Selasa, Jun 30, 2009

The Global Spotlight Is On...Laskar Pelangi

Indonesian Cinema Slipping into the Global Spotlight
Berlin. Sometimes it seems that nations emerge from nowhere on the global filmmaking stage. So is the case with Indonesia as a new wave of movie directors emerges across Southeast Asia.

Once overshadowed by the giants of the Asian movie game ­— China, South Korea, India and Japan — Indonesia has gone over the last few years from being a barely recognizable dot on the world cinema map to gaining the increasing attention of the international film business.

“We have building the industry ourselves,” said Mira Lesmana, the producer of “Laskar Pelangi,” or the Rainbow Troops, which on Friday became the first Indonesian film to be shown in the Berlin Film Festival’s main sections in about five years.

For most the 1990s, the Indonesian film business “was in a coma” Lesmana said, as the industry struggled against the tough rules and censorship of the authoritarian Suharto regime.

But all of that changed in 1998 with the ousting of Suharto and the arrival of a new government.

A decade ago the Indonesian movie business managed to produce just two films per year. Last year, 85 movies were made, funded entirely from private sources.

“It’s growing slowly,” Lesmana said.

Still, there are only about 250 cinema screens in a country of 250 million people, which means moviegoing is really only for those living in Indonesia's cities and major towns.

In the last two years, Indonesian-made films have outstripped foreign movies in popularity with Indonesian movie audiences.

But then, Asia suddenly seems to be quite a happening place for film, with the digital revolution helping to lower production costs and powering filmmaking in the Philippines and Thailand.

More to the point, the new generation of directors appear to have grown more self-assured and have something to say about their region’s cultural diversity and its recent changes.

However, the real achievement of Southeast Asia’s new band of directors is that they are making their films against some fairly tough odds.

With scant official financial support, their movies are made on shoestring budgets. A director for one film might be the producer for another movie, while a script writer might double as a sound engineer.

“We have a long history of cinema,” said John Badalu of Indonesia Cinema, which represents a group of Indonesian film companies which set up shop in the Berlinale’s business side, the European Film Market, for the first time to promote their nation’s films.

“The changes in digital technology over the last five or ten years means that a lot more people can now afford to make films,” Badalu said.

This has also led to Indonesia joining the global rush to promote itself as a location for international film productions with plans for a studio set near Jakarta, the hub of the country’s new movie business.

To be sure, the Indonesian movie business appears to be enjoying something of a boom, with the country’s filmmakers for the first time arranging co-production deals around the world.

“Everyone is trying to make a film at the moment,” Badalu said.

But despite the changes that have taken place in Indonesia over the last decade, the government still has a big say in what movies are screened in the country, with its censorship board appearing to take a dim view of subjects like nudity and jokes about the Suharto dictatorship.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Source: The Jakarta Globe

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