ⓘ Cinema of Indonesia

Cinema of Indonesia

ⓘ Cinema of Indonesia

Cinema of Indonesia has a long history dated back to 1900. Until the 1920s, cinema in Indonesia belonged only to the Europeans, with silent documentaries and feature films imported from France and America. Documentaries about the nature and life of Indonesia, sponsored by the Dutch East Indies government were made by the Dutch people or Europeans. Domestic production of documentaries had begun in 1911. During that time, there was a film called Onze Oost or Timur Milik Kita. However the first domestically produced film in the Dutch East Indies was in 1926: Loetoeng Kasaroeng, a silent film, which was adaptation of the Sundanese legend During 1926, there were movie theatres named as Oriental and Elita in Bandung. The first movie theatre in Jakarta was Alhamra, which was opened in 1931.Though film industry is currently the fastest-growing sub-sector of creative economy of Indonesia, it went through a long struggling period.The number of moviegoers in the country were more than 42 million in 2017. The Indonesian film industry releases more than 100 titles every year.As of 2018, there are about 1700 screens in Indonesia, which is expected to reach 3000 by 2020. 21 Cineplex, CGV Cinemas and Cinemaxx currently dominate the movie theater industry in Indonesia.


1.1. History Colonial era

The first showing of films in the Dutch East Indies was in 1900, and over the next twenty years foreign productions – generally from the United States – were imported and shown throughout the country. Domestic production of documentaries had begun in 1911 but were unable to compete with imported works. By 1923 a local feature film production spearheaded by the Middle East Film Co. was announced, but the work was not completed.

The first domestically produced film in the Indies was in 1926: Loetoeng Kasaroeng, a silent film by Dutch director L. Heuveldorp. This adaptation of the Sundanese legend was made with local actors by the NV Java Film Company in Bandung and premiered on 31 December 1926 at the Elite and Majestic Theatres in Bandung. The following year, G. Krugers – who had served as a technician and cinematographer for Loetoeng Kasaroeng – released his directorial debut the second film in the Indies, Eulis Atjih. Owing to Loetoeng Kasaroeng s limited release, Kruger was able to advertise his film as the colonys first. A year later, the second novel to be adapted to film in Indonesia, Setangan Berloemoer Darah, was produced by Tan Boen Soan.

Ethnic Chinese directors and producers, capitalising on the success of films produced in Shanghai, China, became involved in the colonys cinema beginning in 1928, when Nelson Wong completed Lily van Java. Although the Wongs went on hiatus, other ethnic Chinese became involved in film. Several Chinese owned start-ups are recorded from 1929 on, including Nancing Film with Resia Boroboedoer 1928 and Tans Film with Njai Dasima 1929. By the early 1930s Chinese-owned businesses were the dominating force in the countrys film industry.

After the Great Depression reached the Indies, production slowed tremendously: the Dutch East Indies government collected higher taxes and cinemas sold tickets at lower prices, ensuring that there was a very low profit margin for local films. As a result, cinemas in the colony mainly showed Hollywood productions, while the domestic industry decayed. The Teng Chun, who had made his debut in 1931 with Boenga Roos dari Tjikembang, was the only producer able to release films during 1934 and early 1935: his low budget but popular films were mainly inspired by Chinese mythology or martial arts, and although aimed at ethnic Chinese proved popular among native audiences because of their action sequences.

In an attempt to show that locally produced, well-made films could be profitable, the Dutch journalist Albert Balink, who had no formal film experience, produced Pareh in 1935 in collaboration with Nelson Wong and his brothers. Though the film, costing 20 times as much as most contemporary productions, was an ultimately failure, it affected The Teng Chuns directorial style; the latter took less traditional stories. Balinks next attempt, Terang Boelan, was released two years later. Unlike Pareh, Terang Boelan was a marked commercial success, earning 200.000 Straits dollars then equivalent to US$ 114.470 in two months. These two films are, according to American visual anthropologist Karl G. Heider, Indonesias most important films of the 1930s.

The triple successes of Terang Boelan, Fatima 1938, and Alang-Alang 1939 revived the domestic film industry. Four new production houses were established in 1940, and actors and actresses previously attached to theatrical troupes entered the film industry, which was reaching new audiences. The new works, fourteen in 1940 and thirty in 1941, generally followed the formula established by Terang Boelan: songs, beautiful scenery and romance. Others, such as Asmara Moerni, attempted to reach the growing native intelligentsia by drawing journalists or figures from the growing nationalist movement into cinema.


