Sat, 15 Jan 2000

Celluloid on paper: RI film books still few in number

By Gotot Prakosa

JAKARTA (JP): A book discussing films from the viewpoint of the hegemony of power was published recently, another contribution to the relatively sparse collection of books on film in Indonesia.

The highly interesting Film, Ideologi dan Militer (Film, Ideology and the Military), subtitled Hegemoni Militer dalam Sinema Indonesia (Military Hegemony in the Indonesian Cinema), is a semiotic analysis of three films.

Written by Budi Irawan and with a foreword by Eros Djaros, the book seeks to prove that Soeharto's leadership and the military hegemony was found not only in daily life, but was also accentuated in Indonesian films. It looks at the films Enam Jam di Jogja (Six Hours in Jogja), Janur Kuning (Yellow Young Coconut Leaves) and Serangan Fajar (Attack at Dawn).

As a study, the book encourages the reader to gain a deep understanding of the train of thought of the writer through a scene-by-scene analysis of the three films. It is an interesting discourse which may prompt other thinkers to dwell on the utilization of films as a medium. A book like this is seldom found in Indonesia and it is also likely to be the last book on film published in Indonesia in the 20th century.

Indeed, there are no more than 32 books in the Indonesian language which have been published on the subject of film since Indonesia's independence.

Leading the way was Belajar Membuat Film (Learning to Make a Film) by Tan Sing Hwat, which was first published by NV Pustaka Penerbit Endang Djakarta in 1954.

In the next year, Balai Pustaka published Tehnik Mengarang Scenario Pilem (Technique to Write Screenplays) by Mochtar Lubis. In 1957, the book Artis Film dan Partai Politik (Film Artists and Political Parties) was published. This book contains the proceedings of the first film symposium held by the Indonesian Film Press Association (PERPEFI) at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta on Sept. 8, 1957.

It is interesting in presenting a heated debate between the participants on whether a film artist needs a political consciousness. The book contains names such as D. Suradji, H. Asby and others whose identities were purged from the history of Indonesian films because of their alleged involvement in the now banned Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

It is a good read because the data and thoughts about those engaged in the film world regarding political participation and politics in films. There is also the book Publisistik Film (Film Mass Communications) by Oey Hong Lee, once the head of the Mass Communications Department of the School of Law/Social Sciences of the University of Indonesia.

Published by Jakarta-based Ichtiar in 1965, the book appears to be the last book on film published during the era of Sukarno, the country's first president.

It was not until 1982 that another book on the subject was published. That year, Grafitipers published its 164-page Profil Dunia Film Indonesia (Profile of the Indonesian Film World) by Salim Said, adapted from the writer's 1979 university thesis.

In 1983 a book containing articles by Usmar Ismail, collected by J.E. Siahaan, was published by Sinar Harapan under the title of Usmar Ismail Mengupas Film (Usmar Ismail Analyzes Films).

This 232-page book, which contains 24 articles previously published in mass media including Pedoman daily, Mimbar Indonesia, Intisari, Gelanggang magazines and Sinar Harapan daily presents a clear picture of Usmar Ismail's thoughts about films and his views of Indonesia's developing culture.

The screenplay Aku (I) was published four years later. Aku was written by Sjumandjaja and provided with a foreword by W.S. Rendra, is based on the life and works of poet Chairil Anwar. The same year also saw the publication of a book by H. Amura, Perfilman Di Indonesia Dalam Era Orde Baru (Indonesian Films in the New Order Era). The publisher was the Mass Communications Institute of Ibnu Chaldun University, Jakarta.

In 1990, Swear Ros by H. Rosihan Anwar, a diary of the chairman of the panel of judges of the Indonesian Film Festival, was published by the steering committee of the festival.

In the same year, Nyoo Han Siang -- Hidup Boleh Berakhir, Semangat Tetap Berlanjut (Nyoo Han Siang -- Life May End but the Spirit Lives On) was published. The book, written by Syarif Hidayat and Kun Syh and edited by Ibnu R. Sarwarno, was published in memory of Nyoo Han Siang, the founder of Interstudio Laboratory in Indonesia.

The year 1991 saw the publication of Salim Said's second book, Pantulan Layar Putih (Reflections of the Silver Screen) by Pustaka Sinar Harapan, Jakarta. In 1992 the Indonesian Association of Cinema Owners published a 144-page book called Dari Gambar Idoep ke Sinepleks (From Motion Pictures to Cineplexes). In the same year Layar Perak -- 90 Tahun Bioskop di Indonesia (Silver Screen -- 90 Years of the Cinema in Indonesia) edited by Haris Jauhari, was published by Gramedia Pustaka Utama, Jakarta and the National Film Council.

