Friday, January 1, 2016

Idealism versus Commercialism in Indonesian Cinema: A Neverending Battle?

note:  an old article, published originally at RumahFilm.org, 2008. this is a chapter in my master thesis titled  The Backdoors of Jakarta: Jakarta and Its Social Issues in Post-Reform Indonesian Cinema


“There is no dichotomy between art films and commercial films”, prominent Indonesian producer Mira Lesmana once told me in an interview. “There are only good films and bad films”, she continued. On the other hand, from the very beginning of film industry in Indonesia, the practices and polarization of idealistic filmmakers and commercial filmmakers become stronger and deeper. Discussions on the struggle between both groups seem to occur again and again, and I believe it still happens recently. Can both parties negotiate and unite?

Indeed, notable film critic Salim Said writes that there are two groups of filmmakers, adopted from Andrew Tudor’s theory of genre and movement. The first group is the commercial filmmakers who make movies for commercial gain. The second group is the idealistic filmmakers who make films by desire for self expression and want to portray the actual face of Indonesian on screen (Said 1991: 6), and the pioneer is Usmar Ismail, known as The Father of Indonesian Cinema. Said complains that most Indonesian films are far away from their idealistic function: to show “the Indonesian face”. In such films, there is nothing Indonesian on screen. The spectators cannot feel the representation of Indonesian people or Indonesian situation on screen. He quotes former Director General of Radio, Television and films of Indonesian
Government Umar Khayam: even if the spectators see Indonesian films as merchant of dreams, it is not Indonesian dreams (Said 1991: 4). And this phenomenon is the result of the domination of commercial filmmakers, the ones who treat films as merchandise and subject the directors in general to the impulses of the financial backers; while the directors, as the artists, should be the decisive element in film production (Said 1991: 10).

For Said, since the beginning of filmmaking in Indonesia until the publication of his book, Indonesian films failed to represent the realities of Indonesian life (Said 1991: 3). It is his belief that most of the films are, so obviously, “…crude imitations of imported movies that bear little or no relation to Indonesian social norms or living conditions” (Said 1991: 5). And he blames the commercial group of filmmakers for this phenomenon.

According to Said, commercial filmmakers produce films as “merchants of dreams” (Said 1991: 3). They use the formula: bind the films with sex, wealth, violence and exaggerated sadness. Pioneers in this group were the Chinese traders. Their film productions focus on quantity, not quality. Said writes:

When movies are treated as merchandise the determining power in the production process is in the hands of capital owners. Directors, who as artists should be the decisive element, are generally subject to the impulses of the financial backers... how can we expect quality movies from such subordinated directors?” (Said 1991: 10-11).

Most films only show dreams, wishes or obsessions, instead of representing what the filmmakers think and feel of the reality (Said 1991: 121). In short, most of the films are unrealistic and have failed to picture the social problems of Indonesian people. Most film critics, scholars, and journalists, such as Karl Heider and Krishna Sen, agree with Said.
However, in 1990, Said shows optimism:

Even though Usmar Ismail is dead, the dream of making films that deal with Indonesian problems and issues has not yet completely died in the hearts of other filmmakers. To realize that dream, however, will be an uphill fight because the producers of Indonesian films, whether they be “indigenous” (pribumi?)or “non indigenous” (non-pribumi?), are businessmen who are accustomed to view film only in terms of the potential for commercial gain (Said 1991: 121).
This article will show that the dualism paradigm is still relevant and significant to be discussed today. As Said underlines, the history of Indonesian cinema can show a clear polarization between people who make films for commercial purpose only, and people who make movies for idealistic reasons (Said 1991: 102). Below is an overview of the history of Indonesian cinema as related to the struggle of the idealistic group of filmmakers, focusing on the representation of social issues and/or Jakarta city and films with realism approach in general. The discussion below will elaborate both sides: the birth of both parties, their struggles and battles again each other, the developments, the achievements, and recent progresses. And I also try to illuminate some trials to unite both sides of filmmaking.

I divide the time range into periods based on the important events happening in the years such as the first time cinema was introduced in Indonesia (early 1990s), the Japanese Occupation (1942-1945), the declaration of Indonesian’s Independence and its early years (1945-1956), the Old Order Regime and the conflicts of politics polarization (communism, Islam, nationalism, etc.) (1956-1965), the New Order Regime (1966-1998) and the Reform era (1998-present). The events would, directly or indirectly, influence the filmmaking activities in Indonesia. And I will elaborate deeper the post-Reform era, focusing on Garin Nugroho as senior filmmaker and Riri Riza as younger filmmaker.

Early Years
Cinema was introduced for the first time to the public of Dutch East Indies (the name of colonized Indonesia) on 5 th December 1900. It started with a commercial announcement from Nederlandsche Bioskop Maatschappij, on Bintang Betawi daily, stating that there would be a great spectacle, which was “gambar idoep” (moving image) about events in Europe and South Africa from some documentary scenes, including when Netherlands’ Queen with His Majesty Hertog Hendrik entered Den Haag[2]. The show took place in a house next to an automotive shop called Maatschappij Fuchs in Tanah Abang, Batavia (Jakarta, at that time). The man behind this show was T.D. Tio Jr. (Said 1991: 16).

Twenty six years later, a local film was produced by NV Java Film Company—a silent film based on a Sundanese folktale entitled Loetoeng Kasaroeng (The Enchanted Monkey, 1926)[3] directed by Heuverdorp (a Dutchman) and produced by Kruger (a German) (Said, 1991: 16; Heider 1991: 15). There is a report stating that in 1929, the Chinese controlled eighty-five percent of the existing movie theaters (Said 1991: 16). And the pioneers in filmmaking from the Chinese people were the Wong brothers who directed Lily van Java (also known as Melatie van Java, The Jasmine of Java, 1928). Another Wong Brothers production is Si Tjonat (character’s name, 1929), the first Indonesian film set and made in Jakarta (Sen 1994: 15). The film was part of a repertoire of lenong, a form of people theatre of Betawi (Jakarta) local population (Sen 1994:15).

In the 1930s, the first film made by the idealistic group of filmmaking appeared. It is Pareh (Rice, original title is Het Lied van de Rijst, 1935), an anthropological film directed by Mannus Franken and Albert Balink[4]. The production company was Java Pacific Film, a Dutch-owned company in Bandung (Said 1991: 23). Teguh Karya writes that Pareh tried to express artistic values (Sen 1988: 5). The premiere was in Odeon, Den Haag on 20 th November 1936. Pareh displays the beauty of Indonesian scenery that was so exotic to Western eyes (Said 1991: 24). The film attempted to introduce Indonesian ways of life to the Dutch audience (Ismail 1986: 54). Technically, the film was of acceptable quality but produced no money on Indonesian market (Said 1991: 23).

In Pareh, director Albert Balink met producers/cinematographers Wong Brothers for the first time and they later made Terang Boelan (Full Moon, original title: Het Eiland der Droomen[5] 1937), the first successful film from the commercial group of filmmakers, and the one that gave birth to the first movie star: Miss Roekiah. The film was adapted from The Jungle Princess (USA: Wilhelm Thiele, 1936), a popular film at that time starring Dorothy Lamoure and set in Hawaii (Said 1991: 24). By early 1937, the finished film was ready for circulation and premiered in Orion Cinema, the popular cinema in Batavia.

Miss Roekiah became prima donna in Tan’s Film, and she was projected as the idol of poor people. Her films always became box office, whoever her co-star was. With Raden Mochtar, she played in Fatima (character’s name, Joshua Wong, Othniel Wong, 1938)—earning F 200 thousands—and in Gagak Item (Black Crows, Joshua and Othniel Wong, 1939), an imitation of Zorro. In 1940, she left Tan’s Film and co-starred with Raden Djemala in Roekihati (character’s name, 1940) and Koeda Sembrani (The Enchanted Horse, 1941).

Terang Boelan became the first commercially successful film since 1938 and it created a new trend in the star system until 1942[6]. The film takes place in a fancy island called Sawoba (stands for the names of Saroen-Wong-Balink (the scriptwriter, the producer and the director, respectively). The island imitated the Hawaiian style from Jungle Princess especially in the design, costume, flower necklaces on necks and guitars, and the duet song called Terang Boelan and Boenga Mawar (Roses). The film was also popular in Singapore and earned $2000 thousands in the first two months. Then Miss Roekiah was recruited by Tan’s Film and founded Terang Boelan Troep and went on tour to Singapore.

