Ernest Hariyanto is the Ubud-based editor of JALANAN, directed by Daniel Ziv – a documentary about Jakarta’s street musicians, which will screen as an Official Selection in competition at the prestigious Busan International Film Festival, on October 5th. Catriona Mitchell caught up with Ernest before his departure for South Korea for the film’s world premiere.

Photos of Ernest Hariyanto by Rio Helmi

Ernest, let’s start by talking about the role of a film editor. A film’s director is normally the one in the limelight, while the editor remains in the background – and yet the editor has such huge influence over the way a story is told, and the overall look and message of a film.

I think it’s the nature of the editor’s role to be quite invisible. Especially for documentary, where we (editors) need to sustain the believability of the story. The better you edit, the more the story feels like it is seamless and un-edited. There needs to be a connection between the audience and the characters in the story; the editor needs to establish this and not come in between. I would think that someone who wants to stand out and needs the praise of the public, wouldn’t be appropriate for the role.

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How did you come to be editor of JALANAN? The director, Daniel Ziv, started out working with a different editor – and quite a different approach to the material – before he met you.

Ten years ago (2003), I came to visit Jakarta after being away from Indonesia for five years; I was living and working in Sydney at that time. I came across the book Jakarta Inside Out in a second hand bookshop in TIM (Jakarta Art Centre). The book managed to capture my fascination and love/hate relationship with Jakarta. The writer, Daniel Ziv sees Jakarta from the street level, and in that book he managed to portray the rural culture within the urban environment of the capital city. Growing up in rural Central Java, Jakarta has always fascinated me as “the big city” with tall buildings and streets full of traffic, yet the people and the streets feel familiar and are still “rural” at heart.

-2I guess in a way Jakarta is the opposite of Ubud. Here we have a “metropolitan/city culture” set in a rural area in village settings. Living here in Ubud feels like living in a city – a metropolitan place, where you cross path with people from different corners of the world – but at the same time, for me it has a certain nostalgic childhood feeling… of nature, the rice fields and open spaces. It’s one of the reasons I moved to Ubud, three years ago with my family: I wanted my kids to grow up in a similar setting as I was in. I just hope Ubud won’t be over-developed too soon.

Anyway, two years ago (2011) my wife Noga went to see Etgar Keret at the Ubud Writers Festival and brought home a new bule friend, a filmmaker whom she met there (they happened to sit next to each other). It turned out that the bule was Daniel Ziv and he had just finished editing the first rough cut of his feature documentary, JALANAN.

Sometime after that, Daniel gave me a preview of JALANAN. I told him that although the characters and the story were interesting, it didn’t have the same sensibility and connection to the city as what he’d managed to portray in Jakarta Inside Out. We ended up working together for almost two years. I co-produced, re-wrote and re-edited the film. JALANAN has become our love-letter for the streets of Jakarta, and we hope the story and the city will fascinate others as it has always fascinated both of us.

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Working on a pre-existing edit must have been a tricky challenge to take on. How much footage did you watch? How did you decide on your personal angle for the story?

I actually viewed 200+ hours of material, and started the edit from scratch, but the main challenge was finding the structure and the story arc for the characters. JALANAN follows three different characters that Daniel shot over four years, and lots of things happened to them in that time. It’s hard enough to sew a story together, let alone find a common thread across three different stories. But at the end I think we managed to find a thread that bonds these characters and at the same time introduces Jakarta, the city, as another character in the film.

You’re incredibly versatile and multi-skilled: on JALANAN, you’re credited as co-producer, writer, editor, colourist and composer. How do you manage to fill so many roles at once, and do them well?

I love what I do and take my work very seriously, almost in an obsessive kind of way. Sometime it can be quite a torture, but I think I have a good sensibility in expressing emotion and telling a story, using images, words, music, sound and color. At the end it’s about creating, and how what you create makes others feel.

The best thing about film-making for me is to be in the same room/space with the audiences, and feel how they’re emotionally connected through the story.

Film maker and editor Ernest Hariyanto in his studio in Ubud, Bali

Ernest Hariyanto is an Indonesian filmmaker who works from his studio in Ubud, doing editing, story consulting, color correction and other post-production for film & documentaries. See www.ernesth.com

Good news: this year’s Ubud Writers & Readers Festival will also be hosting an exclusive open-air preview screening of JALANAN at 6.45pm on October 14th at the Blanco Renaissance Museum, in the presence of the film’s three ‘stars’. This is a free event. Don’t miss it!

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