Q&A with Makbul Mubarak on April 8 and 9

Both a coming-of-age morality tale and a riveting political thriller, the feature debut by Indonesian critic turned filmmaker Makbul Mubarak follows the dangerous downward spiral of 18-year-old housekeeper’s son Rakib (Kevin Ardilova) as he falls under the spell of his new boss, Purna (Arswendy Bening Swara), a retired military general running for local office. Hired to assist with odd jobs and to act as the older man’s driver, Rakib, whose father is in prison, finds himself gradually pulled into increasingly sinister territory, which at once awakens his conscience and unleashes his darker capabilities. Autobiography is a chilling, elegantly shot portrait of the seductiveness of power, as well as Mubarak’s personal expression of his country’s struggles under military dictatorship.

What made you first want to be a director?
Makbul Mubarak: I like stories and I like how stories are told. I like feelings and I like how feelings are conveyed. I want to be a director because I was amazed at how stories and feelings are being conveyed between people who don’t know each other, between filmmakers and audiences, through this magical place called cinema. It allows us to experience our humanity over and over again. 

Was there a film or director you were inspired by or continue to be inspired by?
Lucrecia Martel, Elia Kazan, Michael Haneke, Alfred Hitchcock, Asghar Farhadi, and many others. 

In your own words, tell us about your film. What should audiences know?Autobiography is a psychological study of one person upon his initial contact with “power.” It is a gripping story that will keep you at the edge of your seat, it will challenge your conception about morality, and it will linger with you even after the film ends. 

What does it mean to you to show your film at New Directors/New Films?
This is the festival of my dreams. As a first time director, I always dreamt that one day, if I were to make my first film, I want to show it at this festival of legendary reputation. I am so happy I dreamt that because, look, they do come true. 

What was the biggest lesson you learned during the making of your film?
I learned a lot about communicating my feelings as clearly as possible. I also learned a lot about how to benefit from surprises on the set, how to use co-incidents to strengthen the story, and how to keep the door open for the reality to join and take part in the film. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Filmmaking is an obscure process to attain clarity.

What else do you enjoy doing outside of filmmaking?
Traveling, and attending ND/NF 2023 will be my first time traveling to New York. I am so excited.  

What’s a film you saw recently that you enjoyed?
Aftersun. It’s a film that starts playing in my head only after it is finished. What an incredible experience.