Terang Boelan phenomenon atracted people from theater (toneel) to move to film industry, and similar films were made with the same formula: Hollywood style, beautiful songs, fighting scenes, good-looking and popular actors and actresses, and beautiful sceneries (Said 1991: 27). Teguh Karya states that “The legacy of Terang Boelan has been a stereotype film story for the industry, and an established technique which has remained undeveloped and static” (quoted in Heider 1991: 16).

And the number of film productions increased rapidly with stories taken from popular stage plays adapted from box-office Western theaters such as Srigala Item (the Black Jackal) or Singa Laoet (The Sea Lion) from Zorro and Aladin, Djoela Djoeli Bintang Tujuh (Dance of the Seven Stars) from A Thousand and One Nights (Said 1991: 28). Other films imitated popular Hollywood films. For example, Tarzan gave birth to Poetri Rimba (Jungle Princess) and Rencong Aceh (The Acehnese Dagger); Dracula was the source for Tengkorak Hidoep (The Living Skull) (Said 1991: 30). One of the theater figures who became director is Andjar Asmara. In 1927, a Bandung paper claimed that 85% of movie theaters in Dutch East Indies belonged to the Chinese (Sen 1994: 14).Chinese people were the second class citizens—while the indigenous Indonesian people were considered the third class and European people the first citizens—hence they had many opportunities to do business, including in the film industry.

In 1937, the silent film era ended and Terang Boelan became the first sound film in Indonesia. The spoken language in all films in this era is Indonesian. I consider the films made by Dutch directors, and/or by Dutch film companies in this era Colonial films. Most of the films were made for commercial purposes. But, indeed, there are some documentary films which were made by Dutch directors to show the development of colonial land to the Dutch government (Italy: Boriello, 2007), such as Pareh and Tanah Sebrang (original title Land aan de Overkant, Mannus Franken 1938).

Japanese Period
During the Japanese occupation era (1942-1945), films were put under the control of Sendenbu (Propaganda Department), an independent department set up within the military government (Kurasawa 1991: 37)[7]. The Sendenbu also directly executed propaganda operations and founded another organization named Keimin Bunka Shidosho or Poesat Keboedajaan (Popular Education and Cultural Direction Center) in April 1943 (Kurasawa 1991: 37). One of its jobs was to educate and train Indonesian artists (Kurasawa 1991: 38). This was an important organization because for the first time, some Indonesian artists and intellectuals gathered in one organization, including writer Sanusi Pane, musician Simanjuntak, musician Raden Koesbini (Kurawasa 1991: 41) and playwright Usmar Ismail and Djadug Djajakusuma (Kurasawa 1991: 55).

The Japanese-run company, Nippon Eigasha, held the monopoly over film production. None of the Chinese-owned studios was allowed to operate, and only “indigenous” Indonesians such as Inoe Perbatasari, Raden Arifin, and Roestam Soetan Palindih were permitted to work in the Japanese-owned studio (Said 1991: 32; Heider 1991: 16).

In this era, with film supplies stalled, cinemas had to rerun the Western and local films. In April 1943, the number of cinemas in Java decreased drastically to 117. Most of the films were about propaganda of Japanese Occupation Government such as Keseberang (Across the Sea), Berdjoeang (Struggle), and Amat Heiho (Amat, the Volunteer Soldier) (Said 1991: 33). The first feature film to be screened was Kemakmoeran (Prosperity), in January 1944 (Kurasawa 1991: 53). Some of the cinema formats were mobile-cinema (Kurasawa 1991: 58).

It was during this phase that many Indonesian artists, especially Usmar Ismail, learned about film. They gathered in the Cultural Center organized by Japanese. Djadug Djajakusuma, a friend of Ismail, states that: “Our interest in filmmaking was stimulated by two concurrent factors. One was the frequent visits of Andjar Asmara to our office and the second was the discovery of a bookcase full of materials dealing with the artistic and technical aspects of movie making which the Dutch had left behind” (quoted in Said 1991: 34). Ismail and his friends realized that film could be used as a means of social communication, the important aspect of the idealistic group of filmaking. Ismail says:The new atmosphere during the Japanese Occupation stimulated growth and change in the content as well as the techniques of filmmaking. It was under the Japanese that people became aware of the function of film as a means of social communication. Also of note during this period was the awakening of the (Indonesian) language...film began to mature and to be infused with a greater sense of national consciousness” (quoted in Said 1991: 34).

Andjar Asmara was the figure who influenced Ismail and his friends to enter filmmaking world. He was a journalist of Doenia Film (Indonesian edition for Filmland) and later became a playwright and one of the first indigenous filmmakers and film critics. (Usmar Ismail’s first experience in his filmmaking career was when he worked as co-director for Andjar Asmara’s films, under South Pacific Cinema, a Dutch-run company). Andjar Asmara sat as the chairperson of juries in the first Indonesian Film Festival, 1955. He learned from Japanese’s propaganda films, and then transfered the knowledge to Ismail, that film would become an important tool to educate the masses, a concept that had been unthinkable before The War (Said 1991: 35).

One of the most important things in this era is that Ismail and his friends learned to make films systematically, both in the preparatory stage and during the actual shooting, whereas when working with Chinese film companies they felt haunted by the need to keep cost down, etc. (Said 1991: 34; Kurasawa 1991: 55). And, as prominent writer Armjn Pane states, the language used in the dialogues of the film became very fluent and was no longer bahasa Melayu-Tionghoa (Sino-Malay dialect) but a more correct form (Kurasawa 1991: 55).
The convergence of opinion on filmmaking between Asmara and Ismail brought the two together in a cooperative venture that lasted well into the post-Japanese occupation era. In 1948, when Asmara made movies for South Pacific Film, he offered Ismail the job of assistant director (Said 1991: 36).

After the Japanese surrendered, the department was taken over by the government of the Republic Indonesia and its facilities were put under the control of the Directorate of Movies and Communication of the Department of Information (Kurasawa 1991: 55).
Post-Independence Day

The most important event for Indonesia is the proclamation of independence on a Friday morning, 17 th August 1945. Dutch literary historian Teeuw states that in the first years of independence, large numbers of young intellectuals were drawn to film.
Rivai Apin, Asrul Sani, Siti Nuraini, Sitor Situmorang, Trisno Sumarjo, and many others were fascinated by this new medium, which promised so much—especially in a land where for the man of letters contact with the (not yet) reading public proved to be such a great problem (quoted in Sen 1994: 19).

As I mentioned earlier, Andjar Asmara inspired the playwright Usmar Ismail to enter filmmaking world. Asmara later asked Ismail to become his assistant-director in 1948 to make films for Netherlands Indies Civil Administration (NICA) Company, South Pacific Film. Ismail at that time was just released from Dutch custody (he was captured in Jakarta while doing his task as an intelligence officer), and he left his military duties to make films (Said 1991: 36).
Another prominent figure who had influenced Ismail and other early filmmakers from the idealistic group was Dr. Huyung, also known as Hinatsu Eitaro or Hue Yong. He was a Japanese-half Korean soldier, and his duty was to dominate the theater industry in the Japanese occupation era. In 1948, Huyung founded Cine Drama Institute in Jogjakarta, the capital city of Indonesia at the time. One of the lecturers was the prominent thinker and founder of Taman Siswa[8]Ki Hajar Dewantara, the first the minister of education and cultural affairs. But the institute soon disbanded. Then, Huyung founded Stichting Hiburan Mataram (Stichting Recreational Foundation) where young Indonesian artists studied and developed their talent (Said 1991: 38). Huyung and other intellectuals taught filmmaking in Jogjakarta.
On 31 st March 1950, Ismail founded Perfini (Perusahaan Film Nasional Indonesian, National Film Company) (Said 1991: 39). The first film produced by this company is Darah dan Doa, and its first shooting day, 31 st March 1950, became National Film Day. This is actually Ismail’s third film after Harta Karun (Hidden Treasure) and Tjitra (Image). For Ismail, Harta Karun is the first effort to unite cinema with literature, and Tjitra is the first film “…to raise the question of national consciousness which was common in literature for a long time” (Sen 1994: 18). But only in Darah dan Doa he felt the freedom of expression and free from producers’ commercial pressure. Ismail consciously made it for the Cannes International Film Festival (Said 1991: 48). Ismail emphasizes: “I cannot say that both early films are my film, (because) when I wrote and made them, I receive so many instructions (from the producers) I did not always agree with”[9]. Ismail also writes: “…because for the first time, a film was made by Indonesian filmmakers, technically and creatively, and economically. And for the first time, Indonesian film raised the issues about events in national scale” (Ismail 1986: 170)

Even though Dewan Film Nasional (National Film Council), in its conference on 11 th October 1962, decreed the first shooting day of Darah dan Doa, the official acknowledgement from the Indonesian Government occurred in 1999 when President Habibie legitimized the Presidential Decree (Keputusan Presiden, Keppres) no. 25/1999.

