National cinema in Indonesia is called "film nasional", and commonly appears in commentary, scholarship, and discussions of film and the film industry. One of its ambitions is to be "tuan di rumah sendiri" or "master in one’s own house", meaning that Indonesian films should become prolific and popular enough to beat imported films at the box-office.
Film and Society
Efforts to reopen movie theaters in Aceh have been met with challenges from religious groups and local authorities. Their usual argument: movie theaters are opposed to the spirit of sharia, which stipulates that men and women should not sit side by side. However, what is foreign to Aceh is not movie theaters. It's their absence.
We need to position Joshua Oppenheimer’s films within the network of cultural activism that already exists in Indonesia. This requires a more open discussion about the ramifications of power as part of the process and limitations of activists and filmmakers in creating cultural interventions.
The Look of Silence was celebrated and supported by human rights activists. National Commission on Human Rights even provided a letter of support for the film screenings in Indonesia. The questions are, how could they support a film which exploited its subjects, a film that creates a new stigma against the powerless, a film which has questionable ethics in its making? Is it true that we do not need ethics in our fights for human rights?
The successful restoration of Lewat Djam Malam in 2012 only highlights the problems of film preservation in Indonesia. As the nation's sole film archive, Sinematek's condition and management are far from ideal.
Rumor has it that every third-world leader whispered the same phrases the morning after independence: “Now the real problems start.” Indonesia is no exception. In Lewat Djam Malam, Usmar Ismail narrates how revolution could go wrong.