With a foreword by Asrul Sani, the book is a collection of articles written by Salim Said, WS Rendra, Djohan Tjasmadi and many others.

In 1993, three books on films were published. One was Televisi Siaran Teori & Praktek (Television Broadcasting, Theory & Practice) by Onong Uchjana Effendy with CV Mandar Maju, Bandung, as the publisher.

The second book is Film Indonesia, a history on Indonesian film part I, (1900-1950) by Taufik Abdullah, H. Misbach Yusa Biran and S.M. Ardan, published by the National Film Council.

The third book is Pedoman Praktis Penulisan Skenario Televisi dan Video (Practical Guide to Television and Video Screenplay Writing) by P.C.S. Sutisno.

In 1994 Salim Said published his other book, Dari Festival ke Festival, Film-Film Mancanegara dalam Pembicaraan, (From Festival to Festival, a Discourse on International Films). The publisher was Pustaka Sinar Harapan.

In 1995, five books on films were published:Dua Dunia Dalam Djadoeg Djajakusoema (Two Worlds in Djadoeg Djajakusoema) edited by Satyagraha Hoerip, published by the Cultural Service of the Special Region of Capital City of Jakarta and the Jakarta Institute of Arts.

The other four books are Kekuasaan dan Hiburan (Power and Entertainment) by Garin Nugroho, Budaya Massa dan Pergeseran Masyarakat (Mass Culture and Social Shifts) by Veven SP Wardhana, Suatu Sketsa Perfilman Indonesia (A Sketch of the Indonesian Film World), a collection of essays by Marselli Sumarno, and Katalogus Film Indonesia 1926-1995 (Indonesian Film Catalog 1926-1995) compiled by JB Kristanto and published by the National Film Advisory Board) and Sinematek Indonesia, Indonesian Cinematheque and Toyota Foundation.

There was only one book on film published in 1996: Dasar-Dasar Apresiasi Film (Film Appreciation Principles) written by Marselli Sumarno.

In 1997, seven books on film were published: Menulis Skenario Itu (Lebih) Gampang (Filmscript Writing is Easier) by Gola Gong, Permasalahan Sensor & Pertanggungjawaban Etika Produksi (Problems of Censorship and Accountability of Production Ethics) by M. Sarief Arief, Manimbang Kahariady and Yayat Hidayat, Kapitalisme Televisi dan Strategi Budaya Mass (The Capitalism of Television and the Strategy of Mass Culture), a collection of articles by Veven SP Wardhana, Film Pinggiran -- Antologi Film Pendek, Film Eksperimental & Film Dokumenter (Marginal Films: Anthology of Short Films, Experimental Films and Documentaries) by Gotot Prakosa, Apresiasi Film Indonesia 2, (Appreciation of Indonesian Films 2) which contains 28 articles by different writers from former president Soeharto to Niki Kosasih, Kamus Kecil Istilah Film (Small Dictionary of Film Terminology), D.A. Peransi & Film, a collection of principles on the theory of film, edited by Marselli Sumarno.

Of the 32 titles, some are technical guidelines on filmmaking while most of them are a compilation of analysis. Books like these are important in developing a discourse of systematic thinking on films. At least they may help students and film lovers, to evaluate and understand a film.

Short essays by film practitioners or critics can often introduce aesthetic thoughts in the totality of a film. Indeed, most film practitioners in Indonesia are not skilled enough in formulating their ideas in writing, although they are expert enough to translate these ideas into reality through pictures and sound.

It is here that the position of a critic is important because he can serve as a bridge between filmmakers and the viewers.

However, there are some filmmakers who can express their ideas either in writing or through pictures and sound. In such a case, it is interesting to keep up with their development so that we may be able to find out some of their thoughts which cannot be expressed in cinematic form.

Books on the theory of film esthetics, discussing in detail a particular topic, are still few in number. It is understandable because it is only in 1999 that the study of film has begun in earnest in Indonesia; the film department of the Jakarta Institute of Arts was not opened until six years ago.

Nevertheless, the publication of a book on film is always important whether or not it easily digested by the reader. As a work, a book has its own existence and should therefore be respected even if we disagree with its content.

In terms of quantity, only a few books on film have been published during Indonesia's 54 years of independence. It reflects that film itself has not seen its proper development in the country. It is strange to note that while film was introduced in Indonesia in 1900, only 32 titles of books on film have to date been published. Unfortunately, it fits into the patched-up history of Indonesia's now ragged film world.