The funding for this film was helped by Tong Kim Mew, a Chinese movie theater owner (Said 1991, 51), and senior officials of the Siliwangi military division (Sen 1994: 20). The story speaks of the saga of the march by the Siliwangi Division from Jogja to its old base in West Java after the Dutch took Jogja in 1948 (Said 1950: 51). Ismail’s second film, Enam Djam di Jogja (Six Hours in Jogja, 1951) is about the general attack of an Indonesian guerilla army just as the Dutch were trying to prove in the international forums that they were in firm control of Indonesia (Said 1991: 52), with focus on the role of Diponegoro Division. The main characters were all real people (Sen 1994: 22).

The next film, Dosa tak Berampun (The Unforgiveable Sin, 1951) represents the first exodus of the Indonesian war as related to real-life topics. Siasat, a leading journal of the period, published a review claiming that Ismail “had introduced a new motif into his film whose characters can be found in our daily life” (Said 1991: 53). The article states that in that film, a conscious attempt has been made to apply the principles of good film, something rarely seen in Indonesian films. The article stated that the lyrical Italian realism has left a good imprint there and, for the time being at least, that film can be said to be the best Indonesian film ever made. “Perhaps they were not sufficiently explored but the film does, nonetheless, offer new possibilities for Indonesia. Usmar should have further exploited his material. The film abounds with redundant scenes; yet there are other scenes which Usmar could have shot to strengthen his film” (quoted in Said 1991: 53).

Said mentions that at the time Perfini was established, neorealism (which was a new trend in filmmaking) was riding high in Italy. For Said, some aspects of Italian neorealism occur in Ismail’s early films. “The Italian Neorealist believed in taking the camera out into the street and using common people, not stars. The same opinion was shared by Perfini people. Usmar was so fanatic about this new approach that Perfini’s films always introduced new actors with no previous film experience” (Said 1991: 54). Said also mentions other aspects. First, the constant lugging of the camera to the street or shooting location instead of the studio. Second, just like the neorealist succeeded in showing the worn face of post-war Italy, Perfini did its best to show the real face of Indonesia. But he highlights that “Although a comparison might be deemed exaggerated, there are also some Indonesian pararrels to the resistance that sprang up in Italy” (Said 1991: 54).

Other Perfini’s film, Embun (Dewdrops, 1951) was directed by Djaduk Djajakusuma and highlights a common problem in those days, the veterans, depicting the village life with its detailed visual description of living customs and beliefs (Said 1991: 54-55). The story followed the common model of a frustrated ex-revolutionary being brought back to life and society by a woman’s love (Sen 1994: 23).

After the production, Ismail was awarded Rockefeller Foundation fellowship to study for a year at the University of California in Los Angeles (Said 1991: 55). A year later, he made films under the influence of Hollywood style and tried to strike a compromise between idealism and commercialism. But, the spirit of the idealistic group of filmmaking still existed in Perfini. For example, Krisis (Crisis), directed by Ismail in 1954, dealt with Jakarta’s housing problem and depicted a variety of human characters and a range of human behavior and responses to this distressing situation (Said 1991: 56).

Regarding the connection between Perfini and realism, Nyak Abbas Akub, a director specializing in comedy who always put social issues on his films and began his career at Perfini, explains that in Perfini days, he and his colleagues got the stories for the films from reality. The Long March of the Siliwangi Division gave birth to The Long March; the general attack on Jogya gave birth to Six Hours in Yogya; the struggle for housing in Jakarta in those days became the source of Crisis; while Past Midnight was based on the difficulty that veterans were having in adjusting to society after leaving military service. “The stories and the themes that we chose were totally different from these that were dominant in the cinemas at that time “ (quoted in Said 1991: 102).
Teguh Karya mentions that Ismail’s films were indeed “…films depicting Indonesia as it is. The themes and the characters Usmar created really reflected Indonesian thinking and the Indonesian personalities” (Sen 1988: 6).

In the same year Perfini was founded, 1950, Huyung established Kino Drama Atelier (Dramatic Film Studio) and made Antara Bumi dan Langit (Between Earth and Heaven) written by prominent novelist Armjn Pane about the Eurasian citizenship problem in Indonesia after the revolution (Said 1991: 49; Sen 1994: 22). Before the film was made, some kissing scenes appeared in newspapers and it was stated that the still photos were taken from the film, hence it became controversial. On 21 st January 1951, four months before the censor board gave its approval, the Medan branch of Pelajar Islam Indonesia (PPI, Indonesian Islamic Students) protested the film (Said 1991: 50). Expatriates in Indonesia also made protest against its sensitive content. As a result, the film went to the censorship council, who changed the title to Frieda, the main character’s name. And it became just an ordinary love story because several scenes had to be cut and be replaced with new ones (Said 1991: 50). Pane refused to put his name on screen (Sen 1994: 22).

Also in 1950, Perusahaan Film Negara (the State Film Corporation) began producing feature films as well (Said 1991: 39).

On 23 rd April 1951, Muslim businessman and politician Djamaluddin Malik (later known as the Father of Indonesian Film Industry) founded Perseroan Artis Indonesia (Persari, The Indonesian Artists Company) (Said 1991: 39). This is the indigenous film company that started the big studio system (with cooperation with studios in Manila, Philippine, for post-production and later built a big studio in Jakarta suburb of Polonia with complete equipment) (Said 1991: 41) and with Hollywood style approach. Thus, this is the first indigenous company from the commercial group of filmmaking, as Malik stated: “If the public wants Indian, we’ll give them Indian until they’re sick and tired of it” (Said 1991: 42). Its first film was Sedap Malam (Tuberose) directed by Ratna Asmara, Andjar Asmara’s wife.

One of the important moments is when Persari and Perfini worked together to produce a film directed by Ismail and written by Asrul Sani, Lewat Djam Malam (After Curfew, 1954). This was the film that got critically and commercially successful achievement (Said 1991: 43), the union of the commercial and idealist filmmakers. The story is about Iskandar, a medical student and revolutionary soldier, who finds himself unable to face the better prospect of civilian life in post-war Indonesia and feels betrayed by the corruption and mismanaged leadership surrounding him (Sen 1994: 39).

On 30 th August 1954, Persatuan Perusahaan Film Indonesia (PPFI, The Association of Indonesian Film Companies) was founded by Malik and Ismail. In 1955, Malik proposed the first Indonesian Film Festival (Festival Film Indonesia, FFI) on 30 th March-5 th April 1955. Lewat Djam Malam won the best film award and represented Indonesia in the 2 nd Asia Film Festival in Singapore. But the result had some problematic affair because Lewat Djam Malam was not the only best film announced in FFI. Tarmina, a Persari production directed by Lilik Soedjio also became the best film. Consequently, many people questioned this result, considering Malik fully sponsored the festival (Said 1991: 43).

But Ismail and Malik, and also Sani, were still best friends and united in one political party, Nadhatul Ulama (the Awakening of Islamic Scholars, a traditional Islamic party). In PPFI, they made public statements and arranged demonstrations by film actors and other film personnel to urge the government to lower the quota for Indian movies (Said 1991: 44) because they consider Bollywood films the destructor of Indonesian film market. Later, all of them made Tauhid (Pilgrimage to Mecca). They united against Indonesian Communist Party (Partai Komunis Indonesia, PKI).

From the leftist filmmakers, Bachtiar Siagian is the most prominent director who made film with socialism-realism approach such as Tjorak Dunia (Color of the World, 1955) and Turang (Beloved, 1957). Tjorak Dunia relates the love stories of ex-revolutionary soldiers and social rehabilitation set in a poor rural zone, and Turang is about a love story between a guerilla commander and a village head’s daughter told from the “people in revolt” point of view (Sen 1994: 42, 45). His other film, Daerah Hilang (Lost Land, 1956), was truncated by the Board of Censors because “the Censors were frightened by the honest depiction of social realities” (Sen 1994: 43).

Later, the influence of the communist party grew and had great effects on Indonesian cinema.
Old Order Regime and Politics of Polarization Usmar Ismail entitled his article concerning the political conflicts in 1960s Sejarah Hitam Perfilman Nasional (The Dark History of National Cinema) (Ismail 1986: 91-97).

