Indrani Kopal: Making Waves With Incarcerated Rhythm


Indrani Kopal: Making Waves With Incarcerated Rhythm

Having tasted journalism Malaysian-style with Malaysiakini, documentary filmmaker Indrani Kopal is now making waves, with her award-winning Incarcerated Rhythm pushing her into the international limelight.

No one would have thought that this petite award-winning filmmaker actually learnt the basics of filmmaking while being on the job as a lab technician in an arts school, whose work was then merely to ensure the students had their equipment

She has come far and this Kuala Lumpur native, and a former journalist, had made international headlines, when her feature documentary "Incarcerated Rhythm" premiered at the 13th Annual Harlem International Film Festival 2018 and won the special “Mira Nair Award for Rising Female Filmmaker”.

Indrani believes that in being human, one cannot be objective and to be objective would be losing the humanity and essence of the subject of the film.

I have really close-up angles and compositions. This is because I’m creating the relationship and tapping into the emotions

"You can remove all your feelings from it. You can remove all your biases and you can stay neutral. You can say okay, it is going to be factual - purely factual and no emotion attached to it. But can you, do you want to?

"I’m a very emotional story teller. The first thing I tap into my storytelling is the emotion. The choice of the music, the choice of the cut, the way I frame or compose a scene."

"If you look at my stories, I have really close-up angles and compositions. This is because I’m creating the relationship and tapping into the emotions. When you are being objective, you completely discard this part. You don’t talk about this aspect. You remain a step behind."

"Keep it all in the medium and wide frame and you just shoot. You present as objective as possible. But I feel I have been liberated, I have found the other way of telling stories because I am more human," says Indrani.

I Am An Emotional Storyteller

Incarcerated Rhythm also recently premiered in Canada at the 32nd Edmonton International Film Festival in Alberta. The film is actually a lengthened version of 'Game Changer' - a short documentary she did in 2014.

The Game Changer also won a few festival awards and tells the story of choreographer Susan Slotnick in her work rehabilitating prisoners through dance at the Woodbourne Correctional Facility.

Whoever performs the dance is going through the same healing process

In Incarcerated Rhythm, Indrani further weaves the stories of six American male prisoners who regained their being and dignity through modern dance rehabilitation while serving time behind bars.  

"When I touch dance, my stories are never about the technique, it's not about the fundamentals of the dance. It’s about what it does to you once you watch that art form. That means as an art, it is a form that you practice, you consume or even get drawn by it. It’s that function of the art to heal. It’s the function of the art to tap within you, so deep, that nothing else could not penetrate."

"It kind of embodies the spirituality, looking inwards really, creating something beautiful using your body. Something within you gets liberated and builds confidence in you. That’s what happened to me and I imagine whoever performs the dance, is going through the same healing process, no matter what dance you take, no matter what art form you take on."

"You learn to be confident. You learn to be strong. You learn to trust yourself, love yourself. Through that healing, you are not completely healed but the process has begun in you" says Indrani, who herself took on dance to cope with balding and lack of self-esteem.

I Am Biased Because...

Indrani realises that there is not much profit in making documentaries like what she does but she feels that she has a duty to inform and educate the untapped audience, albeit unconsciously, to make a change.

"Documentaries are still boring, we don't want to be exposed to tonnes of information but you also want to be intrigued. You have to be mysteriously drawn towards the story, the storytelling and the technique."

"So, the techniques that I choose, stories that I choose, genre that I choose, are for people who want be entertained as well as to be informed, And certainly, it has to be a catalyst of change. It has to spark something in whoever is watching. Plant a seed in them. Maybe to not take the immediate action, but an action in the future."

"You can’t unsee what you saw. You can unlearn, but it’s already in you. My stories, my camera, my music, my emotions are already in the audience - they already changed at that moment but they don’t know it yet sometimes," says Indrani.