started in 2013 as an experimental short film. I didn't know any Indonesian at the time, so our approach was foremost visual. We worked with a translator but this made it impossible to get any spontaneity in the film. We had a long pause due to financial issues, and when we saw some light again in the production, we decided to make it a feature. But in the meantime our knowledge on Indonesia and our inspiration for the film had deepened and it was no longer an option to make a short film. So we started again with shooting, and this time I also understood that I had to learn the language, so again more than a year later I could finally communicate. That's when I could really play around with Eka and the guys, without any limitations. We worked on the film for 5 years, we really watched them growing up, yes.
It’s definitely an aesthetic documentary and many of the scenes are staged beautifully. Where do you get your visual inspiration?
- This is a difficult question actually. Of course I know the artists I like, but therefore I don’t always see the connection to them. I believe my photography can be static, almost like a tableau vivant at times. I can tell you that my grandfather introduced me to visual arts when I was only a toddler, as he collected paintings from Belgian surrealist artists. The paintings of Paul Delvaux and Renee Magritte must have had a strong impact on me, it would be a compliment if you can notice that influence.
Further, I can watch the films of Fellini, or films like The Passion of Anna by Bergman or Godards Le Mepris over a thousand times. Those films might give me the confidence that there are few rules in cinema. At the same time they also remind me that I can't compare the genius of those films with any of the things I ever did.
A Punk Daydream shows an interesting connection between the local tribes and the punks. How did you get this idea and do you think there are similar connections elsewhere in the world? How do you think your film can relate to current global issues?
It seems that it’s not too obvious for people to read the connections between punk and the tribes; and we didn’t want to make a scientific line between them, but we just felt that there is a spiritual connection between the two, in many ways. Their statements on society as minority groups are very similar. It’s easy to trace the romantic idea the Indonesian punks have about the tribal life. We can read it in their tattoos, the designs they make, their logos, and again, the stories they tell about them. I believe the passion the street-kids have for the tattoo-culture is just not that extreme at all, because it has always been embedded in Indonesian culture. Being a street-punk and using a manual tattoo machine says it all I think. It is as DIY as it can get.
There is a strong critic of capitalism and globalisation in the film; it is often connected with bizarre ideologies that keep the stream of profits for the rich alive. But at the same time we see some street-kids in the far east embracing a subculture of the west like it is their own, proving how beautiful globalisation can be. I guess it is impossible to conceal modernisation or globalisation from anyone on this planet. I guess that's the nature of modernisation, it will affect everybody. It's just very sad to see that this development was driven by a capitalist engine that has to generate profits instead of a visionary future for humanity. It feels like we can't expect much from politics today, only the people can turn this evolution into something good and therefore we need to organise, as global people of the planet. Luckily, it feels like this too is evolving.
I finally ask if there are any more films on the way. Jimmy Hendrickx confirms that two more feature documentaries are in the pipeline, but can’t reveal more than that for now.