Jamie: Finding Family in the Drag World

“Drag is my alter ego,” she said, “It gives me confidence. It’s what I want to be.” Jamie, now 21, has been performing drag for the past two years. For our interview, she sits in her bedroom in full drag attire – a black choker, thigh-high stockings, platinum blonde hair.  She left Japan in 2016. “I was like a misfit,” she recalled. “I was so different. In Japanese tradition everyone had to be the same, and I just– I didn’t want that.”  Jamie grew up as a shy Filipino boy named Shota who loved dancing. Since the age of 18, she would watch in awe as many different drag performers went on stage night after night. One night, Jamie saw a drag group performance of the Pussycat Dolls here in Melbourne – they later became her drag family.  It gave her four drag sisters, and a beloved drag mother, Gigi. “In this house, we are all people of colour,” she explained. “It’s unique, and there’s more diversity.”  Drag mother Gigi became a doting figure. “She would call me, ask if I’d like to come over, offer me Filipino food…” Gigi also helped Jamie book performing gigs. In one of their shows in St. Kilda last year, Jamie’s mother from Japan had come to visit and watch.  “My mom’s always been supportive,” Jamie said, even when raising the shy boy Jamie once was. “She’s really fun, she loves people.” On that shownight, she was introduced to Gigi. The two women clicked from the very beginning.  “They were like besties,” Jamie told me. They shared a language, went out to lunch, had their own jokes. “It was like they [had known] each other for a long time.” Jamie’s mother still lives in Japan, in full support of Jamie’s career. When I asked what she thought of the show, Jamie answered, “She always knew I loved dancing.” The drag family stays in touch, including Gigi, who now runs a business from her home. “People accept you no matter what,” Jamie added. “So be who you want to be.”

Through The Lens: Exploring the Unknown

The sun assaults my senses when I walk out the doors of the Sidney Myer building. Rushing across campus to Arts West, I quickly scarf down a couple of sushi rolls I’d bought earlier and anxiously check the time on my phone. 5.28. 2 minutes to get to the Forum Theatre? I weigh my options and decide I’d rather be late than sprint and risk faceplanting in the middle of South Lawn, a scene that is just waiting to be turned into a meme on Unimelb Confessions. I puff up the flight of stairs at 5.32. An IFF committee member is there to greet me, which ensures me I’m in the right place, but wait: is everyone inside already? No, he says, we’re waiting for everyone to get here before we open the theatre. Oh, I say. I should have known. You can take a person out of Indonesia, but you can’t take the classic, 45-minutes-late trait out of the person.* I take a seat on the stairs leading up to the second floor. This might take a while. The wait is worth it, I decide, when I finally enter the theatre. The light is dimmed, the room cooled, and the air buzzing with anticipation. There is enough chatter going on to tell me that this wasn’t just a place to watch a movie, it was also a place to meet with friends in the middle of the Week 4 assignment craze and the jokes reminded you of home. The host steps up to the centre of the theatre as we settle into our seats. He opens by introducing the panelists – University of Melbourne’s Siobhan Jackson, writer, director, and researcher, Andrew O’Keefe, Film Lecturer, and guest star Aditya Ahmad, writer and director, moderated by RMIT’s Arsisto Ambyo, an Indonesian journalist, writer and producer – and quickly brings us to the first part of the event: a screening of the three winners of the 14th IFF Short Film Competition, whose theme this year is ‘the Unknown’. The first Outstanding Achievement winner is Anak Lanang by Wahyu Agung Prasetyo, a film about four young boys who talk about their lives while they are riding on a becak on their way home from school. (You can watch the full film online) The second Outstanding Achievement winner is Astri and Tambulah by Xeph Suarez. The film follows the story of Astri, a 16-year-old trans-woman who is forced to leave her 17-year-old boyfriend Tambulah to marry a woman she had been betrothed to since birth by way of the Sama Bajao traditions. Only the trailers were screened for the two Outstanding Achievement winners, but we get to see the Best Film winner in its entirety. The winner for Best Film is I am Zal by Hooman Naderi, an Iranian film that links the Iranian myth about Zal with the story of Daniel, a young boy who is set to play Zal in a play when his role is suddenly taken from him because an unknown someone cut his hair too short before the play. There is a short panel after that talks about what makes the short film winners so good, especially considering the way they were shot and the fact that two of them starred children as the main characters. After a short break, the host introduces us to Aditya Ahmad, a young Indonesian filmmaker who’s won several awards for his short films in international film festivals, including Best Short Film at the Venice International Film Festival 2018. His film Sepatu Baru: On Stopping the Rain (2013) was his final project in university. It has since won the Maya Award for Best Short Film. The film is about a young girl who wants to show off her new shoes but is unable to because of the unrelenting rain. Impatient, she tries to stop the rain the only way she knows how. Sepatu Baru is a beautifully shot, lighthearted film that explores local myth in its own setting. In the panel afterwards, Aditya talks about how the film came to be – a deadline-motivated burst of inspiration, helped by seemingly serendipitous interactions in the community the film is set in. Aditya is humble, but his films show us that he is able to peel off the cynicism and boredom that most of us acquire over time and look at the world with a fresh perspective. Siobhan and Andrew also mention how Sepatu Baru is a wonderful introduction to a new culture that was foreign to them, which is interestingly something that also happened to some of the Indonesian audience who were unfamiliar with the myth. Andrew asks the last question for Aditya: what’s next for him? Aditya reveals his interest in making a feature film, an idea that’s met by the other panelists and the audience with enthusiasm. On that note, Arsisto ends the panel and the event is over with a burst of applause. I take my time packing up to see others doing the same, still talking excitedly with one another about the event. As someone who was previously not very familiar with the Indonesian film scene, I came out of it inspired and curious about all the other independent filmmakers out there who are creating amazing content. For those of you who feel the same way, the annual Indonesian Film Festival is a great way to familiarise yourself with groundbreaking Indonesian films that may not get as much publicity back in the motherland. *Before you start an outrage, I just want to say this is also a self-roast. This author is late 99% of the time. My nightmares are of me having to attend morning classes.  

Indonesian Film Festival - Under the Stars

The moon shone brightly in an empty cloudless sky on the 22nd of March, as the streets around the Immigration Museum, Melbourne whispered an empty lullaby under the tyranny of summer’s heat. However, for a colourful conglomeration of Indonesians and Australians gathered around their quaint little corner of Melbourne, it would take a lot more than mere spikes in temperature to break their spirit, in anticipation of the start of Under the Stars. Making its prestigious return in 2019, Under the Stars is an annual event by the Indonesian Film Festival (IFF), the organisation responsible for the largest showcase of Indonesian-made movies in Australia. Brought to life by bright, young Indonesians, and open to everyone free of charge, Under the Stars is an overture to the main screenings of the Indonesian Film Festival. Under the Stars 2019 returns with ‘Espresso Your Ideas’ as its theme (perhaps not to be taken quite as literally word for word), intertwining Melbourne’s love for coffee and everyone’s shared aspirations to bring forward their ideas to the eyes of the world. Aiming to encourage people to speak out and realise their ideas, visions, and motivations, be it coffee or otherwise, this theme hits close to home for many in the travails of university, work, and life in general. As one approaches the Immigration Museum from the side entrance, music from the Klaudspirits can be heard echoing throughout the courtyard with their acoustic flair, serving as a beacon for the audience members.   As the last of the audience settles into their seats, all eyes are trained on the sizable screen at the centre of the courtyard of the Immigration Museum. The spotlight of the evening was the screening of Ben & Jodi, a sequel to the award-winning 2015 film Filosofi Kopi. Orchestrated by the prominent and decorated Indonesian film director Angga Dwimas Sasongko, this movie follows four dedicated individuals striving to share their love of coffee to the world, but, as time reveals, with starkly different ideas on how to accomplish it.   After two years of traveling around Indonesia, Ben and Jodi, the original owners of the Filosofi Kopi coffee shop, decided to reopen their business with the help of Tarra and her investment. The first seeds of conflict began to grow when Jodi invited Brie, a young upstart barista, into the team, much to Ben’s intense opposition, and the revelation of a secret that jeopardises the unity of the team. As they stared at defeat, the four need to find peace and rediscover the passion and reason they began their endeavours in the first place. This is a heart-warming story of conflict, love, and reconciliation, with a dash of that distinct Indonesian humour and drama.   The movie was shown to be an excellent choice for the evening’s screening as it elicited the occasional roar of laughter, murmurs of amusement, and silence in suspense from the audience members as the story progressed. A storm of applause echoes throughout the venue as the ending screen fades into black, followed by shuffling of feet as the audience members got up from their seats, yearning for the next event. A rush of air from the now open doors serves as an invitation to indulge in Melbourne’s renowned coffee culture while also appreciating Indonesian heritage. An assortment of Indonesian snacks, food, and drinks greeted the audience as they entered the building, a welcome sight after almost two hours without anything to eat. To the right and left of the food stalls are photo booths, ran by none other than Perspektif Magazine as well as Artifact’s interactive photo booth, for the more photographically inclined audience members to set the night’s memories and events into stone, or at least a polaroid film, for free!   And finally, perhaps the most awaited event for coffee lovers, the Indonesian Corner; an art exhibit with a vast range of coffee types from all over the Indonesian archipelago, from the obscure to the well-known, masterfully showcased with finesse and excellence; an homage to the theme of the event.   Laughter, cheer, hearty greetings, and merriment filled the air both inside and outside the Immigration Museum as the audience mingled with each other and the committee members in high spirits. And once again, Under the Stars came to its conclusion with great success, paving the way for the 14th Indonesian Film Festival.   The stage has been set, the pieces in place, but what is yet to come?  

