Jakarta Polyfilla by Rob Hill: The Skinny Short Film Competition 2015

Shortlisted in The Skinny Short Film Competition 2015, director Rob Hill explains the ideas, inspirations and processes behind his film Jakarta Polyfilla

Video | 11 Aug 2015

Filmmaker’s statement:

Rooted in a long-standing interest in the histories of documentary modes of filmmaking and photography, my work attempts to conflate elements of documentary and fictive approaches to image making and storytelling.

My recent video work considers the mythic construction of the writer as holidaymaker via a fictive writers’ travelogue collaged from fragments of TripAdvisor reviews. Drawing on Roland Barthes’ essay The Writer on Holiday, the work is intended as a humorous exploration of contemporary labour and leisure in an information age.

High definition video footage of hotels, museums and leisure spots stand in for, and offer a cinematic counterpoint to, the prosaic user-generated macro photography of online travel reviews.

The footage is accompanied by a fragmented and deliberately ambiguous unreliable narration, constructed entirely from collaged extracts from TripAdvisor submissions, in which contributors identify themselves as aspirant or published novelists. The text veers between a naturalistic form of diaristic, stream of consciousness-type, commentary and a more guarded form of consumer posturing embroiled in the language of conspicuous leisure and online consumerism.

Central to both image and text is a tension between some sense of actuality or lived ‘reality’ and the manipulation of meaning to obfuscate, embellish, mislead or entice. The commercial, high-gloss aesthetic of HD video superficially speaks of immediacy, surface and seduction of the masses while also amplifying the viewers apparent proximity to the subject.

The dogma and output associated with the overlapping legacies of the Documentary Film Movement and Mass Observation of the 30s and 40s has also informed my recent work. The earnest social anthropology of Mass Observation might be considered as a folksy counterpoint to the more sinister spectre of covert mass data capture that pervades contemporary society. Similarly, a contemporary approximation of Mass Observation’s aspiration towards an ‘anthropology of ourselves’ might be found in the dogged detail of ‘user-generated content’ and quotidian narratives found in accounts submitted to TripAdvisor or shared via Twitter etc.


What do you do and why do you do it?
I make films and take photos. In terms of the why, I guess in a very general sense, I enjoy ideas, images and making things so filmmaking brings those things together, as well as the possibility for trying to frame ideas and tell stories in a particular way that some people might relate to. I think there’s also something about never really being satisfied with what you make and so wanting to improve on what you’ve done before that compels you to do it again, which I guess is true of any creative endeavour.

Where did the initial idea for your film come from?
It was a bit of a distillation of a few different things I was interested in and thinking about at the time around ideas of leisure and different forms of misplaced creativity. I made a couple of very short videos fusing snippets from TripAdvisor reviews with sections of video showing particular details from hotel rooms etc. which then developed into a longer video that could be read as a single account/world view!

Describe your film in five words.
Terrazzo flooring and fermented sausages.

What excites you most about filmmaking?
I’m not an especially excitable person, more’s the pity, but in terms of filmmaking, I think editing is the most exciting part for me as it’s when you start to see how the images work and how they function differently next to different images etc.

What advice would you give to other filmmakers?
Erm… keep a good head and always carry a light meter.

Production Credits:

Director - Rob Hill

Learn more about The Skinny Short Film Competition and watch more short films at our Short Film Competition portal, and check out the full shortlist for The Skinny Short Film Competition.