Indonesia in Cinema
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.
The weak position of film adaptations in contemporary discourse can be attributed to several factors, particularly low literacy rates and the corresponding market implications and an emphasis on literature as belles lettres rather than the popular literature from which most films were adapted.
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.
Action movies are closely related to Indonesian cinema history, since the first Indonesian feature film ever, Loeteong Kasaroeng (Enchanted Monkey) produced, was an action-orientated fantasy spectacle. It was followed by many martial arts movies during the late 1920s and 1930s. Every drama had at least one fighting sequence to entertain the audience.
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.
Indonesian exploitation films from the 1980s employed subversive and exploitative techniques to struggle against a dominant order. Produced under the New Order Regime, the films positioned their villains and criminals as symbols of the Suharto government.