1.2. History Japanese occupation

After its genesis during the Dutch colonial era, the Indonesian film industry was coopted by the Japanese occupiers during the Second World War as a propaganda tool. The first thing the Japanese did was to halt all film production in Indonesia. Then the Office of Cultural Enlightenment 啓民文化指導所 headed by Ishimoto Tokichi appropriated facilities from all filmmaking organisations consolidating them into a single studio which became the Jakarta branch of The Japan Film Corporation 日本映画社 or Nichiei. The majority of films made in Indonesia under the Japanese were educational films and newsreels produced for audiences in Japan. The Jakarta branch was strategically placed at the extreme southern end of Japans empire and soon became a centre of newsreel production in that region. Popular news serials such as News from the South and Berita Film di Djawa were produced here. Japanese newsreels promoted such topics as conscripted "romusha" labourers ロムシャの生活, 1944, voluntary enlistment into the imperial Japanese Army 南の願望, 1944, and Japanese language acquisition by Indonesian children ニッポン語競技会, 1944.

The great victory in Japans occupation of the Indonesian film industry did not lie in financial gain. Local Japanese-sponsored film production other than newsreels remained essentially negligible and the domestic exhibition market was too underdeveloped to be financially viable. However, Nichiei s occupation of the Indonesian film industry was a strategic victory over the West, demonstrating that a non-Western Asian nation could displace Hollywood and the Dutch. Indonesia was one of the last areas in the empire to surrender and many who worked at Nichiei stayed on after defeat to work for Indonesian independence from the Dutch.

Korean director Hae Yeong aka Hinatsu Eitaro was one such person who migrated to Java from Korea in 1945 where he made the controversial "documentary" Calling Australia 豪州の呼び声, 1944. After the war, Hae changed his name to Dr. Huyung, married an Indonesian woman with whom he had two sons, and directed three films before his death in 1952, Between Sky and Earth 1951, Gladis Olah Raga 1951, and Bunga Rumar Makan 1952. Calling Australia was commissioned by the Imperial Japanese Army and depicted Japanese prisoner of war camps as if they were country clubs showing prisoners feasting on steak and beer, swimming, and playing sports. After the war, the film caused such a stir that The Netherlands Indies Film Unit rushed into production Nippon Presents which used some of the P.O.W.s from Calling Australia to expose that film as Japanese lies. In 1987, Australian filmmaker Graham Shirley assembled the remaining survivors to make yet another documentary about how both regimes had conspired to exploit the prisoners each for their own purposes.


1.3. History After independence

After independence, the Sukarno government used it for nationalistic, anti-Imperialism purposes. Foreign film imports were banned. After the overthrow of Sukarno by Suhartos New Order regime, films were regulated through a censorship code that aimed to maintain the social order and regime grip on society. Usmar Ismail, a director from West Sumatra made a major imprint in Indonesian film in the 1950s and 1960s. Djamaluddin Maliks Persari Film often emulated American genre films and the working practices of the Hollywood studio system, as well as remaking popular Indian films.


1.4. History 1980s

The industry reached its peak in the 1980s, with successful films such as Naga Bonar 1987 and Catatan si Boy 1989. Warkops comedy films, directed by Arizal also proved to be successful. The industry has also found appeal among teens with such fare as Pintar-pintar Bodoh 1982, and Maju Kena Mundur Kena 1984. Actors during this era included Deddy Mizwar, Eva Arnaz, Lidya Kandou, Onky Alexander, Meriam Bellina, Rano Karno, and Paramitha Rusady. The film Tjoet Nja Dhien 1988 winning 9 Citra Awards at the 1988 Indonesian Film Festival. It was also the first Indonesian movie chosen for screening at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was awarded Best International Film in 1989.


1.5. History 1990s

However, by the 1990s imports of foreign films resumed, and the artistic quality of Indonesian films was reduced due to competition, especially from the US and Hong Kong. The number of movies produced decreased significantly, from 115 movies in 1990 to just 37 in 1993. Rampant counterfeiting and television also contributed to the degradation of Indonesian cinema. In decade, Indonesian cinema was dominated by serial electronic cinema sinetron. Multivision Plus under Raam Punjabi, controlled one of many cinema companies who produced sinetron. The majority of films produced were exploitive, adult-themed B-movies shown in budget cinemas and outdoor screenings or direct-to-video or television. In 1996, 33 films were made in Indonesia, with majority of the films produced were filled with adult-themed content, and later on decreased significantly. Only seven domestic films were made in 1999.


1.6. History 2000s

Under the Reformasi movement of the post-Suharto era, independent filmmaking was a rebirth of the filming industry in Indonesia, where films started addressing topics which were previously banned such as religion, race, love and other topics.

In 2002, the domestic films made increased from only 6 in 2001, to 10 films, and as the years passed on, the domestic films made increased significantly.

Recent notable films include Ada Apa dengan Cinta? directed by Rudi Soedjarwo in 2002, Eliana Eliana, directed by Riri Riza, and Arisan! starring Tora Sudiro, which was released in 2005, Beauty and Warrior, Indonesias first animated feature film was released. That same year Gie dir. Riri Riza, based on a biopic of Indonesian activist Soe Hok Gie, was also released.

