The film faced bans and online backlash in the ultraconservative Muslim country.
Indonesian director Garin Nugroho knew he was courting controversy from the moment he started work on the script for "Memories of My Body". What he had not counted on was that the passions his film stirred would follow him wherever he went.
Watch the trailer of "Memories of My Body" here
"I thought there would be some noise but it might go away," says Nugroho. "Now it seems I just can't escape."
Inspired by the real life of famed Indonesian dancer Rianto, "Memories of My Body" follows an abandoned young boy as he searches for a sense of identity, alone at first and later as part of a dance troupe that allows him the freedom to express himself artistically — and sexually. There's a poignancy arrived at through the fact that Rianto — who, as a gay man in Indonesia, faced such struggles in real life — provides narration and appears as himself late in the film.
Following its April release, the film faced bans and online backlash in the ultraconservative Muslim country. One city administration accused it of promoting "deviant sexual acts and blasphemy."
There has also been praise, however, from within the country and from international critics who caught the film as it travelled the fest circuit. Given all the controversy, it came as a major surprise to Nugroho when, in September, the Indonesian Film Selection Committee chose the movie as the country's official submission for consideration in the international feature film Oscar category.
"This is a very good sign for cinema in Indonesia," says the 58-year-old Nugroho. "The content of the film is in the middle of society, the middle of our reality. People can relate to this story, unless their views are extreme, and I don't think we can ever give in to extreme ways of thinking."