Jakarta. A senior Tourism Ministry official has been fired and an international delegation recalled after the ministry came under a maelstrom of criticism for sending a party of unknown delegates to the Berlin International Film Festival after snubbing requests for financial assistance by accomplished filmmakers and actors.
The scandal first came to light after acclaimed Indonesian film director Joko Anwar made a case against the ministry’s delegation of dubious distinction in a series of tweets last week.
He posted a copy of a document signed by the ministry’s secretary general, Ukus Kuswara, last month that lists 10 names as representatives of Indonesia’s film industry to the festival, known as the Berlinale, which runs from Feb. 4-15.
“Who are actresses Sarah Astriani and Waliani Achmad May? And who is this ‘film observer’ Tini Afianti? Never heard of those names!” Joko tweeted last week.
The ministry, Joko said, rejected proposals from young Indonesian filmmakers and actors whose movies have been selected for screening at the Berlinale or who had won a place at the Berlinale Talent Campus — a “winter film school” for up-and-coming filmmakers.
“These achieving people are Wregras Bhanuteja, Loeloe Hendra, Tara Basro, Arifin Putra and Rashidy Ariefiensyah,” Joko said. “They surely have more urgency to head [to the Berlinale] rather than those names in [the ministry’s list]. But a proposal to help finance their ticket purchases was not approved.”
Joko said this is not the first time such an incident has happened. He posted a copy of another document listing the names of 16 people whom the ministry funded to participate in last year’s Cannes Film Festival in France. It, too, was studded with unfamiliar names supposedly representing Indonesia’s movie industry.
The document, signed by the ministry’s director for film industry development, Armein Firmansyah, authorized Rp 2 billion ($160,000) in funding for the 16-member delegation’s four-day stay in France.
“Every year, officials have kept making use of film festivals overseas — and probably other events as well — for foreign trips where they only bring a few people or no one related to the movie industry at all,” Joko said.
Armein, whose name appears as the head of both the Berlinale and Cannes delegations, was sacked from his job last week in the wake of the controversy.
“Effective from today, Armein has been discharged from his position,” Armein’s supervisor, the director general for art- and culture-based creative economy, Ahman Sya, said on Friday.
“There were flaws in the procedures [of appointment of the Berlinale delegation], and there has been noncompliance with the law,” he cited the reason for the move.
Ahman added that the ministry’s delegation’s participation in Berlinale had been canceled altogether in the wake of the irregularities finding.
He further said funding for operating costs outside regular programming was currently frozen for the film directorate, pending its ongoing transfer from the supervision of the Ministry of Tourism to the Ministry of Education and Culture.
Dozens of Indonesian filmmakers and actors staged a rally in front of the Tourism Ministry’s offices in Central Jakarta on Saturday, decrying the government’s failure to include them in decision-making processes regarding the domestic film industry.
Producer and director Nia Dinata cited personal experience with alleged ignorance and irregularities by Indonesian officials during an international film festival in Hong Kong.
“I won a place to open a booth in the [Hong Kong] festival. My booth was only several meters away from a booth of Indonesian film [officials],” Nia said. “But nobody was guarding that booth; they all went to Hong Kong Disneyland.”
Senior actor and director Lukman Sardi said President Joko Widodo should be extending his campaign call for “mental revolution” in the Indonesian movie industry, especially the government officials.
“You must clear out the officials. Don’t preserve old players. We want all of them; starting from the secretary general to the director general, to resign,” Lukman said.