Recent Film Industry Trends – Indonesia

The Indonesian film industry has seen some dark days, with annual film releases reaching a low of only about 12 movies in 2003. However, since then, the number of productions have increased, from 31 titles in 2004 to 50 and 60 titles in 2005 and 2006 respectively. It has then maintained at around that level in 2007. This industry cycle has been sustained mainly by romantic teen movies, starting from the fire that was started by the movie ADA APA DENGAN CINTA (2002) which broke box office records with a total admission exceeding 2.5 million tickets followed by EIFFEL I’M IN LOVE (2003) with a total admission exceeding 3 million tickets. Since then, teenage romance movies ruled the box office, with more than one third of all movies released in the cinemas belonging to this genre.

However, the year 2007 is a landmark year for the recent Indonesian industry. There are three main events that demarcates this year from the previous years. These are:

1. About 30 Citra Awards (Piala Citra) was returned as a protest for the Best Film award that went to the movie EKSKUL, directed by Nayato Fio Nuala. The Citra Awards is the top movie event of the year and the reason for this protest is that EKSKUL has violated music copyrights by ripping off music from movies such as GLADIATOR, MUNICH and TAEGUKGI. This is a tip of the iceberg situation where the government’s inability to control piracy and regulate the film industry is the key target point. These filmmakers that protested later formed the Masyarakat Film Indonesia (Indonesia Film Society) and its purpose is to demand that the government return the regulatory issues back to the film community, from censorship laws (moving towards the classification system) to the revoking of laws regulating the film industry, UU Film. The MFI is led by a team of progressive filmmakers, being Mira Lesmana, Riri Riza, Nia diNata, et. al. As such, the formation of the MFI is a key milestone in Indonesian filmmaking where the community has spoken and taken on their own hands the key decisions and regulations involving their industry. To date, this is still a battle.

2. The year 2007 saw the end of the dominance of the cinema chain controlled by the Group 21. For many years, the country’s exhibition industry has been dominated by the Group 21 and they have the ultimate say in the film’s theatrical distribution economics. As you will realise, this monopoly is not good for the industry and is also a reason why many key statistics and information such as box office numbers for movies are so hard to get, even by the major distributors themselves. This end of domination is foretold by the establishment of the Blitz cineplexes in Bandung and Jakarta (two locations in Jakarta now). Although this cinema chain is still relatively small, Group 21 has taken quite an offense by it and started taking its own counter measures such as the reduction in ticket prices as well as upgrading cinemas or building new cinemas that is posh and comfortable. Cinema going has definitely changed from mere entertainment to a lifestyle and the Blitz cineplexes saw this and capitalised on this change in lifestyle. They promised more of these cinemas in the future, cinemas that not only is part of the lifestyle of the young (teenagers and first-jobbers) but also cinemas that brings in intelligent and interesting foreign movies for more variety. This is definitely a very interesting development in Indonesia.

3. Teenage romantic movies have dominated Indonesian cinemas for many years now but from 2007, we see an end to this and is replaced by the horror genre. If more than one third of movies produced before 2007 are teenage romance flicks, now more than one third of the movies are horror movies. Horror flicks such as POCONG, KUNTILANAK, have all scored big at the box office and this horror trend do not seem to be seeing a sunset anytime soon although the recent release of AYAT AYAT CINTA, a movie with religious themes, again broke box office records, selling almost 3 million tickets in three weeks.

Besides the above, it is worth mentioning that Indonesia has seen some really good quality movies in recently, such as Garin Nugroho’s OPERA JAWA, Nia diNata’s BERBAGI SUAMI, Riri Riza’s TIGA HARI UNTUK SELAMANYA, Joko Anwar’s KALA, CHANTS OF LOTUS (directed by an ensemble of female directors – Nia diNata, Upi Avianto, Fatimah Rony and Lasja Susatyo) and Dimas Djayadiningrat’s QUICKIE EXPRESS which is written by Joko Anwar.

In 2008, one can expect another wave of interesting movies and these are BABI BUTA YANG INGIN TERBANG by debutant but acclaimed shorts director Edwin. The movie is about the story between two Indonesian Chinese friends who had to deal with the racial tensions in urban Indonesia. Rudy Soedjarwo’s IN THE NAME OF LOVE is also a movie to look out for. Do remember that he is the one that gave us ADA APA DENGAN CINTA. Also on the plate is Riri Riza’s and Mira Lesmana’s LASKAR PELANGI, an adaptation of the hugely popular novel by the same name.

In short, the current Indonesian film industry is uptrend and is vibrant. Expect some really good stuffs coming out of Indonesia.

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