Sun, 14 Oct 2001

Festival set to showcase cinema of Asia Pacific

Ivy Susanti, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The 46th Asia Pacific Film Festival will open in Jakarta on Tuesday amid concern over the future of Indonesia's film industry.

Three new Indonesian releases -- Reinkarnasi (directed by Dede Yusuf), Telegram (Slamet Rahardjo) and Pasir Berbisik (Nan T. Achnas) -- will be screened along with 36 other films during the festival, which will end on Oct. 20. Twenty of the films will be screened at the Studio 21 in Plaza Senayan, Central Jakarta.

This is the sixth time Indonesia has hosted the festival since 1970. And over the years, several Indonesian films have won Best Film prizes, including Apa Yang Kau Cari, Palupi (1970), Pengantin Remaja (1971), Doea Tanda Mata (1986) and Daun di Atas Bantal (1998).

Despite its impressive history in the festival, the Indonesian film industry has been at its nadir since 1992, five years before the monetary crisis hit the country in 1997.

This period has been marked by fewer films being produced, which filmmakers blame on a lack of human resources in the film industry and the monopoly of Subentra's Studio 21 chain of cinemas, which controls film distribution in the country.

But while the number of feature films being produced has been on the decline, there has been a rise in the number of sinetron (TV serials) being put out.

While sinetron have been criticized for failing to portray the realities of Indonesia, at the end of the day these shows have built dedicated viewer bases, earned good ratings and even organized a festival, the Indonesian Sinetron Festival.

Long before the crisis struck, directors such as Slamet and Teguh Karya were producing commercially successful movies, some of which won international awards as well.

Then came Garin Nugroho, who works in a genre relatively new to Indonesian films and does not make movies with an eye on their commercial success. Several of his films, including Surat untuk Bidadari and Bulan Tertusuk Ilalang, did poorly in the local cineplexes but did well on the international festival circuit.

Following his success on the wide screen, Garin also began to produce television documentaries, sinetron and TV ads. However, his film Daun di Atas Bantal proved to be a big success, suggesting that Garin's movies could find an audience in Indonesia.

Of all his films, only Daun di Atas Bantal won a prize at the Asia Pacific festival. This year, Garin will serve on the festival's jury, along with two other judges from Indonesia, Leila Chudori and Rae Sita Supit. The other members of the jury are Byung Lock-min (Seoul), Li Hsing-liu (Taiwan), Dato' Jins Shamsudin (Malaysia) and Manothan Theamtheabrat (Bangkok).

Since 1998, several young Indonesian directors have blossomed, bringing to the screen fresh ideas which show a departure from the work of their predecessors. Among them are Mira Lesmana, Nan, M. Rivai Riza, Rizal Mantovani (Kuldesak) and Harry Suharyadi (Pachinko and Everyone's Happy).

The country's political turmoil appears to have had an influence of this new generation of filmmakers, with most of their works looking at social change and its impact on everyday life.

With these young directors still struggling to find their voices to communicate their ideas, it is not surprising that they have yet to make a splash in international film festivals.

None of the filmmakers have won a prize at the Asia Pacific film festival, and only Sri by Marselli Sumarno won the Best Jury Prize in Bangkok in 1999.

But director Nan is not concerned about winning prizes at the festival, rather she views it as a learning opportunity. "We seldom watch movies from Malaysia or Singapore except at the Jakarta International Film Festival. Now we have the chance and we will see how our moviegoers view the world."

For Nan, the festival is also a promotional event and an opportunity to get her films distributed in other regions.

"In my opinion all the festivals have the same intention. But every festival is worth taking part in, and I think this one is also important for filmmakers. I appreciate the presence of any festival, at least I can see movies from the Asia Pacific," she said.

Public screenings during the Asia Pacific Film Festival are free of charge. You can obtain tickets at the Public Relations and Publication Office at the Pusat Perfilman H. Usmar Ismail on Jl. Rasuna Said, Kav. 22C, Kuningan, South Jakarta. Phone/Fax: 52960632. Homepage: