The Mirror Never Lies

The Mirror Never Lies


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

This immersive film from the Wakatobi islands in Indonesia is a fascinating snapshot of the lives of the Bajo tribe and a sweetly worked narrative about family and friendship that also offers powerful commentary about the state of our seas and our curation of them.

The tribe were once sea gypsies and even now, with their network of houses on stilts in the middle of the ocean and lives that revolve around fishing, they have a deep connection to the sea.

Copy picture

Twelve-year-old Pakis (Gita Novalista) is one of the many children on this wooden island and her plight is not an unfamiliar one to her community. One day her dad went fishing and did not return. Her mum Tayung (Atiqah Hasiholan) daily pastes her face with white lotion as a ritual of grief - presumably a tribal tradition when a husband is missing, presumed dead, although this is never fully explained. Pakis on the other hand, is clinging to the hope that he will return, using a mirror that he gave her as a present to try to see his face with the help of the local witchdoctor. But when Jakartan scientist Tudo (Reza Rahadian) arrives in the village to monitor the local dolphins, his presence as their lodger becomes a catalyst for change, both in terms of the mother and daughter's view of each other and the world around them.

Pakis, as well as contending with grief, is experiencing the first flush of sexuality, mesmerised by a dress owned by Tudo (Eko) - which he tells her he plans to give to someone one day - even as she finds her best pal Lumo's efforts to win her over comedic rather than compelling.

Kamila Andini's thoughtful film is all the more remarkable, given that it marks her first feature, although she is following in the footsteps of her dad Garin Nugroho (Opera Jawa). She deftly handles both Pakis' story and that of Tayung, while stitching in plenty of references to troubled seas - such as the disappearance of the dolphins within Pakis and Tudo's short lifetimes - without them feeling forced. The mirror of the title refers as much to the sea and what it gives to the Bajo tribe as it does to Pakis' present. Even though this is really the tale of mothers and daughters, desire and loss, the male characters are not short-changed, with Tudo also undergoing an interesting coming-of-adolescene arc. Novalista and Eko are particularly adorable as the young pals and their story alone makes this a good choice for older children as well as adults.

The cinematography from Rahmat Syaiful, meanwhile, is achingly good both above and below the water, capturing the full spectrum of eye-popping blues and greens that the environment holds. A portrait of a community rarely explored on film with a strong narrative backbone, it marks Andini out as a new talent to look out for.

Reviewed on: 21 Jun 2012
Share this with others on...
The Mirror Never Lies packshot
A young girl grieves for her missing father.

Director: Kamila Andini

Writer: Kamila Andini, Dirmawan Hatta

Starring: Atiqah Hasiholan, Gita Novalista, Reza Rahadian, Eko, Zainal

Year: 2011

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: Indonesia


BIFF 2012
EIFF 2012

Search database:

If you like this, try: