WFF 2022: ‘Shallots & Garlic/Bawang Merah Bawang Putih’ Dishes Out A Woman’s Universal Truth
Shallots & Garlic is the latest short film by Indonesian director Andrea Nirmala Widjajanto. Taking a body horror lens to the terrors of eating disorders, Widjajanto taps into the grip an unhealthy relationship with food can have on one’s soul.
Ni Gusti Ayu Nanditha stars as the seemingly perfect older sister and daughter. When the family comes together to celebrate her grandparents’ anniversary, the cracks between her and her sister start to appear. As the family praises the elder child for her accomplishments and beauty, it becomes clear that her little sister, played by Rai Putriansyah, has eaten next to nothing. We later see the two sisters in the washroom, the younger rising from the floor and the elder complaining about the smell. Years of toilet-humoured shows and movies will cause audiences to mistake this for one thing, but as the younger rinses her mouth, it’s clear what they’re referring to.
The entire short is played as a traditional horror film. The fish-eyed close ups evoke stress and anxiety while the relentless score brings our shoulders up to our ears, freezing them for the entirety of the 18 minute runtime.
The most harrowing moment of the film comes after the younger sister cleans up any residual vomit from her mouth. When their mother walks in, there is a faint ‘gotcha’-tension felt in the frame. It’s another bait and switch, though. Rather than admonish her daughter, she is critical of how this was done. It’s then we see the bubbling scars of all the women who have carried this burden and perpetuated this behaviour.
Shallots & Garlic sends a powerful message through impressive filmmaking. Widjajanto shows some incredible promise and we’re excited to see what she does next.
The Whistler Film Festival is online until January 2.