The Future Of Indonesian Films: From Domestic Oblivion To Global Recognition #4

For more than ten years, there has been a wide gap in the relay process of thoughts, actions and dedications coming from the Indonesian film community whereby creative energy has been sadly replaced by apprehensive languor. Therefore, the rhetorical question lingering in the people's minds is, "What meaning is left - if there is any - when all the dedications, enthusiasm and fanaticism have all been laid to rest along with the independent rights and responsibilities for public expression?"

Can an artist still be creative under enormous social, political and economical pressure? Of course he can. Just take a look at Russia during the cold war era, when it could still produce maestros in various disciplines under tremendous oppression by its leaders. In Indonesia, the people have been frozen in a quasi point where they are swirled by a perpetual illusion. That illusion itself is creativity, and the phrase 'creative energy' has become such a delusive ingredient in the minds of the creative workers. Thus, the utopian idea that has been lingering in their minds is "How can we possibly consider ourselves as being under pressure?

Our illusion prompts us to believe that we are living in such a wealthy and resourceful land that serves boundless democracy, fairness and prosperity to its own people. But why, then, has this freezing point evolved into a giant iceberg that just won't liquefy? We believe that every time we become concerned, we also feel free, as free as we can be, as responsible and caring citizens." Illusive, indeed. Without question, the dire reality needs to be encountered with sensible rationality. If the veins of creativity are clogged, then clinging on merely to survive is not enough. It will also take a plethora of spirit, devotion and eagerness to be able to construct democracy as the tunnel through which the creative ideas must flow. Tertullian once said, "It is certain because
it is impossible."

So although the current picture looks bleak, your optimistic writer and narrator still believes in three prospective elements that can form a strong foundation for the future of the Indonesian film industry. They are: the youngsters movement, the Cine Club / film society, and the national / international film festivals. The Young Guns With all due respect to all the seniors, it is a given fact that as the next generation, the youths can always be counted on whenever it comes to the subject of innovational breakthroughs.

It was in their 20s and 30s when Vittorio de Sica, Roberto Rossellini and Giuseppe de Santis all produced their 'unusual' films. With their cutting-edge filmmaking techniques, they were eventually acknowledged as the pioneers of the neo-realism movement in the history of Italian films. De Sica's (1948), Rossellini's (1946) and De Santis' (1949) all generated such a huge impact - not just nationally, but internationally as well as Hollywood immediately followed suit with the releases of Elia Kazan's (1948) and Delbert Mann's

After neo-realism subsided, then came the new wave (nouvelle vague) movement in France between 1958 and 1962. The proprietors were the 20-year-olders Francois Truffaut, Claude Chabrol and Jean-Luc Godard. And in 1962, Germany countered with the declaration of Manifesto Oberhausen by twenty six young filmmakers. Volker Schlondorff, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders proclaimed that "The old film is dead. We believe in the new!"

Can the same be expected to happen in Indonesia? The past two years have been quite promising with the releases of the three films mentioned at the beginning of this paper along with numerous short feature films made by the local film students representing different types of genre. In addition, last year, the so-called 'independent community' featuring Mira Lesmana, Nan Achnas, Riri Riza and Rizal Mantovani (the four directors of ) and (MTV Asia's Best Director in the 1998 MTV Music Video Awards) has founded Isinema as a platform for budding a generation of new and fresh talents through interactive media.

The Cine Club or film society movement first started in the 1920s in Europe; initiated by Louis Delluc in Paris before spreading out to England, Scotland, Germany, North America and Australia. But the first official Cine Club had not been established until the formation of the British Federation of Film Societies by the London film society in 1945. Various Cine Club Federations from many different countries then merged together to form the International Federation of Film Societies (IFFS) or the Federation Internationale des Cine Club (FICC). What is it like in Indonesia?

In the mid 1950s, the University of Indonesia once hosted a periodic screening of classic films from around the world. But it did not last very long. Then in the early 1960s, a theater named "Podium" was built for reruns of selected films for Jakarta's 'serious devotees' as an alternative to the "Garden Hall" which had been the regular venue for the premieres of the new releases. But in 1964, both theaters were torn down and were eventually replaced by the Jakarta's Art Center and the Jakarta's Art Institute circa 1968.

The Jakarta Art Institute was built to offer studies in music, literature, film and television production and visual performance arts at a university level, whereas the Jakarta Art Center was founded as the city's nucleus for all kinds of art activities that also included the Cine Club as well. However, as one of the Jakarta Art Council's regular agenda, the Cine Club always lacked the people's interests. Some say it was because of its inconsistent schedules, some complained about the qualities of the films, while others saw its bureaucratic nature as a factual evidence of the government's ponderous influence on its functioning. Then in 1996, the Cine Club's theater was demolished thus prompting the club to relocate.

Some local private investors were keen to build a new venue for the club, but the generous idea had to be put off due to the Asian economy crisis in mid 1997. But in June 1998, which was also about a month after Soeharto's resignation from his 32 year of presidency, the Jakarta Cine Club was brought back to life. It finally had its own private space, located in the Usmar Ismail Film Center; an administration office, a library, and a 300 seat auditorium fully equipped with a giant screen, film projector, and Dolby speakers to serve its members and guests. It immediately received positive responses from the film community as the list of members
has increased progressively, and from the foreign embassies as well who are eager to promote their culture through their own films.

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