Indonesian Cinema

Beyond the Boxoffice: On the Cultural Relevance of Indonesian Cinema (via Cinema Poetica)

One might argue that we are entering the new golden era of Indonesian cinema. For the first time in the history of post-Reformation cinema, in two consecutive calendar years, the boxoffice top ten are fully dominated by films with more than one million viewers.

In 2016 Anggy Umbara’s Warkop DKI Reborn: Jangkrik Boss! Part 1 took the pole position with 6.85 million viewers, while London Love Story closed the list with 1.12 million. In between, there are Ada Apa dengan Cinta? 2 [What’s Up with Love? 2], My Stupid BossCek Toko Sebelah [Check the Store Next Door], HangoutRudy HabibieKoala Kumal [The Shabby Koala], Comic 8: Casino Kings Part 2, and ILY from 38.000 Ft. In 2017 Joko Anwar’s Pengabdi Setan [Satan’s Slave] topped the table with 4.2 million viewers, followed by Warkop DKI Reborn: Jangkrik Boss! Part 2Ayat-ayat Cinta 2 [Verses of Love 2], Danur: I Can See GhostsJailangkungSusah Sinyal [Bad Connection], Surga yang Tak Dirindukan 2 [A Heaven That Won’t Be Missed 2], Mata Batin[Inner Eyes], The Doll 2, and Surat Cinta untuk Starla The Movie [Love Letters for Starla].

Traditionally, the one-million-viewers milestone has always been regarded as the golden ticket of Indonesian cinema. Once a film exceeded it, it is officially a part of an elite club that houses only 55 members since 2000—25 of them are releases from the last three years. During the same period, the total number of attendance for Indonesian cinema also increased. In 2016 there were 34.5 million viewers for 127 domestic films screened in cinemas, which rose to 38.6 million viewers for 117 films in 2017. Those figures exceeded the highest count in the 2008-2009 period, the previous golden era, which peaked at 32.4 million viewers.

The recent rise of Indonesian cinema however came during a series of coexistential crises in the archipelago. Ever since the fiery presidential election that divided friends and families in 2014, persecution cases became the grim constants of the nation’s social life. You name it; from the intimidation of LGBTIQ groups, the leftists, and adherents of certain beliefs to the discrimination against women, Papuan, and Chinese-Indonesian descents. Diversity, as the main identity of Indonesia as a cultural entity, is under threat.

There is a certain pattern in these persecution cases. Some groups of people feel entitled to dictate how everybody should live in this nation. They divide the people into certain classes and try to enforce their ideas through force by intimidation and vandalism, or through propaganda in the media and public spaces. Ideally, identities shouldn’t determine the social interactions—everyone has the rights to express and interact with other people, in respect to all differences. Nowadays, some groups or identities in Indonesia have become the victim of structural injustice in society.


Read the rest of Adrian Jonathan Pasaribu’s article on Cinema Poetica.

ArtsEquator Radar features articles and posts drawn from local and regional websites and publications – aggregated content from outside sources, so we are exposed to a multitude of voices in the region.

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