How to enjoy your last few days of summer

It certainly wouldn't be a surprise that Melbourne has the best cafés and restaurants Australia has to offer. From the waters of the Yarra River right at the heart of Melbourne and all the way down south to the famous St. Kilda beach, you would be hard pressed to try and find a place that isn't good. But, quality dining certainly wouldn't be enough without a magnificent view to accompany it. So if you, like us, can only settle for the best, then we are here to guide you to the best Melbourne seaside dining experience with our list. Mr Hobson If a touch of the Mediterranean in your food with the view of the the oceanic horizon is your flavour, then Mr Hobson at Port Melbourne should be your first stop. Treat yourself to an excellent Moroccan spice chicken breast with confit carrots, roasted cherry tomatoes, field mushrooms, all topped with pomme mousseline and thyme. Or perhaps something Italian with Mr Hobson's collection of various homemade pasta--all prepared with love, of course! You'll be getting more than what you're paying for as you will have a front seat to witness the sunset over the waters of Port Melbourne.
Source: Google Image
  Sandbar Beach Cafe The next stop on our list takes us across the Yarra River and down to Middle Park. Follow the white boardwalk and ocean breeze, and you will find a quaint little coastal cottage under the shade of the palm trees by the sea. If you love the tropical atmosphere, then Sandbar Beach Cafe is the place to be. Expect to be greeted heartily by a rustic, summer atmosphere as soon as you step through the front doors. Take a seat by the windows while enjoying a seafood linguine, tossed in a creamy white wine sauce and served with fresh parmesan. Don't forget to complement the relaxing ocean panorama with cold-pressed juice made with the freshest fruits of your choice. Then kick back and relax as the cool ocean breeze whisk away the sweltering summer heat.
Source: Google image
  Pier Port Melbourne The next time you take a walk along the palm-lined roads of Port Melbourne, be on the lookout for a seemingly modest abode by the street corner brandishing a sizable neon "Pier" on its sides. But don't let its unassuming exterior fool you; inside is a treasure trove of modern Australian cuisine, especially its seafood, waiting to be discovered—and eaten—by you. As you walk through the front doors, the very first thing to notice is its quintessential modern interior complemented with a carefully designed atmosphere. The next thing you know, you're chatting away with good company, a bottle of the famous Margaret River cabernet sauvignon to your right, and a selection of immaculately prepared seafood linguini to your left. If you believe simplicity is the best form of elegance, then you are right at home. Expect to spend quite a bit more than you're used to though, but then again, you know what they say about quality.
Source: Pier Port Melbourne official webside
  Republica Coming up to your right as you cruise down St. Kilda beach is the Republica, strategically placed right next to the beach. All you beach lovers can rest easy knowing the sea is quite literally a stone throw away from this restaurant. As always, make a grand entrance through the front doors (or even from the beach if you're so inclined), and you will be greeted with your next potential Instagram post. The interior, as well as the view of St. Kilda, makes for a prime photo opportunity. And of course, they serve some of the best Mediterranean food this side of St. Kilda. With a generous selection of Italian and Modern Australian dishes such as Roasted Barramundi, Pizza Margherita, and even chargrilled wagyu porterhouse steak, Republica will pamper your taste buds (and your Instagram feed too). Don't forget the $12 Fish and Chips deal every Tuesday, they sell pretty fast.
Source: Google image
  Pontoon St. Kilda Beach If you've ever wondered what the crowds are about somewhere around Jacka Boulevard, then you've happened upon Pontoon, perhaps St. Kilda's most lively restaurants. If you thought that there must be a good reason for these people to be here, then you are absolutely correct. The location of this restaurant offers a nearly panoramic view of the ocean, which is always a perfect company for your meal of the day. Their selection of dishes and drinks are plentiful, distinctly Mediterranean, and you certainly would not be bored with the menu on your next consecutive visits. Our recommendation? The slow cooked 12-hour lamb shoulder. You can thank us later.
Source: Google Image