The rollercoaster ride of Indonesia’s film industry is currently cresting yet another hill in its bumpy, twisting history. Southeast Asia Globe talks with a feature moviemaker who’s taking a break from the big screen to tell stories for HBO Asia.
Indonesian filmmaker Joko Anwar is making moves in a surging industry. He directed the first season of HBO Asia’s Jakarta-set supernatural series Halfworlds and some episodes of its new horror series Folklore. He joins other local auteurs enjoying both domestic and international acclaim for movies like last year’s Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts, directed by Mouly Surya. The so-called “satay Western” about a wronged woman out for revenge won raves at 2017’s Cannes Film Festival, and is the nation’s pick to compete for Best Foreign Language Film at next year’s Academy Awards.
Filmmaking in Indonesia dates back more than a century, and movies were first shown there in 1900. The current resurgence comes after last century’s bumpy journey for an art form that never totally took hold of audiences’ imagination.
“We hear about a once-rich Indonesian cinema culture, but it was an illusion,” Anwar told Southeast Asia Globe.
He’s referring to the sagas of Sundanese legends that were popular with Indonesian audiences in the 1920s, but were told from the point of view of the Dutch directors who made them on location in what was then the Dutch East Indies. In the early 1930s, elaborate romantic melodramas were all the rage, but they were created by Chinese entrepreneurs who were flush from the Shanghai movie boom and extending their market around the region. Heavily financed foreign productions discouraged local film production, which was scattershot and based mainly in Jakarta. The Great Depression and Dutch taxes made this dream all but impossible by the mid-1930s.
Read the complete interview on Southeast Asia Globe.
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.