In the last years of 1950s, Lembaga Kebudayaan Rakyat (Lekra, The Institute for People’s Culture) and Serikat Buruh Film dan Sandiwara (Sarbufis, the Film and Stage Workers Union), the leftist cultural and art organizations under PKI, continually attacked Ismail, Malik, Sani, and other non-Communist movements. They asked the government to close down PPFI member studios (Said 1991: 46). On the other hand, PPFI, under the leadership of Ismail and Malik, decided on 19th March 1957 to close all studios, in protest against Indian films domination over the market (Sen 1994: 31). Later the studio reopened, but a few days after the reopening, in May 1957, Malik was arrested. No clear or authoritative explanation was given as to why he was arrested. But rumors were spreading among Malik’s closest friends that he was arrested because of his political activities as one of the top leaders of NU[10] and he was being considered a candidate for the post of Junior Minister of Welfare (Said 1991: 46).

In that time, President Soekarno’s policy was close to those of the communist party and he ran a system of Demokrasi Terpimpin (Guided Democracy). In 1957, conflicts between the central and regional governments grew bigger and the rebellion of PRRI/Permesta (Pemerintah Revolusioner Republik Indonesia, the Indonesian Revolutionary Government) occurred (Said 1991: 60).

Salim Said illuminates that leftist politicians criticized and attacked anyone outside their ideology, especially when they suspected that the persons were close to America’s imperialism. They attacked Pagar Kawat Berduri (The Barbed Wire Fence, 1961) directed by Asrul Sani and adapted from Trisno Juwono’s novel, because the film was assumed to be speaking of universal humanism and had sympathy for the Dutch colonial’s characters. They objected that Koenan (a Dutch military officer, one of the main characters) was given the pivotal role as an embodiment of the principle of universal humanism—the principle which castrated the patriotism and heroism of revolutionary fighters, according to Lekra, and a ‘hero of humanity’ whose failures cause him, in the end, to commit suicide. They also considered the film a defender of imperialists and colonialists (Said 1991: 67). As a result, the film was confiscated by the military.
They also made sharp criticism against Anak Perawan di Sarang Penjamun (Trapped in a Robbers’ Lair, 1961), directed by Ismail and adapted from Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana’s novel, because it “...deviated from the revolutionary path” (Said 1991: 68).

Leftist politicians, with director Bachtiar Siagian as the main figure, founded Panitia Aksi Pengganyangan Film Imperalis Amerika Serikat (Parfias, Committee for the Boycott of American Imperialist Films) on 9 th May 1964. They boycotted Hollywood films (Said 1991: 69) and attacked other filmmakers who did not belong to their group and manifesto. Tauhid (literal meaning Oneness of God, about pilgrimage to Mecca) was almost banned, but President Soekarno helped the film to be on screen. Impian BukitHarapan (Dreams on Mount Hope, 1964), a movie about tea plantation workers directed by Wahyu Sihombing, was banned because it was “insulting to workers” (Said 1991: 73).

This political tension ended when the tragedy of G30S (September 30 Movement, the killing of six generals—the official version stated that the communist party attempted to gain political power) happened on 30 th September 1965. PKI was banned, and the new order regime under Soeharto began. Over half a million people were killed during the transition to the new order. The mass killing was aimed to purge the society from communist people[11].

New Order Regime (1966-1998)
The New Order Regime began right after the G30S event, the extermination of PKI members and followers, and the fall of President Soekarno. Soeharto became president, and the army dominated the political sphere (Sen 1994: 48).

In this era, the rules over filmmaking were very difficult and hard, for example the censorship and the bureaucracy. If someone wanted to make film, he/she should submit their scripts for approval before production, he/she should be members of one of government-sanctioned organizations of film workers union. Shooting permits for all forms of audiovisual recordings were the norm with prior approval required of production companies, and of course the company should be a member of the union (Marselli & Achnas 2002: 156). And, to become a director, he/she should serve as assistant director three times, and in order to be an assistant director, he/she needed to be a script continuity person several times[12]. And if the director had fulfilled all the requirements, the censorship affairs were the next step to face. Heider illustrates that the government film censorship board must approve the script of a film before shooting, and it must advise again during the editing stage. News items frequently appear in the press announcing titles of films which have been released by the censorship board (Heider 1991: 22).

Films scholars and filmmakers Marcelli Sumarno and Nan Triveni Achnas are witnesses to these kinds of rules: they writes: “Until quite recently, film law in Indonesia was subject to red tape and stifling policies. The main objective was to regulate film as stipulated in the state guidelines as ‘not only an entertainment vehicle but also as a medium for educational and cultural purpose’. (Sumarno & Achnas 2002: 160)

In this era, Krishna Sen highlights the lack of representation of the middle class, and the films focus on the stores of the dominant and the subordinate without an identifiable mediating middle class in between them (Sen 1994: 130).

Later, in 1996, Kuldesak became an important phenomenon because the directors broke all these complicated rules (Sumarno and Achnas 2002: 164) but in fact, in early 1990s Garin Nugroho did the same[13]. I will elaborate this topic later. Let me discuss this era by decades.
Late 1960s

On 30 th May 1968, the Minister of Information BM Diah issued a decree on Dewan Produksi Film Nasional (National Film Production Council) which consisted of nine members from the public and private filmmakers. The unique thing in this is that Usmar Ismail and Djamaluddin Malik were excluded (Said 1991: 82)[14]. But DPFN did not establish for long. After making five model films, including the family drama Apa yang Kau Tjari Palupi (What Are You Looking For, Palupi?, Asrul Sani, 1969) and the comedy Mat Dower (the character’s name, Nyak Abbas Akkub, 1969), both are realist films, the organization disbanded. Palupi won the first prize in the 1970 Asian Film Festival in Jakarta, and tells a story of a woman who loses herself in search of an undefined ‘something’—which she sees as happiness. The dominant discourse of the film shows greed, immortality, and rejection of a man’s love (Sen 1994: 141). Mat Dower has a strong satire social critic and distributors were frightened away by its content (Said 1991: 82-83).

1970s
In 1970, Ismail made Big Village as an attempt to show the on-going and sometimes heated struggle between Jakarta the metropolis and Jakarta the cluster of villages, a place whose dominant lifestyle is in fact very much different from that of a large modern city (Jufri et al (eds.) 1992: 21).

In this 1970s era, new filmmakers were born. It became a first start for idealist filmmakers such as Teguh Karya, Syuman Djaya and Arifin C. Noer. Sjuman Djaya, who had studied film in Moscow, made his first film, Lewat Tengah Malam (Past Midnight, 1971), after the disbandment of DPFN and his resignation as General Director of Film (Said 1991: 91). His first film tells a story of a veteran’s disappointment in former friends-in-arms who have failed to live up to the ideals for which they once fought. Lono, the main character, becomes a thief who steals from his corrupt friends to divide the spoils among those badly in need (Said 1991: 91-92).

Then Djaya started to make films full of social and political critique such as Si Doel Anak Betawi (Si Doel Betawi Boy, 1973), Atheis (1974), Si Doel Anak Modern (Si Doel Modern Boy, 1976), and Si Mamad (1973). Both Si Doel films speak of the indigenous people of Jakarta; the first is a children film and the latter tells about the culturally-shocked teenager Doel toward modernity. Si Mamad tells about an honest middle-aged clerk called Pak Mamad, who works in the archives section of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and lives in slum quarters on the edge of Jakarta. Mamad’s wife is pregnant with their seventh child, and that situation forces Mamad, the only officer who does not commit corruption, to steal some things. But, soon, he wants to confess his mistakes but nobody cares. Tormented by guilt and inadequacy, Mamad gets ill and later dies. Budiman, his friend, at the burial site, pays his last tribute to him: People called him Pak Mamad. But he preffred Muhammad. Muhammad has left us. And the world has lost a person whom I knew as the most human of human beings...Muhammad who was honest and Muhammad who was truthful. Unfortunately, he died because of his honesty. I trust that God will recieve him unto Himself.[15]

In the same year, Teguh Karya made his first film with Teater Populer, Wadjah Seorang Laki-Laki (The Face of a Man, 1971). It tells about an uncompromised portrayal of the development of a young man into adulthood. Later, in 1980s, Karya made Secangkir Kopi Pahit (A Cup of Bitter Coffee, 1984) and Ibunda (Mother, 1986) among other titles. Some great actors, such as Tuti Indra Malaon, Slamet Djarot, Christine Hakim, and Alex Komang were born from his hands. From his first film, Karya wanted to make films showing the life of ordinary people (Sen 1988: 5). For example, Ibunda describes a mother as a strong woman surrounded by her own children‘s problems such as divorces and drugs.

