CCF is more than art shows and courses
By Cecile Prevost
JAKARTA (JP): Indonesia and France are 15,000 kilometers apart but the two countries have no problem in promoting understanding of each other's culture.
The CCF (French Cultural Center) and Alliances Francaises (French Alliances) which have branch offices in major cities throughout Indonesia account for "little pieces of France".
In Jakarta, there are two CCF offices and one in Bandung, Yogyakarta and Surabaya respectively.
French Alliances have more representative offices in Jakarta, Bandung, Bogor, Yogyakarta, Semarang, Balikpapan, Medan, Padang, Manado and Makassar.
The main difference between the two institutions is that the CCF depend on the French Embassy, whereas the Alliances Francaises are associations, organizing French courses and less important cultural events.
CCF's main activity is to promote cultural exchanges between France and Indonesia, which are organized by the AFAA (Association Francaise d'Action Artistique, or French Association of Artistic Action). The AFAA is attached to the French ministry of Foreign Affairs. It proposes French artists or helps with their shows, concerts or exhibitions in Indonesia.
"Through the Saison Francaise (French Season) from February to June 2000, the CCF presented a lot of French artists," says Azizah Asnawi, CCF press relations officer.
"But the Saison Francaise also presents dances, films and theater in order to present the largest panorama of French arts to the Indonesian public", added Azizah. The Saison Francaise is now still on tour in Java.
The popular French Movie Festival started in 1996 in Jakarta to satisfy the Indonesian public's interest in French movies.
Twelve movies -- cartoons, thrillers, comedies -- are presented in each festival, of which about 95 percent are exported movies.
There was also this year a retrospective exhibition about French musical movies and some Indonesians and Asiatic movies, among them the first French-Indonesian movie ever produced: Telegram by Slamet Rahardjo Djarot, which hasn't been screened in France yet.
Marc Piton, Cultural and Audio-visual French Embassy Councillor, said: "The Festival is the result of the audio-visual cooperation between Indonesia and France, which helps promotion of French movies in Indonesia and opens a window to a better promotion of Indonesian movies in France."
Founded in 1954, the CCF has played an important role to boost artistic partnership with Indonesians artists, in events like the recent seminar on contemporary music, or with the play Les Paravents (the Folding Screens) by the famous French writer Jean Genet.
The AFAA helps Indonesian artists intending to visit France with administrative procedures such as visa but not financial matters.
"In fact few Indonesian artists go to France under this scheme," said Azizah. The latest visit was in 1990, when 100 Indonesian artists performed Ramayana opera in the famous Festival d'Avignon, in Southeast France.
"But we have partnerships with local organizations such as Gallery Antara for painting exhibitions, Teater Utan Kayu, and Yayasan Pendidikan Musik, which allows us to promote Indonesian artists."
Another important activity of the CCF is holding French language courses. It is the only authorized institution to issue a diploma - the DELF Diplome Elementaire de Langue Francaise or Elementary Diploma of French Language), recognized in France and abroad.
In Jakarta, French courses have 1,774 students in Salemba center and almost 1,000 in Wijaya center.
"Most of the students are here because they want to be able to speak at least two foreign languages and not only English," says Catherine Aynaud, a CCF French teacher.
"Others study French because they want to study or work in France, and also because they consider the French language beautiful and romantic. That's what they say when asked at the beginning of the term. They are attracted by the artistic and cultural myth of France as well as by its technological image, in medicine for example."
The students are mostly aged between 17 an 35, although some are pensioners. Learning is made easier with audio and video tapes and games, Aynaud said.
The CCF is also a place where you can find a good collection of French books, magazines and films. The Salemba CCF library has 12,000 and Wijaya Center 4,000.
"What students love most are comic strips, which constitute five percent of the collection. Up to 35 percent to 40 percent of the books checked out are novels and leisure readings and children books," says Laurent Defours, in charge of the CCF library.
The library also offers a great variety of newspapers, French dailies like Le Monde, Elle and Le Monde Diplomatique, as well as French specialty magazines.
"We want to offer a wider selection of specialty magazines that cannot be found elsewhere, especially for the students who want to study in France," says Defours. "Most major French dailies and monthlies are available in international hotels in Jakarta."
The students can see famous French movies by great directors, like Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) and movies of Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Luis Bunuel or Woody Allen.
"Apart from great classic French movies, we try to have more recent ones too," says Defours. Most of them are video tapes but to for better presentation we now have DVDs."
The students have free Internet access on six computers in both CCF offices in Jakarta.
"They can go everywhere they want on the net," says Defours. "They can also learn from 40 CD ROMs about art and history."
The large number of people benefiting from CCF is a sign that the institution has found popularity among the Indonesian public.