Fri, 12 Dec 2003

Film Festival escapes RI's censors

Fabio Scarpello, Contributor, Jakarta,

Travel broadens the mind, and as you explore new things, you may discover that differences often offer unlimited means of comparison. Such differences also underscore the artistic expressions of Europeans and those living on other continents.

It's a pity that Europe is way more expensive for Indonesians to visit so that it remains a privilege available to a few. However, take a comfortable seat, relax and enjoy another journey on the silver screen, courtesy of the European Film Festival, which offers glimpses of the "old continent". All shows are free of charge.

The festival, which starts on Wednesday and runs until Dec. 17, highlights the different approach of European cinema when compared to Hollywood.

From its own origin, cinema in Europe has been used as a tool to document history and life from a humane perspective. It is no coincidence that while U.S. blockbusters dominate the world markets, it is in Europe that cinematic art movements, like Neo- realism and Nouvelle Vogue, have originated.

Politically the EU is a "unifying entity in the making" but culturally its diversity has always been an element of pride and capital that must be preserved.

The festival -- with 18 films produced by 16 different countries -- will be a showcase of this diversity. This has been further strengthened by the complete discretion granted to each of the participants in choosing their films.

After all, if it is true that Europe is third in terms of cinema production volume behind the U.S. and India, it is also true that it leads the field in terms of the diversity and artistic quality of the products.

In this case, a "theme" would have been a limitation and a loss for the viewers, causing them to miss some great movies. But as it happens, reading through the elegantly produced program is like reading a list of "who-has-won-what" in international film festivals over the last few years.

Stories of love, of loss, struggle, war, friendship, illness, choices, are all represented. Different historical contexts and perspectives are explored. Insights into cultural differences and ideologies are presented.

Nonetheless, the aforementioned situation comes down to the "representation of the human condition" and it is here that quality cinema works as our vehicle to access other people's lives, on the other side of the world, or in a different era.

Then -- after we have empathized with Frentisk Slama torn between love and friendship (Dark Blue World), and we have cried with Pete dying of cancer at 17 but still full of life and love (One Way Ticket to Mombasa), and we have acknowledged Samia's frustration in not recognizing herself in her family beliefs and rules anymore (Samia) -- we will realize that the kaleidoscope of human emotions is the same in Stockholm, Berlin, Palermo, Bandung or Jakarta.

"Cinema as a unifying medium" will have worked its magic once again, building bridges, narrowing distances and making us feel closer together. This is particular significant in our uncertain times when politics, ideologies and religions seem to push countries in disparate directions.

But for those who prefer cinema as a means of escaping the doom and gloom of everyday life, keep your hopes alive as "artsy movies" do not exclude entertainment.

The festival provides comedy (Adam and Eve), romance (Manneken Pis, Occident, Distant Lights), the colossal (Il Mestiere delle Armi) and adventure (House of Angels, Thomas the Falconer).

The Black Widow, Respiro, De Tweeling, Chopin (Desire for Love), O Rapaz de Trapezio Voador and El Aduelo are also noteworthy.

The diversity of the festival is evident also in the format of the movies (35mm, DVD and VHS) and the various languages -- German, Dutch, Czech, English, Finnish, French, Polish, Russian, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish (and a touch of Arabic) -- these are all present. The unifying factor is the English subtitles.

It is very difficult to recommend one film over the others as they all have their own claims to fame and high artistic qualities. However, Indonesian film enthusiasts cannot afford to miss the series of eight short movies presented by the Goethe Institute, which underline some alternative approaches to the art of film-making.

This year's festival is not the first to be organized in Indonesia, with the first being held back in 1990.

Thirteen years is quite a long gap, but in truth a second in 1999 had to be canceled as six out of the nine films submitted did not pass the scrutiny of the Indonesian Censorship Board.

This year the problem has been bypassed as the venues where the films are to be shown (Italian Institute of Culture, Goethe Haus and Erasmus Huis) are outside Indonesia's jurisdiction.

The festival is (mainly) sponsored by the European Union and has been jointly organized by the diplomatic and cultural representations of the participating states.

Within the framework of the Italian presidency of the European Union, coordination has been carried out by the Italian Institute of Culture.

Where to catch the European Film Festival

Italian Institute of Culture Jl. HOS Cokroaminoto 117 Jakarta Pusat 10350 Tel. 392 7531

Goethe Haus JL. Sam Ratulangi 9-15 Jakarta Pusat 10036 Tel. 235 50208

Erasmus Huis JL. H.R. Rasuna Said Kav S-3 Jakarta Selatan 12950 Tel. 524 1069