Arifin C Noer[16] made his first movie in 1973. Rio Anakku (Rio My Child) has the same passion to represent on-screen the reality around him as, for example, Suci Sang Primadona (Suci the Prima Donna 1977), Petualang-Petualang (The Adventurers, 1978) and Yuyun Pasien Rumah Sakit Jiwa (Yuyun, Patient of a Mental Hospital, 1979). Petualang Petualang was first titled Koruptor-Koruptor (The Corruptors). The film was pended in Badan Sensor Film (Film Censorship Board) for almost six years for the content, and was released with 319 meters-long cut (Kristanto 2007: 179).

Another filmmaker from the idealistic group is Nico Pelamonia with his debut work, Anjing Anjing Geladak (Harbor Dogs, 1972), which tells about the harsh life in the harbor area.
Nyak Abbas Akub, who used to help Ismail in Perfini, was the figure that had succesfully combined the commercial and idealistic groups of filmmaking. He made social criticism through comedies with, among others, Inem Pelayan Sexy (Inem the Sexy Maid, 1976), Cintaku di Rumah Susun (My Love in Apartment House, 1987) and his last film Boneka dari Indiana (Doll from Indiana, 1990). Those films concern gender role in society and the power of women with their sexuality toward men. And those Akub films are successfully combined idealistic purposes and commercial gain.

Regarding producers from the commercial filmmakers, Karya states: “We have to revolt against the producers. Do not give them a change to dictate to us. They know nothing about filmmaking. They possess the capital and see filming as a lucrative investment” (quoted in Said 1991: 117). But, still, Karya and other idealistic directors should sometimes make compromises in order to realize their next idealistic projects.

In 1978, Frank Rorimpandey directed Perawan Desa (The Village Virgin), adapted from a true story about Sumarijam, 17 years old girl from Jetak near Jogjakarta who was raped by a son of senior civil servantofficial in September 1970 (Sen 1989: 13). It was a legally difficult process because the rapist was the son of a man of power while the victim was a nobody. The film depicts the huge difference between wealthy people in the mansion and poor people in kampung (Sen 1989: 14-15). Film journalists commended that Perawan Desa is a film of very high social relevance, extremely relevant in the efforts of the Indonesian people to search for and establish truth and justice and it depicts clearly the fate of the little people (rakyat kecil) who suffer, trampled by injustice. “The film also shows the courage of the citizens, both men and women, including journalists and youth, who become involved, individually and socially, in the defense of someone who becomes the victim of arbitrary authority” (quoted in Sen 1994: 119).
The commercial group of filmmakers still existed in 1970s. Pengantin Remaja (Teenage Wedding, Wim Umboh, 1971) was controversial because some people considered it a plagiarism of Love Story (USA: Arthur Hiller, 1979). The film made the star couple, Sophan Sophian and Widyawati, popular.

In this era, commercial filmmakers also began to produce sexploitation films. Popular actress known as the queen of mystic and sex symbol Suzanna started her adult career in 1970 with Bernapas dalam Lumpur (Breathing in the Mud, Turino Djunaidi 1970), the first film to accentuate sex, rape, and dirty dialogues. Her other film, Bumi Makin Panas (The World is Getting Hotter, Ali Shahab 1973) was of similar topic, and was once banned in Cianjur (West Java) and Malaysia. The phenomenon of sexploitation cinema underlines the strong position of the commercial group of filmmaking. These films were made for commercial aims, thus the stories were poor and female bodies were exploited to sell the films.

The most popular box-office film in the 1970s was Ratapan Anak Tiri (Lamentation of Step-Daughter, Sandy Suwardi Hassan, 1973). However, the slowdown of film industry reoccured in 1972. The number of productions decreased. People kept on blame on each other. Some blamed the filmmakers, some blamed film journalists and critics. Farouk Afero, an actor and singer , said that the cinemas were at fault and he shaved his head bald in protest against cinema owners (Said 1991: 86). As a result, cinema owners threatened to boycott Afero’s films. FFI was held again in 1973[17]. But this did not change the situation. In 1974, there were 77 films, but downed to 41 in 1975. On 18 th January 1975, some directors, producers and actors gathered in Taman Ismail Marzuki (Art Center), Jakarta (Said 1991: 86-87). They discussed the crisis in film industry and its connection to cinemas and government. As a result, three ministers issued a regulation stating that every cinema should put national films on-screen. But still this step did not help fixing the problems. In 1976, the Minister of Information stated that film importers should produce national films as a condition to import film from abroad. Yet, film productions increased rapidly although most of them were of bad quality.

In 1977, the star system, from the commercial group, became stronger, using the term “The Big Five”—the five film stars with the highest salary, i.e. Rp. 5 millions. They were Yatie Octavia, Robby Sugara, Doris Callebout, Yenny Rachman and Roy Marten. Another popular star couple was Yessy Gusman and Rano Karno.The star system, as one of the important elements of commercial group of filmmaking, dominated the film market. Most of the films used popular film stars, and most of the spectators were (and still are) going to the cinemas to watch their idols on screen.

The 1980s
In the 1980s, Asrul Sani was still a scriptwriter. Kejarlah Daku Kau Kutangkap (Pursue Me, I Catch You, Chairul Umam, 1985), written by Sani, won Citra Award in 1986 FFI for best scenario, box-office award (Piala Antemas) and best comedy award (Piala Bing Slamet). The film tells about man-woman relationship connected in a comical marriage life. The film made director Chaerul Umam travel around the world from one festival to others. Naga Bonar (character’s name, MT Risyaf, 1986) won Citra Award for best scenario, best picture, best story, best actor, and best supporting actress, music, and sound. It is a social comedy about an ex-pickpocket who participates in the independence war and inaugurates himself as general.
Some first-rate films from this group are Doea Tanda Mata (Mementos, Teguh Karya, 1984), Matahari-Matahari (The Suns, Arifin C Noer, 1985) and Tjoet Nyak Dien (Eros Djarot, 1986). Slamet Rahardjo Djarot made films like Kembang Kertas(Paper Flower, 1985), Kodrat (Fate, 1985), Ponirah Terpidana (Ponirah the Convicted, 1985), whereas his first film was Rembulan dan Matahari (A Time to Mend, literal meaning Moon and Sun, 1979). Chaerul Umam made films representing Jakarta such asRamadhan dan Ramona(Ramadhan and Ramona, 1992) and Oom Pasikom, Parodi Ibukota (Uncle Pasikom, Parody of the Capital City, 1989).
However, the most phenomenal film is Pengkhianatan G-30S/PKI (G30S/PKI Treason, 1982), the official version of the event. Many film scholars consider it a propaganda film; the film became compulsory to be watched by all students, and was to be annually screened on TV to commemorate the event until the Reform era came.

The film was especially commissioned by Soeharto to provide an official narrative of the controversial 1965 coup by the PKI, and highlights the suffering of the military heroes victimized by PKI as well as Soeharto’s heroism in aborting the coup and stabilizing the situation (Paramaditha 2007: 42, 42). The keyword is “stability” (Paramaditha 2007: 43), and in order to reach the state of national stability, Soeharto made the official (the one and only) version of the events by which he confirmed his purpose to preserve his power by eliminating the entire communist element in the society and also the trace of the previous Soekarno’s political charisma. Film scholar Intan Paramaditha underlines that Soekarno is represented as lying motionless in bed, emphasizing his serious illness, or looking through his window from his claustrophobic space without showing significant movement; thus Soekarno’s illness denotes impotence and the lack of capacity for actions (Paramaditha 2007: 49). Other films which depict Soeharto as historical and narrative hero are Janur Kuning (Yellow Coconut Leaf, Alam Rengga Surawidjaya, 1979) (Sen 1994: 90) and Serangan Fajar (The Dawn Attack, Arifin C Noer, 1981) (Sen 1994: 101).

From the commercial group of filmmaking, there were the comedian group Warkop DKI and dangdut singer Rhoma Irama. New film stars were born, including Meriam Bellina and Marrisa Haque. Films for teenagers became box office and had influence on lifestyle, such as Catatan Si Boy (Boy’s Journal, Nasri Cheppy, 1987) and Lupus (character’s name, Achiel Nasrun, 1987). Both films were commercially successful and the sequels were produced..

