Danny Mulyana, 48, is Bioskop Grand's last projectionist. Here he's checking the celluloid film for ‘Cintaku Di Rumah Susun’ ('My Love at the Condo') in his old projection booth. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Not So Grand Anymore
BY :YUDHA BASKORO
MARCH 30, 2019
Today is National Film Day. First commemorated in 1962 to pay tribute to what is widely regarded as Indonesia's first full-fledged local film, Usmar Ismail's "Darah dan Doa" ("Blood and Prayer"), it now regularly passes without too much fanfare. Kineforum, a mini-cinema run by the Jakarta Arts Council at Taman Ismail Marzuki, used to host National Film Month, when they screened classic Indonesian movies by Usmar, Sjuman Djaja, Asrul Sani and other legendary directors, but the space is now reportedly awaiting demolition.
Not too far from Kineforum, in a dirty corner of Senen right next to a row of famous Nasi Kapau warungs, another movie theater already lies in ruins. It's Bioskop Grand, or as an unknown genius translator rendered it in good and proper Indonesian sometime in the early 1990s, Mulia Agung, once one of Jakarta's busiest movie theaters, first opened in 1920 when Indonesia was still a Dutch colony. The Indonesian word for cinema, "bioskop," is derived from the Dutch "bioscoop."
Aside from being used to house hundreds of broken ATMs, turned into a makeshift parking lot during the day and occasionally as a temporary gallery for underground performance artists at night, the old cinema now lies abandoned, having closed its curtains for good back in 2016. Though you might not know it, since its rusty facade is still being used to this day to display posters for new movies being played elsewhere.
The Jakarta Globe visited Bioskop Grand on Tuesday (26/03) to meet Danny Mulyana, its last ever projectionist. Danny was originally from Garut in West Java and moved to Jakarta in 2005. He started working at Bioskop Grand two years later, playing reels of what locals used to call "film esek-esek" ("sex films").
The old projection booth is now stacked from floor to ceiling with dusty chairs, rusty scrap metal, damaged projectors, old posters and cans of celluloid films. It's a veritable time machine that will transport every film geek back to the heyday of Indonesian films in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
"We used to have 16mm and 35mm celluloid projectors. Modern cineplexes killed us," said Danny, who also worked as a reel delivery man just like Joni, the protagonist in Joko Anwar's comic tribute to celluloid film, "Janji Joni" ("Joni's Promise").
"The last film we got in celluloid was Aditya Gumay's 'Rumah Tanpa Jendela' ('House Without a Window') in 2011. After that, people started whispering Bioskop Grand will be closed down soon," he said.
Today, with the permission of the cinema's owner, the 48-year-old still lives in a small room inside the cinema and sells DVDs from a tiny stall where the ticket boxes used to be.
Danny still took care of the old projectors, posters and some celluloid films left in the cinema. "I still like watching these films in my spare time. Yesterday, some college students came here. They wanted me to screen some of them on their campus. Haha, sure, I'd be more than happy to do that. These young kids need to see the classics," he said.
We followed Danny as he walked down a dark aisle from the projection booth to smoke a cigarette. In between puffs of kretek, he said, "Sometimes I feel very nostalgic. For me, each screening of a real celluloid film has its own memories. Ribbon breaks, lights go out. I even married a woman who used to work here, too!"