The release of Ayat-Ayat Cinta, directed by Hanung Bramantyo, attracted one segment of audience like never before in the Indonesian filming. The melodramatic story did not give new approaches to cinematic storytelling but the crossover between Islam and modern-romance story has succeeded in luring Muslims around the country into cinemas.

In 2009, Infinite Frameworks released their first full-length animation movie, Sing to the Dawn Meraih Mimpi in Indonesian. The movie itself is almost Indonesian-made since some of top members are foreigners. However, all artists and dubbers are Indonesian and most of the dubbers are top celebrities like Gita Gutawa, Surya Saputra, Jajang C. Noer, etc.


1.7. History 2010s

Between 2010 until 2011, due to the substantial increase in value added tax applied to foreign films, cinemas no longer have access to many foreign films, including Oscar-winning films. Foreign films include major box offices from the west, and other major film producers of the world. This has caused a massive ripple effect on the countrys economy. It is assumed that this increases purchase of unlicensed DVDs. However, even copyright violating DVDs now take longer to obtain. The minimum cost to view a foreign film not screened locally, is 1 million Rupiah. This is equivalent to US$100, as it includes a plane ticket to Singapore.

The Indonesian film market is in the C, D, E classes, and due to this, foreign porn stars such as Sasha Grey, Vicky Vette, Maria Ozawa, Sora Aoi, and Rin Sakuragi have been invited to play a part in movies. Most locally made movies are low-budget horror films.

But locally made film quality has gone up since 2011, this was attested by the international release of films such as The Raid 2011 and its 2014 sequel, Modus Anomali 2012, Dilema 2012, Lovely Man 2012, Java Heat 2013 and Pengabdi Setan 2017.


2. Film festivals

The major film festival of Indonesia is the Jakarta International Film Festival JiFFest held every year in December since 1998. The eighth festival began on 8 December 2006 with Babel, a film starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. The 9th JiFFest was held on 7–16 December 2007.

Jakarta also hosted film festivals such as the 52nd Asia-Pacific Film Festival APFF on 18–22 November 2008.

Another event is the Indonesian Film Festival Film Indonesia/FFI, which has been held intermittently since 1955. From 1973 to 1992, the festival was held annually and then discontinued until it was later revived in 2004. It hosts a competition, which hands out the Citra Award.


3. Movie theatres

Record shows there were movie theatres named as Oriental and Elita during 1926 in Bandung. The earliest cinema hall in Jakarta was Alhamra at Sawah Beasar which was established in 1931. Other old cinema halls in Jakarta were Astoria, Grand, Metropole, Rex, Capitol, Rivoli, Central, Orion etc. As of 2018, there are about 1700 screens in Indonesia, which is expected to reach 3000 by 2020. Cineplex 21, CGV Cinemas and Cinemaxx currently dominate the movie theater industry in Indonesia with 1.003, 275 and 203 screens, respectively.

The largest cinema chain in Indonesia is 21 Cineplex, which has cinemas spread throughout thirty cities on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Bali, Sulawesi, Moluccas, and Papua. It has 3 separate brands, namely Cinema 21, Cinema XXI and The Premiere to target different markets. Since 2012, Cinema 21 outlets are gradually being renovated to become Cinema XXI.

Another cinema chain is Blitzmegaplex, which opened its first location in 2006. In 2017, the brand name was changed to CGV. As of January 2019 it has already opened 57 theaters with 249 screens in 21 cities across Indonesia. Its Megaplex at Grand Indonesia in Jakarta, is dubbed Indonesias largest cineplex by the MURI Indonesian Record Museum.

Cinemaxx, launched by Lippo Group, opened its first cinema at The Plaza Semanggi on 17 August 2014. Cinemaxx currently operates 45 cinemas with more than 200 screens in Indonesia. It expects to open 300 cinemas with 2.000 screens spread across 85 cities in the next ten years.

In May 2017, Agung Sedayu Group opened FLIX Cinema, with its first outlet at PIK Avenue, North Jakarta. Three months later, it opened its second outlet at Grand Galaxy Park, Bekasi. It plans to open outlets at District 8 Shopping Centre, South Jakarta and Mall of Indonesia, North Jakarta replacing CGV.

Many smaller independent cinemas also exist, such as Platinum, New Star, BES Cinema, Surya Yudha Cinema, and Dakota Cinema.


4. Bibliography

  • A to Z about Indonesian Film, Ekky Imanjaya Bandung: Mizan, 2006.
  • Katalog Film Indonesia 1926-2005, JB Kristanto Jakarta: Nalar, 2006. ISBN 978-979-99395-3-1