In 1983, there was a sexploitation film, Bumi Bulat Bundar (The World is Round, Pitrajaya Burnama, 1983; starred by Eva Arnaz, Yeni Farida, and Wieke Widowati). This genre increased rapidly in the late 1980s and dominated the film industry in the 1990s. The most controversial was Pembalasan Ratu Laut Selatan (Lady Terminator, literal meaning Revenge of the South Sea Queen, Tjut Jalil, 1988; starred by Yurike Prastica) which was withdrawn from cinemas due to its erotic scenes (Jufri et al (eds.) 1992: 1). The same situation happened to Akibat Terlalu Genit (the Result of Too Flirtatious, Hadi Poernono, 1988, starred by Yurike Prastica) and Ketika Musim Semi Tiba (When the Spring Comes, Bobby Sandy 1986, starred by Meriam Bellina).

The 1990s
This is the era when the New Order became politically and economically weaker. In the early years, the control of the state was still strong. The cinema industry also felt pressures from some regulations (I will discuss this phenomenon in particular section). But later, in 1997, as politics scholar Julia Suryakusuma writes: “The international financial marketplace had ravaged the rupiah, plunging Indonesia into its worst economic crisis of New Order. The rupiah lost 75% of its value, prices spiraled, and ¾ of the companies listed on the local stock exchange were technically bankrupt. The sector was in tatters, and unemployment was expected to triple this year” (Suryakusuma 2004, 4). Pro-democracy movement became stronger against New Order’s authoritarianism, human right abuses, etc., and the support for Suharto’s government began to increasingly wane[18]. Later, student movement began in early 1998 and Suharto stepped-down[19].

Economic crisis and political pressures toward film regulations affected film production. The slack in film production in early 1990s made sexploitation cinema—low budget films with easy money—grew rapidly. The 1990s era belonged to sex films and Garin Nugroho. The sexploitation genre that flourished in the last years of 1980s continued. Some of the films were Kenikmatan Tabu (Taboo Pleasure, RA, Danesh, 1994; starred by Inneke Koesherawati, Kiki Fatmala)and Gairah Malam (Night Passion, Maman Firmansjah, 1993; starred by Malfin Shayna). Others were Nafsu Liar (Wild Lust, Steady Rimba, 1996; starred by Deby Carol, Megy Megawati), Bergairah di Puncak (Passion in Puncak, Steady Rimba, 1996; starred by Windy Chindiyana), Misteri Permainan Terlarang (Mystery of The Forbbidden Game, Atok Soeharto, 1993; starred by Kiki Fatmala, Lela Anggraeni) and Ranjang Pemikat (Bed of Charmer, Pitrajaya Burnama, 1993; starred by Sally Marcelina, Windy Chindiyana). The domination of sexploitation genre remained strong from 1993 until 1997 (Kristanto 2007: xxii, 376-402).

There were only few films produced by the idealist group of filmmakers in the 1990s, such as Taksi (Taxi, Arifin C Noer, 1990), Sri (character’s name, Marselli, 1997), Telegram (Slamet Djarot, 1997), Badut-Badut Kota (City Clowns, Ucik Supra, 1993) and Cemeng 2005 (The Last Prima Donna, N. Riantiarno, 1995). Taksi and Badut-Badut Kota contained representation of the hard life in Jakarta for common people, taxi driver and clown, respectively. Cemeng tells the story of the harsh life of a traditional performing art group in modern era, set in a city in Central Java. But it is Garin Nugroho who becomes the prolific director and directed Letter to an Angel in 1993, And the Moon Dances in 1994 and Leaf on a Pillow in 1997. I will discuss Garin Nugroho below.

Concerned with this condition, the Department of Information decided to intervene. In 1994, Dewan Film Nasional, an organization under the Ministry of Information, produced Bulan Tersusuk Ilalang (Garin Nugroho) and Cemeng 2005 (N Riantiarno). This policy was made due to the slowdown in the film industry and to produce films to represent Indonesian cinema in the Asia Pacific Film Festival (Kristanto 2006: xxi).

In 1996, four young directors—Riri Riza, Rizal Mantovani, Mira Lesmana and Nan Achnas--made omnibus project as their debut. It was called Kuldesak (Cul-de-sac, 1996), and the production finished in 1998, right after the Reform Movement succeeded. They were influenced by Robert Rodriguez’ works—both his low-budget debut film El-Mariachi and his famous book Rebel without a Crew. Kuldesak is a representation of their generation. The film became a snowball; young people wanted to make independent films (Heeren 2008). Its rebellious production[20]and fresh content and techniques set Kuldesak apart from both the films produced by the earlier generation and from the everyday soap operas on television (Heeren 2008). The press labeled it the first-ever Indonesian 'independent' film and often highlighted its 'non-Indonesian' features. The film was highly successful among young audiences. In several cities ticket counter queues stretched into the street (Heeren 2008). Also important was the wide availability of new audio-visual technologies such as digital video cameras and projectors (Heeren 2008). Indeed, Kuldesak is the gate for the post-Reform generation.

Garin Nugroho
Garin Nugroho is one of the representations of the idealistic group filmmakers. He made his first feature, Cinta dalam Sepotong Roti (Love in a Slice of Bread, 1991), seven years before the Reform Movement started, and still continues to make films (his recent most celebrated film is Opera Jawa which took part in the New Crowned Hope Tribute to 250 th Mozart's anniversary in Vienna[21], 2006). David Hanan cites Nugroho as “the most important director to emerge in Indonesia, and possibly in South East Asia, in the last ten years” (Cheah, Philip (ed.) 2004: 144). Nugroho is a figure who witnessed the transition from the New Order to Reform era, and the most well-known Indonesian director internationally, but we can hardly watch his films in Indonesia because Indonesian spectators find the films too difficult to understand (Cheah 2004: 12, 144). In fact, in 1990s, film industry was dominated by sex films while Nugroho became the most prolific director from the idealistic group. His films were screened on international film festivals such as Rotterdam, Berlinale and Cannes International Film Festival.

He made Puisi Tak Terkuburkan (The Poet, 1999) and Aku Ingin Menciummu Sekali Saja (Bird-Man’s Tale, 2002); both tell us the forbidden issues—the Indonesian Communist Party in Aceh and Organisasi Papua Merdeka (Free Papua Movement) in Papua. And both showed us the political violence done by police and—especially—government: the killing without trial, the kidnapping and torturing, and other inhumane treatments. Both are poetic movies, executed with great cinematography, but the stories are very political (Imanjaya 2006: 10), and Garin used non-professional actors. In Puisi, according to film critic Tadao Sato, the leading actor Ibrahim Kadir even plays his own story as a poet who was arrested and imprisoned, and 70% of the other prisoners are also played by people directly involved in the event (Cheah (ed.) 2004: 90-91). Sato explains Nugroho’s strategies toward these amateur actors. “When their memory of this event returns, they become unstoppable. As they are amateurs, it is difficult to make short shots of them like in usual films. That’s why continual recording must be made of their activities” (Cheah, 2004: 91).

Two other films, Daun di Atas Bantal (Leaf on a Pillow, 1999) and Serambi (Veranda, omnibus project withTonny Trimarsanto, Viva Westi, Lianto Luseno, 2006) are representations of social issues faced by street children in Jogjakarta and the victims of tsunami in Aceh, respectively. Both films were shot in real locations with nonprofessional actors (in Daun, street boy characters are played by real street children, and the characters are named after the actors) (Cheah (ed.) 2004: 88). Daun was developed out of a documentary on street kids—Kancil and the other actors in the film—entitled Dongeng Kancil tentang Kemerdekaan (Tale of Kancil on Independence), which is based on real events: the accidents of street kids. Serambi was officially chosen to enter the competition for Un Certain Regards[22], Cannes International Film Festival. Daun was also screened in 1998 Cannes Film Festival on the same program[23].
Nugroho wants to represent Indonesia’s different cultures, mostly outside Jakarta and even outside Java Island, the central island of Indonesia. For example, Surat untuk Bidadari (Letter to an Angel, 1993) was shot in Sumba and Bulan Tertusuk Ilalang (…And the Moon Dances, 1995) was filmed in Jogjakarta. (Cheah (ed.) 2004: 12). Philip Cheah illuminates that Nugroho intended to prepare the new generations of filmmakers hence he would change crews periodically and push them along on their own career path (Cheah (ed.) 2004: 12). Among them are Riri Riza and Asep Kusdinar (Cheah (ed.) 2004: 12).

