The Future Of Indonesian Films: From Domestic Oblivion To Global Recognition #2

Then in late November 1999, as a response to the revival of the ailing South East Asian film industries which had seen Bangkok launching its first international film festival in September 1998 and Manila following suit in July 1999, the Jakartans felt it was their time to join the race. The 1999 Jakarta International Film Festival (JIFFest) was launched and proved itself to be a huge success. All the other South East Asian regional festivals had effectively contributed to the success of JIFFest and in the end were highly commended for their collaboration. In addition, Jakarta's Cine Club (film society) has been rejuvenating itself effectively since June 1998 after a two-year hiatus due to the nation's monetary crisis.

What are prospects of rebuilding the platform for Indonesian films for the sake of putting them back in the scenery, both nationally and internationally? The great Marshall McLuhan's visionary concept of 'the changing global village in the 21st century' has become a reality with the coming of the new media along with all the lucrative confines they can possibly offer.

Meanwhile, as Indonesia is currently in a massive rebuilding process following a devastating crisis that has dilapidated the nation's vital sectors, the new government has promised gradual reforms toward democracy in numerous aspects that can open up many possibilities of ingenious achievements.

Therefore, with the coming of more and more Indonesian filmmaker-wannabes, fresh with innovative ideas and hungry for opportunities to express artistic visions, now is unquestionably the right time for them to rise and face the tempting challenge of demonstrating how a long-time life oppression can effectively burst into undaunted creativity.

In the end, this writing shall hopefully produce a beneficial cause in invigorating the Indonesian film society while simultaneously revitalizing the public's interest in appreciating their own culture through the quality of their own films amidst the rapid growth of the independent system in both filmmaking and film screening.

The efforts in reviving the Indonesian film industry have so far been done individually instead of collectively. As the result, every single film production can not be regarded as the total solution to all the evident problems being faced; instead, they are just sporadic attempts to survive coming from various small groups of individuals. The essence of the Indonesian films' existence still does not possess a strong foundation such that reviving the whole industry seems like a distant possibility since there is still no consistency in the number of quality productions coming out in a certain period of time. Moreover, the public's hopes have often been voiced out at random but have almost never been taken into serious consideration by the incumbents. Even worse, those aspirations and concerns have sometimes - if not all the time - been regarded as emotional, subjective, irresponsible and intrusive fanfares of the common man.

Innumerable policies have also been made in regards to protect, encourage and develop the national film industry throughout the years, but to no avail thus far. The fact that the relevant organizations and agencies have always been entangled in a 50-50 zone (50% bureaucrats, 50% democrats) has made them into freight cars driven by the right people but carrying excess load thus drifting on the wrong track.

The government's interference on the industry's growth has been so overwhelming (if not completely dominating) that the creative outpour of its own people has been left stagnant. For so many years, both film and the film world have been treated as commercial commodities as well as the suitable media for encompassing the government's propaganda. This kind of treatment has made film to be perceived as a sacred object that all the actions and visions related to it must always be oriented toward the regulations made by the government; the effect of which gave birth to monopolistic practices on their existence and growth.

From licensing to distribution, all single-handedly controlled by the bureaucratic authorities, or in short, owned by the incumbencies. Above all, the biggest quandaries have resulted from censorship, production, distribution, and exhibition.

Last year, the EU (European Union) Film Festival at Jakarta's Cine Club had to be cancelled just because several films failed to get the approval from the government's board of censorship. The participating countries (in this case, the cultural attaches at the respective embassies) would clearly object the unauthorized cutting and editing of their filmmakers' works. Better take them and show them as they are or simply leave them be.

The expurgating committee might have had their own judgments, but the disappointed members of the Cine Club (including your humble writer and narrator) continued to express the needs of having films -- local or foreign-- to be censor-free. Or at least having the films to be censored to a certain degree where the whole 'examining process' can show more sense of tolerance and flexibility that the result would still be mutual enough to both parties.

I for one believe that a film (of any genre) is a product of the heart and the mind that in the end its truthful essence must always be perceived as an integral form of expression. Any kind of interference made by anyone possessing a different heart and a different mind is simply an inhibition of the proprietor's creative skills and a violation of his or her proficient artistry. But in this imperfect world, that statement alone is perhaps a bit too bold and too emotional.

The Indonesian moviegoers are still being the living targets of the film marketers' ferocity up to this point that they must have some sense of protection. And the board of censorship might just be the proper custody for them. Otherwise, the distributors would just intensely force their line of goods that includes films depicting explicit sex and violence into the people's minds, as long as they can give back the profits they are looking for. The effect of which is freedom, but only in the name of unbridled gross multiplication as opposed to freedom on behalf of uninhibited creative magnification. Hence, with the cleansing guardians at stake, those types of 'irresponsible creators' would step aside.

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