'Frieda,' a 1950 film by a Japanese-Korean director who became an Indonesian citizen, Dr. Huyung. It was screened at Arkipel last year. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Experimental Film Festival Arkipel Starts Thinking Local


AUGUST 15, 2018

Jakarta. Arkipel, a festival of experimental documentary and fiction films from around the globe, is currently taking place until Aug. 16 in three venues in Jakarta: Goethe-Institut, Kineforum and Galeri Cipta III in Taman Ismail Marzuki.

This is the sixth time Arkipel has been held in Jakarta by Forum Lenteng, an art collective that celebrates its 15th anniversary this year.

The festival's official theme this year is "homoludens" – taken from the title of Dutch historian and cultural theorist John Huizinga’s famous book on the importance of "play" in culture and society.

According to the festival's organizers, experimental filmmaking reflects the very human desire to play around with visual languages. The digital age has placed a camera in everyone’s hands, allowing us to experiment with moving pictures and produce new forms of craftsmanship.

Festival director Yuki Aditya said last week at a press conference that Arkipel's programs his year are more diverse.

He also pointed out that Arkipel is one of the few remaining experimental film festivals in Southeast Asia.

A total of 21 feature films from 14 countries are in competition this year – selected from 1,400 submissions from 80 countries.

The festival's juries are Iranian curator and educator Azar Mahmoudian, Indonesian anthropologist and musician Dave Lumenta, leftist publishing house Marjin Kiri director Ronny Agustinus and Arkipel's artistic director Hafiz Rancajale.

The festival opened last Thursday (09/08) with four films, "Songs of Fortune" by Veronika Burger from Austria, "La Buona Novella" ("Good Tidings") by Sebastiano Luca Insinga from Italy, "The Night Between Ali and I" by Nadia Hotait and Laila Hotait from Spain and "Sub Terrae" by Naura Sanz Fuentes, also from Spain.

On Wednesday, Aug. 15, renowned Filipino experimental filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik gave a free public lecture at the Jakarta Institute of the Arts (IKJ). Tahimik is best known for his 1977 film, "Perfumed Nightmare."

His latest film "Balikbayan #1 Memories of Overdevelopment Redux VI," will be screened on Thursday, Aug. 16.

Hafiz said the 75-year-old Tahimik is known for "using local framework to attack modernity" by highlighting traditional communities. He said this should also be an important reminder for local filmmakers.

"Going international for our filmmakers means participating in [film festivals in] Rotterdam, Venice and what have you. We believe that going international is here because we are the country with the most diversity. Having Tahimik here is us making a statement, that in order to go global, we don’t have to go far. We only have to be here," Hafiz said.

The festival's awarding night will take place at GoetheHaus in Menteng, Central Jakarta, on Thursday at 7 p.m. It will feature "Performing Out of Limbo," a performance by Oromo refugees from Ethiopia, local musicians and students and academics from the University of Indonesia’s Anthropology Department.

The festival also offers a response to the Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang later this month with an art exhibition called "Passion of the Perfect Body" at Galeri Cipta III that closes on Aug. 15.

Curated by Mahardika Yudha from Indonesia, the exhibition reinterpreted and reproduced photos and videos from the Games of the New Emerging Forces (Ganefo) in 1963, a year after Asian Games IV in Jakarta.

Mahardika said he wanted to reinterpret the idea of "the perfect body" using photos and videos of the Ganefo athletes before, during and after they competed.

Archiving is King

One unique thing about Arkipel is that it doesn't just show films, but also archive them. Hafiz said every festival should have archiving as one of its main objectives.

"We keep copies of the films in competition and the rest of the submissions. We asked the filmmakers for permission to archive their films before they sent them to us," Hafiz said.

He said Arkipel used to keep a digital film database that the public can access for free, but not in the last two years due to lack of funding.

Hafiz expects to make the database available again for public next year. At the moment, people who want to watch films from past Arkipel festivals can visit Forum Lenteng.

Hafiz said archiving can be used to map out trends in Indonesian films. Arkipel has one special program called "Candrawala" that screens exclusively Indonesian films.

According to Hafiz, trends cannot be read in an instant, but only after a few years.

"We can’t read a cinematic phenomenon in an instant. After five years, maybe we can start to map out the visual languages used in Indonesian cinema. But I'd be the first to admit that Candrawala, or Arkipel, will never represent the entirety of Indonesian cinema. As a festival Arkipel isn’t that big, but it can be an important medium to capture those trends," Hafiz said.

Hafiz said archiving is crucial because no country wants to lose its film history. He mentioned the unfortunate fact that many important short films shown in the pioneering Festival Film Pendek Konfiden from 1999 to 2002 are now nowhere to be found.

"Perhaps we should even have a separate organization just for archiving," Hafiz said.