Nugroho is a senior director and consistently makes films on political and social issues before and after the Reform, and he definitely belongs to the idealistic group of filmmaking.
Reform Era (1998-present)

Gerakan Reformasi (The Reform Movement) created huge changes in politics and democracy. It was a people power that gave rise to an enormous change in the political situation of Indonesia: the downfall of President Soeharto’s regime (1966-1998) in May 1998[24]. Following the deposing of Soeharto and the falling of his dictatorship known as the New Order Regime in 1998, the democracy movement in Indonesia has been experiencing a wind of change (Budiman 1999: 56). Back in Soeharto’s regime (1966-1998), nobody dared to voice their differences, or criticize the government, without having a fear of being silenced or disappeared without a cause. Nowadays, Indonesian people have more freedom to openly express their opinion although it may be different from or even against that of the government (Imanjaya 2006: 10). So, how did the wind of change affect Indonesian Cinema after the downfall of the New Order regime? .

Kuldesakdistributed in 1998 right after the event, is the most influential film from young filmmakers. I will elaborate Kuldesak, along with the I-Sinema movement, in a particular sub-section below.

The first films from the idealistic group of filmmaking made in this era are Petualangan Sherina (Sherina’s Adventure, Riri Riza, 1999) and Puisi Tak Terkuburkan (The Poet, Garin Nugroho, 1999). Sherina is a children musical that gained commercial and critical success and, again, unite both groups of filmmaking. Sherina is one of the first films which released merchandise and original soundtrack album. Since then, there are so many films with various merchandises such as script book, comic book, shirt, mug, hat, adaptation novel, behind the scenes, director’s journal, etc. Puisi was made in digital betacam and transferred to 35mm in Cineric Inc., New York (Kristanto 2007: 403-404). However, besides Kuldesak as the main factor, the passion to make films among young filmmakers was triggered by the successful screening of a horror movie Jelangkung (The Uninvited/ Ouja Board Ghosts, Jose Purnomo and Rizal Mantovani) and a high-school love story Ada Apa dengan Cinta? (What’s Up with Love?, Rudi Soedjarwo) in 2001. Except for Puisi, the films mentioned above were made by young filmmakers with the ambition to combine the commercial and idealistic groups of filmmaking. All the films were commercially successful without abandoning their idealism.

The commercial group of filmmakers then follows the formula of the two films and dominates the film industry with horror and teenage love stories. Among the box office films is Eiffel I’m in Love (Nasry Cheppy, 2003) (Kristanto 2007: xxv). On the other hand, the idealistic group of filmmaking rarely make films to carry Usmar Ismail’s legacy because they are still trying to find the right formula to combine the commercial and idealistic groups of filmmaking and, as director Riri Riza illuminates, most of them prefer exploring the technological aspects and filmmaking skills to the stories (quoted in Indonesian Cinema (Italy: Maurizio Borriello, 2007)). Still, there are some filmmakers who try to make films idealistically, including the two important movements that I will elaborate later: Kuldesak and I-Sinema.

There are some films related to realism and representation of social issues and/or Jakarta. Nia Dinata’s Berbagi Suami (Love for Share, 2006) is a film about polygamous life of three women in Jakarta who come from different religions, social classes and races, while Arisan! (The Gathering, 2003) represents the lifestyle of modern upper-class wives and the gay phenomenon. Riri Riza’s Untuk Rena (Dear Rena, 2005) tells of the life in an orphanage in Puncak (an area near Jakarta). Nan Achnas directed Bendera (The Flag, 2002), a story about some kids who pursue a flag through the slum alleys in kampungs. Hanung Bramantyo’s Catatan Akhir Sekolah (The School’s Last Notes, 2004) tells a story of three looser students while Get Married (2007) focuses on a girl from a slum kampung trying to search for her soul-mate. Rudi Soedjarwo’s Mendadak Dangdut (Suddenly Dangdut, 2006) depicts the daily activities in a slum kampung to which the two main characters run away as fugitives and become a dangdut singer and the manager. Nanang Istiabudi’s Detik Terakhir (The Last Second, 2005) follows the characters dealing with lesbian life and narcotics. Viva Indonesia is an omnibus project (Ravi L. Bharwani,Aryo Danusiri,Asep Kusdinar,Lianto Lusenoand Nana Mulyana, 2001) and tells the story of four children from different regions sending letters to God.

Some of the prominent young directors are Mira Lesmana, Riri Riza, Nia Dinata, Nan Achnas, Aria Kusumadewa, Rudi Soedjarwo, Hanny Saputra, Hanung Bramantyo, Joko Anwar and Ravi Bharwani. The role of female filmmakers, especially producers, also becomes stronger, such as Mira Lesmana, Shanty Harmayn and Nia Dinata[25]. This situation could happen because while the New Order government applied Bapakisme (Fatherism)[26] with its patriarchal system and while under the New Order Regime film industry belonged to men, in post-Soeharto era women play important roles in many fields, including in cinema.

On the other hand, there are several senior filmmakers who have been involved in the film industry since the New Order era and still make films in post-Reform time, such as Nugroho, actor-director Slamet Rahardjo Djarot and actor-director Deddy Mizwar. Slamet Djarot’s Marsinah (2000) reconstructs the killing of Marsinah from Mutiari’s point of view—Mutiari was Marsinah’s supervisor who was captured and be accused of being behind the murder—with depiction of violence done by the police, including their real names and ranks. Deddy Mizwar’s Ketika (When, 2004) focuses on an ideal time in an imaginary country where corruption no longer exists, while Naga Bonar Jadi Dua (2007) continues the story of an Independence War veteran dealing with modernity and its different values. One of Nugroho’s films is Daun di Atas Bantal (Leaf on a Pillow, 1997) which was screened right after the downfall of Soeharto in 1998.
One of the important events in this era was the initiating of the annual Jakarta International Film Festival in 1999, beside the use of the Internet and fighting cheap pirated DVDs. This festival opens young filmmakers’ mind and enriches film references so that they become well-informed generation with wider information access.

Was the so-called “New Indonesian Cinema” born as a response to the Reform Movement? Indeed, there are some young filmmakers from the idealistic group who still produce films as media of expression, or make films to present social issues of Indonesian people in the New Order Regime. Some film scholars and film critics called them “the New Indonesian Cinema”. For example, Australian Consortium for In-Country Indonesian Studies (ACICIS) researcher Joanne Sharpe and Phd student Katinka van Heeren with her articles and on-progress dissertation in Leiden University[27]. I believe film scholars need to undertake further research on this topic, regarding the definition, characteristic, aesthetic values, purposes, etc., for there is no sufficient research have been done yet this interesting theme. But, indeed, there are two important terms in this generation of the early years of post-Reform era: Kuldesak(Cul-de-sac,Riri Riza, Nan T Achnas, Rizal Mantovani and Mira Lesmana, 1996) and I-Sinema. I will elaborate Kuldesak, I-Sinema, and the role and works of Riri Riza below.

There is one important thing about contemporary Indonesian film history as related to this generation. Masyarakat Film Indonesia (Indonesian Film Society), a group of young filmmakers, wanted to reform the film policies. It all began when Ekskul (Extra Curricular, Nayato Fio Nuala, 2006) won the best picture and best director awards in 2006 Indonesian Film festival. The film was reportedly illegally incorporated music from foreign films such as Gladiator, The Chronicles of Narnia, Taegukgi and Munich. And around thirty young filmmakers returned their Citra awards, the country's highest film prizes, to the Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik in a protest over the handling of 2006 Indonesian Film Festival. Among them were prominent directors (Riri Riza, Hanung Bramantyo, Nia Dinata), producers (Mira Lesmana and Shanty Harmayn), as well as cast and crew members such as actresses Marcella Zalianty and Rachel Maryam and actor Nicholas Saputra[28]. This incident turned into a political movement by the young filmmakers with an aim to reform film regulations, especially to change the method of censorship from cutting off the celluloid to classification system.

Nan Achnas writes that the incident is merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the many problems facing the country's burgeoning film industry. “Outdated regulations, censorship, financial constraints on filmmakers, a shaky film infrastructure and a lack of support for film education are some of the persistent challenges”[29].

Mira Lesmana says that “Initially, it started as a shared concern among filmmakers over the 1992 Film Law. “There are many things regulated by that legislation, which, we think, are no longer relevant with our present situation in the (film) industry. One of them is about censorship”[30].

Before establishing the Indonesian Film Society, Lesmana and other filmmakers formed the Indonesian Film Producer Network (IFPN) in 2001 and later the Indonesian Cinema Commission in 2003. Both organizations stopped halfway but Lesmana, in the interview, did not explain the reasons.

