Jakarta. After 13 years, Yogyakarta’s Jogja-Netpac Asian Film Festival has become one of the most awaited event for Indonesian filmmakers and film fans.
As JAFF director Ifa Isfansyah said at a press conference in Jakarta on Tuesday (13/11), the festival had been attracting on average 12,000 visitors in the past three years, 60 percent of whom hailed from outside the Central Javanese court city.
JAFF this year will be held on Nov. 27-Dec. 4 and, apart from the usual screenings and competitions, will introduce a new program called "JAFF Education."
The program will feature a series of classes in film production.
Comedian-cum-filmmaker Ernest Prakasa, who had just wrapped up production on his AADC spinoff "Milly & Mamet,” will teach a class on scriptwriting, while actor Reza Rahadian – who seems to be everywhere these days – will teach an acting class.
There will also be three workshops on the more technical side of filmmaking.
"Mastering Your Film" will be taught by Focused Equipment founder Robin Moran and Workflows Consultant director Ian Wee.
Indonesian gaffer Buadi (Netflix’s "Chef’s Table") and cinematographer Gunnar Nimpuno ("The Night Comes For Us," "Kulari ke Pantai") will teach the "Digital Lighting" class.
Another class called "Introducing Skypanel" will be helmed by Bertrand Dauphant, the general manager of lighting at Arnold & Richter Cine Technik (ARRI) Asia Pacific and Dave Brown, a New Zealand gaffer who had worked on blockbusters such as "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, "The Hobbit" trilogy, "King Kong" and "Avatar."
Surprisingly, given that the genre is getting a lot of attention recently, JAFF this year decided to omit one of its regular programs, Asian Doc, which used to show new documentary movies.
There will still be documentaries in the festival, but they are now lumped together in the "Asian Perspective" program for films not in competition at the festival.
"Disruption" is JAFF's official theme this year. It's supposed to be an umbrella term for tremendous changes across Asia, from climate change to political upheavals, technological advancement and the various ways Asian cinema has embraced changes to bring about fresh perspectives.
"We didn’t decide on the theme first and looked for the films later this time. It was the other way around. The theme arose out of our reading of Asian cinema in the past few years," Ifa said.
JAFF program director, indie filmmaker Ismail Basbeth, said the festival welcomes "all ideas, from the most progressive to the most conservative" as long as their spotlight is on Asia and offer a "cinematic experience" to the standards required by the festival.
Ismail did not elaborate on what those standards are.
JAFF this year will feature a total of 138 films, 70 features and 68 shorts.
The festival will kick off with Koji Fukada’s "Umi O Kakeru" ("The Man From the Sea"), a collaboration between Indonesia, Japan and France.
The film reimagines the aftermath of Aceh’s 2004 tsunami.
In the film, a messiah (Dean Fujioka) emerges from the sea a decade after the tsunami.
The man was discovered by Takako (Mayu) and her son Takashi (Taiga), Japanese working in Aceh as part of a disaster recovery team.
They name the man "Laut," the Indonesian word for "sea." Laut possesses powers that make people believe he is a messiah.
The film also stars Indonesian actors Sekar Sari and Adipati Dolken, who play journalists trying to write the story about the strange man from the sea.
The festival will be backended by "Thundenek" ("Her. Him. The Other"), an omnibus on post-civil war Srilanka helmed by Asoka Handagama, Vimukthi Jayasundara and Prasanna Vithanage, whom Ismail called the "next generation Srilankan maestros."
"'The Man From the Sea' shows a foreigner disrupting society, 'Her. Him. The Other' captures the aftermath of a disruption, how people adapt to the changes," Ismail said.
As usual, the festival will feature a slew of Asian films, including previews of Indonesian films not yet released in cinemas, such as Yandy Laurens' remake of tearjerker TV series "Keluarga Cemara," set for release in January next year.
Other Indonesian films in the festival may not even see commercial release, including Robby Ertanto's "Ave Maryam," Richard Oh's "Love Is A Bird," Ravi Bharwani’s "27 Steps of May" and Djenar Maesa Ayu and Kan Lume's "If This Is My Story."
One of the more anticipated new documentaries at the festival will be Yuda Kurniawan's "Nyanyian Akar Rumput" ("The Grassroots Song"), a biopic of Fajar Merah, the musician son of the disappeared activist-poet Wiji Thukul.
Yosep Anggi Noen's "Ballad of Blood and Two White Buckets" – recently in competition at the Toronto International Film Festival – and Aditya Ahmad's "Kado" ("A Gift"), which won Best Short Film in Venice International Film Festival's Orizzonti Competition, will also be shown.
After honoring Joko Anwar last year, the festival's "Focus On" program this year will feature legendary director Garin Nugroho, who happens to be festival director Ifa's father-in-law.
Garin's short and feature films will be screened at the festival, including his latest, "Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku" ("Memories of My Body"), which competed at the Venice International Film Festival last month.
Awards will be given for films competing in the Asian Feature and Light of Asia (short and student films) sections.
The festival will also feature a community forum, an open-air cinema and public lectures.
Events will be held in three separate venues in Yogyakarta. Screenings will be at Cinemaxx Lippo Plaza Jogja and Empire XXI. Classes and public lectures will be at the Jogja National Museum.
Tickets will go on sale on Nov. 21 on JAFF's official website.