English Version
| , 21 October 2018 |
Indonesia Version

A New Spirit
Tuesday, 05 December, 2017 | 16:00 WIB
A New Spirit

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The 2017 Tempo Film Festival showed that Indonesian movies have returned to the bread and butter of cinematography: strong storylines. The six movies nominated use stories to support the pictures, rather than beautiful landscapes or lightweight plots that make no sense.

Even if Marlina Si Pembunuh dalam Empat Babak (Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts) had been set in Bogor or Semarang, rather than on the exotic island of Sumba, the tale of the revenge of a widow towards the men who had robbed and raped her would still be strong because it is a human story. Any criticism that the movie failed to exploit the culture of Sumba is irrelevant because that is not the point it intends to convey. The courage of Marlina’s director in making a film about "the strength of women"-from the retaliation of a rape victim to a girl given the name Topan (Typhoon) so she has the strength of a man-show that filmmakers are not afraid of abandoning clichés.

It is the story as the main element that has made Marlina the favorite of judges and critics at prestigious film festivals across the world. Before it was voted the winner of the 2017 Tempo Film Festival, Marlina attracted praise in screenings in many countries. But it is not just this praise that made us happy about the appearance of a movie like Marlina.

Turah, which entire dialogue uses the Tegal language throughout, is gratifying because it properly deals with the issue of poverty. This film, which was praised by the judges at the Singapore International Film Festival and is in line for an Oscar nomination next year, shows that language is not a hindrance to communication. If the story is good and exciting, and it offers a journey of the imagination, a production will be successful everywhere.

Pengabdi Setan (Servant of the Devil), which has been watched by four million people nationwide, is a horror movie that has the courage to abandon the "clichéd" elements of its genre: foolish ghosts and nonsensical storylines. Whilst Posesif (Possessive) is a teen movie that dares to avoid trite sentimentality or an easy-to-guess happy ending.

Marlina, Turah, Pengabdi Setan and Posesif could serve to represent Indonesia overseas. Nations with robust film industries have exported their movies because of their strong characteristics. Indonesia can do the same thing, and show that there is more to this Republic than just stories of corruption and intolerance.

If Thailand can sell itself using its food, and Korea and Japan's pop culture has hypnotized millennials, Indonesia can speak through arts and culture. Movies can be used as a means of soft diplomacy in the international community.

The creative industry has disrupted the global community through technology. Life has changed because of new inventions that overcome problems with ease and provide unlimited connectivity. The current economy is controlled by innovations that appear every day. As a part of the creative industry, movies that go against clichés will bring benefits in the form of advances in culture and thought.

The Tempo Film Festival (FFT) was established to provide people in the film industry an opportunity to be known in the wider world. With a judging process that seeks and selects every movie that has been released in the previous year, the judges do not distinguish between movies purely on commercial aspects. This is done so that every production has the same chance in the eyes of the audience.

More festivals like the FFT are needed because they revive competition. And this, in turn, leads to innovation and spurs the industry on. Soccer in Europe does so well not just because of the enthusiasm of the fans, but also because of the smaller leagues that foster the rise and selection of the best players.

So what is next? Like it or not, we need to ask the government, as the bureaucratic giant, to play a role in paving the way for the spread of Indonesian artistic works to other countries. The Creative Economy Agency (Bekraf) has started doing its job as the driving force behind the movie industry-and it must do more. It should push for more film festivals to be held.

Promotion is the next step. Creative innovations will be meaningless if they are not supported by proper marketing strategies. The habit of being consumers has made us incompetent producers. We need to change that.

Last but not least, regulations that shackle creativity must be simplified. If this is given serious attention, in the near future, cinema could become an important strength in Indonesia’s cultural diplomacy.

Read the full article in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine

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