But, why do they choose political instead of aesthetic movement? Why don’t they try to express their hope and critical ideas through films? Although the Reform has opened many opportunities to make films in accordance with their idealism, only few political films were produced. While Garin Nugroho often makes clear political and cultural statements in his films, this younger generation mostly shows the opposite indication. There are no films made by this generation with political or critical thought against government’s policy or as statements concerning important events or notorious phenomena such as corruption, traffic jam, rising fuel prices, or natural disasters, to name a few. Why does the young generation choose political movement instead of aesthetic movement? I will elaborate some aspects.
I observe that the young generation of post-Reform era is still dealing with the attempt to merge both groups of filmmaking. For example, Riza’s interview shows that he still cares for the spectators. Or Mira Lesmana’s statement I mentioned at the beginning of this article: “for me, there is no such thing as art films and popular films. There are only good films and bad films”.
I have other possibilities in mind. First, the directors, producers, and scriptwriters of this generation are becoming apolitical and have no intention to participate in politics. And they were (and are) busy earning money for themselves to support their lives and families. The New Order Regime, for more than 30 years, had succeeded in spreading a brain-washing program with its Penataran P4 (a teaching of the national ideology, the Five Pillars/Pancasila) and other projects. And this New Order ideology made people either chose government political party, or being skeptical about politics and avoided it. As a result, the majority of the people became a floating mass instead of having one straight political statement or world-view. The Developmentalism-Economyapproach also made the society busy fulfilling their own basic needs without thinking about other interests. And this phenomenon has affected the filmmaking world.

Second, for many of them, such kinds of films are not so important to make because economically speaking, the films are watched by limited spectators, or even no movie-goers at all. Thus, they can not earn profit from the films.

Salim Said adds other reasons. He writes that the freedom of expression that people got from the Reform Movement in 1998 was not automatically earning films of politics[31]. This situation happened to ex-communist countries that were freed because of the dismantling of Berlin Wall. Salim says that maybe there are no urgency and importance of the recent political issues to expressin films. Second, the very limited fund—they were used to be helped by the government. In Indonesian case, there was nearly no tradition or art of protest in literature history. This tradition was tried by Sutan Takdir Alisyahbana with “Literature with Tendencies”, and also by Lekra (Lembaga Kesenian Rakyat, People Art Organization as the underbow of Indonesian Communist Party in 1950s and 1960s). But according to Said, both did not succeed.
But, indeed, there are two keywords regarding the aesthetic movement by this post-Reform generation. They are Kuldesak and I-Sinema. Riri Riza is one of the prominent figures in both.
Kuldesak, I-Sinema and Riri Riza

As I mentioned earlier, Kuldesak is one of the important films in the early years of post-Soeharto era. Researcher Joanna Sharpe writes that Kuldesak is widely hailed as the first in the recent wave of independent productions, which are self-funded and filmed on the sly ‘guerilla style’ without the necessary state permits (Sharpe 2008). Indonesianist Katinka van Heeren mentions the film as the first independent films movement, dealt with the problems of middle class Jakarta youth—drugs, homosexuality and the feeling of absolute desolation—and “… It appeared to be too revolutionary even for reformasi” because there is a kissing scene between boys that soon got censored (Heeren 2008). Since Kuldesak, many young people wanted to make film in his/her own way. It seemed that everybody can make films.

There are four stories interweaved in the film, and all portray the youngsters’ life in Jakarta in 1990s. They all try to realize their dreams and strive for their share of happiness. The conditions in their lives sometimes force them to make radical choices. Aksan has a great dream: he wants to make a film so badly and plan to steal money to support the film. Andre is a young unhappy musician and just found out that his idol, Kurt Cobain, has committed suicide. Dina, a cinema ticket girl, can no longer distinguish delusion from reality, and for her life is a dream full of television images of a popular video-jockey. Lina works for an advertising agency and is pressed by her boss to work overtime, and raped in the office[32].

As I highlighted, in the New Order regime, the regulations on filmmaking were very difficult and hard, for example the censorship and the bureaucracy. And Kuldesak broke all these rules (Sumarno and Achnas 2002: 164). All of the directors of Kuldesak were not registered members and the shooting also took place without a permit from the Ministry of Information. Consequently, they worked quietly. They also faced financial problems, hence all cast and crew worked for free and equipment was sponsored and loaned. The breaking-the-law attitude and financial problems made them work in a guerilla way.

The other important terminology is I-Sinema, an aesthetic movement founded after May 1998 (Sumarno and Achnas 2002: 164). This movement has as it base a manifesto signed by thirteen young filmmakers: Riri Riza, Nan Achnas, Richard Buntario, Sentot Sahid, Mira Lesmana, Srikaton M, Enison Sinaro, Ipang Wahid, Teddy Soeriaatmadja, Dimas Djayadiningrat, Rizal Mantovani, Jay Subyakto and Yato Fionuala. They made a manifesto: “we trust and support each other. Synergies of creativity, spirit of explorations, aesthetical achievements, variety of themes and stories, all to give new colors to films. More importantly: to give different choices, insights, and experiences to spectators”.[33] They made exploration on film medium, including camera technology, shooting techniques, or directing treatment. For example, Eliana explores the story with few characters and short timespan story[34].

Sharpe writes that the meaning of ‘I’ in ‘I-sinema’ is ambiguous—it stands for the word ‘Indonesian’ as much as it does for ‘Independent’, as well as other terms like ‘eye’ or even the English ‘I’. I-sinema films are made in the spirit of independence and even individualism, but they are also national in character. Riza is adamant that his films should not alienate people.Sharpe made interview with Riza on I-sinema. Riza emphasizes that this movement has as its primary concern the Indonesian audience who has been starving for Indonesian film, and this is the first thing these filmmakers seek to redress (Sharpe 2008). Riza says “It seems that alternative film movements in other countries just don’t care much about their audience. For us, the audience is still very important”.

The first line of the manifesto states that ‘Stagnation in the Indonesian film industry means that we must find new ways of making feature films,’ (Sharpe 2008). The members of ‘I-sinema’ emphasize the importance of film as a form of freedom of expression and pledge to create films of artistic and personal credibility, but they remain aware of the practicalities of production (Sharpe 2008), thus continuing the struggle of the idealistic group of filmmaking. The thirteen members of the movement do not make demarcation between art-films and commercial films. “The next film I make might be commercial, it might be more art house, and it might even be a documentary. I’m not a jukebox. I’ll make whatever films I want” says Riri Riza (Sharpe 2008). These filmmakers have different background (from video music maker to commercial maker), but they share the same dreams about the awakening of Indonesian films.

There is no further information about I-Sinema following the production of four films: Sebuah Pertanyaan untuk Cinta (A Question for Love, Indonesia: Enison Sinaro: 2000), Eliana Eliana (Riri Riza, 2002), Bendera (The Flag, Indonesia: Nan Achnas: 2002) and Titik Hitam (Black Dot, Indonesia: Sentot Sahid, 2002).

Riri Riza is one of the main figures in Kuldesak and I-Sinema movement. Riza, with Mira Lesmana as his producer, made some films and try to depict social and political issues of Indonesian people under Miles Films. One of the films is Gie (2005), a biopic of Soe Hok Gie, a legendary student activist in the 1960s who led a movement against President Soekarno in 1966 which ended up in the stepping down of Soekarno. Gie won Dragons & Tigers Award nominee at Vancouver International Film Festival 2005 and three Citra awards at 2006 Indonesian Film Festival and was screened on several international festivals.

Tiga Hari untuk Selamanya (Three Days to Forever, 2007) is a road movie and talks about young generation’s thought on sex, morality and lifestyle. Untuk Rena (Dear Rena, 2005) deals with social issues, focusing on the life in an orphanage in the holy month of Ramadan and has link to tsunami disaster. His debut, a children musical entitled Petualangan Sherina (Sherina’s Adventure, 2002) became one of the box office films, reaching 1.6 million audiences—after 25 years of bad response by the audience to local films. The success of the film brought optimism regarding the growth of the local film industry yet at the same time some were skeptical that it was only a one-time success[35]. And his best work is Eliana, Eliana. In 2008 he made a beautiful movie adapted from a novel called Laskar Pelangi (Rainbow Troops). I believe this film is also one of few films that unite the dualistic paradigm that haunted cinema history for a long time. Perhaps, this is the application of Miles Films’ motto: “there are no such differentiation like art films and commercial films. There are only bad and good films”.

Is it possible for us, the spectators, to witness this so-called “honeymoon of two enemies” in more films? Some movies I illuminate above, such as Lewat Djam Malam, Njak Abbas Akub’s, Petualangan Sherina, Laskar Pelangi (and also: Naga Bonar, Kejarlah Daku Kau Ku Tangkap, etc) have already proved it!