Category : News, Life & Style, Arts & Culture, Featured
Jakarta. For the first time in the country's history, a president was present at the Indonesian Film Festival, better known as FFI.
President Joko Widodo showed his support of the Indonesian film industry — and the nation's creative economy — by attending the annual ceremony on Saturday, which this year was held in Palembang.
Both veterans and newcomers of the field — from screen legend Christine Hakim and seasoned director Riri Riza, to up-and-coming filmmaker Adriyanto Dewo and rising star Chicco Jerikho — took advantage of the rare opportunity to divert the president's attentions to the complex bureaucracy involved in creating movies, asking him to smoothen the process so that industry players could focus on producing quality films.
"We would like to thank President Joko for being here [Saturday] tonight. His presence shows tremendous support for the Indonesian movie industry," said Riri, who won an award for best adapted screenplay for "Sokola Rimba," a film about education activist Butet Manurung's efforts to establish schools in some of the country's remotest areas.
Meanwhile, Adriyanto, who won best director for his movie exploring Indonesia's multiculturalism, "Tabula Rasa," used his acceptance speech to raise the issue of expanding the country's creative infrastructure, such as cinemas and theaters.
The president also took to the stage that evening and assured the crowd of filmmakers, actors and writers that his government would fully support the national move industry.
He then turned to Tourism Minister Arief Yahya, who was also in attendance, reminding him to implement policies that would bolster the creative sector.
"If [the government's] support is still lacking, approach me directly. I assure you that we will take the matter seriously," Joko said, adding that his administration planned to establish an institution called the "Creative Economy Council" that would aim to boost the creative industry.
"Within this month we will establish the Creative Economy Council which will be directly under the president," he said.
"We hope that Indonesian films will be loved by their own people as well as those living overseas. We hope this festival will become the starting point for the Indonesian movie industry boom."
While Saturday's ceremony marked the return of some of Indonesia's most prolific film talents to the festival —including Riri and producer Mira Lesmana — after a long boycott, fans and critics agree that the national movie industry can't seem to climb out of its slump, which has gone from bad to worse in recent years due to the deteriorating quality of its films.
The handful of movies seen as having passable or even superior production values have failed to attract movie goers, while low-quality work — such as horror movies — draw hundreds of thousands, even millions, to cinemas.
The former are made available to viewers for only a few days, while the latter — requiring only a month to shoot — are screened for weeks at a time.
With low attendance for Indonesian films, movie theaters like Cinema XXI, the nation's biggest cinema chain, has cut back on showing local movies.
One XXI cineplex in Jakarta, for instance, had seven screens showing foreign films and just one showing a local movie.
As movies from Hollywood, Bollywood and East Asia continue to dominate local theaters, competition among domestic filmmakers has grown fierce, prompting actress Christine Hakim to demand affirmative action from the government.
Producer and playwright Faiza Mardzoeki believes the core of the country's movie problems lies in the screenwriting.
"One of the many problems in our movie industry is that it is very difficult to find a [good] screenwriter in the country," she told the Jakarta Globe.
"We hope that in the future, this will be improved as well, so that Indonesian movies can fill more screens than foreign movies," she added.
After nearly 26 years of dominating the nation's lucrative film sector with 667 screens in 135 locations throughout the country, Cinema XXI now faces competition in the form of Blitzmegaplex, which was established in 2006, and from the Lippo Group's Cinemaxx chain, which began operating in December 2013.
Cinemaxx chief executive Brian Riady has reaffirmed his company's ambition to invest up to Rp 6 trillion ($491 million) to open up to 300 cineplexes with a combined 2,000 screens in 85 cities across the country within the next 10 years.
The company's primary objective is "to become Indonesia's largest and most preferred cinema chain," he said.
So far, Cinemaxx has opened its doors in three locations: two in the South Jakarta malls Plaza Semanggi and FX Sudirman; and one in Palembang's Icon Mall in South Sumatra.
"We believe that Cinemaxx and bringing cinema across Indonesia is not just a business. Beyond being a business, Cinemaxx has a fundamental value with what we are doing," Brian told the Globe.
He added that many of Indonesia's growing gateway cities still did not have access to quality theaters to view either foreign or local movies.
"We believe that it is very important that Indonesia continues to watch quality films. We believe that we are not only entertaining people, but we are also educating and enchanting a new generation of Indonesians," Brian said.
He also vowed to fully support the national film industry.
"We are committing to support the local creative industry as we continue to develop [our] business," he said.
The cinema chain previously vowed to play locally made movies on its screens for at least a week, regardless of the number of tickets sold.
Christine and Faiza thanked Cinemaxx for its efforts to bolster the reputation of national films and encouraged more companies to invest in the industry.
"The addition of new cinema chains throughout Indonesia is definitely a good idea," Faiza said.
"However, it should be in line with the improvement of [movie] production within the country. You cannot provide facilities without considering other important aspects related to them.
"Both the government and prominent members of the creative industry should work together to create programs that aim to improve the quality of Indonesian films, so that movie goers choose to watch local films — not just foreign ones," she added.
As the creative economy continues to grow, now is the time for Indonesia to focus on ways to encourage consumers to invest in local products, especially films, according to Faiza.
"In recent years, only a handful of Indonesian movies have truly grabbed the attention and hearts of local movie lovers," she said.
"We need to direct our efforts to improving the quality of our acting, screenwriting, directing, equipment, movie theaters — every aspect of the industry."
In addition to Adriyanto and Riri, Saturday's ceremony saw Chicco nab the best lead actor prize for his role in "Cahaya Dari Timur" ("Light From the East"), which also won best movie.
Dewi Irawan claimed the best lead actress prize for her turn as a Padang restaurant owner in "Tabula Rasa," while Tika Bravani ("Soekarno") and Yayu Unru ("Tabula Rasa") took home the best supporting actor and actress awards respectively.
Best original screenplay went to Tumpal Tampubolom for "Tabula Rasa."
The Jakarta Globe is affiliated with the Lippo Group. This newspaper is also affiliated with BeritaSatu, the media partner for the awards show, and also carried recent advertising for the event.