In the manner of being human: Gothic aesthetics and social commentary in experimental filmmaking in Timor-Leste
Vannessa Hearman Charles Darwin University (CDU), AUSTRALIA
In 2017, an artistic collaboration between East Timorese and Australian filmmakers led to the release of Ema Nudar Umanu (loosely translated as ‘people in the manner of being humans’), set in Timor-Leste’s capital city, Dili and its surrounds. In a filmmaking landscape still in its infancy, the film breaks new ground by being the first feature made in Timor-Leste that explicitly employs Gothic aesthetics, within the context of a post-independence art movement referred to as Movimentu Kultura, one in which artists draw on East Timorese cultural references to intervene in the process of nation-building. This paper discusses artistic collaborations in Malkriadu Cinema, whose work involves incorporating references to the supernatural and other well-established conventions of the Gothic genre to comment on questions of belonging, identity and being human in the new nation-state. The paper examines how their work brings together East Timorese cultural references and universal themes, such as equality, respect and dialogue, as an act of performing citizenship in this recently established nation-state.