We need to assess Indonesian cinema further beyond its economic achievements. The measurement needs to be expanded, as films not only serve as commercial commodities, but also as strategic components in cultural interactions. These two functions are inseparable and closely related to each other.
Lab Laba Laba eschew digital technology. They work only with 8mm, 16mm, and 35mm film. Their practice, as it remains militantly dedicated to the filmic strip, reveals the difficulties and complexities of the manner and means in which cinematic technology is instrumentalised for political purposes.
What happens when Indonesian Muslim characters are placed in non-Muslim countries and must engage in struggles over their faith? A recent trend in Islamic feature films sees the main protagonist(s) travel overseas to a non-Muslim country. How the characters negotiate the cultural differences reveals clues as to the emerging identity and politics of the Muslim middle class.
Wiji Thukul is not Indonesia’s greatest poet. He is certainly not the only casualty of the New Order government. But he is one of the most important stories in the history of Suharto’s bloody regime. For many, he defines what Reformation era is all about. Through absence and language, Solo, Solitude beautifully captures the essence of Thukul.
We face a black-and-white possibility: either to prohibit the “import” of porn stars in Indonesian non-porn films, or to allow them to come but with no censor at all. Doing both is like carrying water in a leaked bucket. The censorship scissors are too blunt to determine stardom personas.
What does it mean to be French after seeing Battle of Algiers (1965)? Or American after watching Season of the Whirlwind (1978) from Vietnam? Or Dutch after viewing Usmar Ismail’s Darah dan Doa (1950)? Before the Timor invasion and occupation, we, as a formerly colonized people, may have conveniently asked such questions. Today, we’re privileged to have a similar question put to us: what does it mean to be an Indonesian after seeing Beatriz’s War?