Cinema of Indonesia

Cinema of Indonesia

La Piazza 21 in Jakarta
Number of screens 763 (2011)[1]
  Per capita 0.4 per 100,000 (2011)[1]
Produced feature films (2005-2009)[2]
Total 75 (average)
Number of admissions (2011)[3]
Total 27,900,000
Gross box office (2012)[4]
Total $114 million

Though the cinema of Indonesia has a long history, the industry is struggling and developing.


Colonial era

Advertisement for Loetoeng Kasaroeng, the first fiction film produced in what is now Indonesia

The first showing of films in the Dutch East Indies was in 1900,[5] and over the next twenty years foreign productions – generally from the United States – were imported and shown throughout the country.[6] Domestic production of documentaries had begun in 1911[7] but were unable to compete with imported works.[6] By 1923 a local feature film production spearheaded by the Middle East Film Co. was announced, but the work was not completed.[8]

The first domestically produced film in the Indies was in 1926: Loetoeng Kasaroeng, a silent film by Dutch director L. Heuveldorp. This adaptation of the Sundanese legend was made with local actors by the NV Java Film Company in Bandung and premiered on 31 December 1926 at the Elite and Majestic Theatres in Bandung.[9] The following year, G. Krugers – who had served as a technician and cinematographer for Loetoeng Kasaroeng[10] – released his directorial debut (the second film in the Indies), Eulis Atjih. Owing to Loetoeng Kasaroeng's limited release, Kruger was able to advertise his film as the colony's first.[11] A year later, the second novel to be adapted to film in Indonesia, Setangan Berloemoer Darah, was produced by Tan Boen Soan.[12]

Ethnic Chinese directors and producers, capitalising on the success of films produced in Shanghai, China, became involved in the colony's cinema beginning in 1928, when Nelson Wong completed Lily van Java.[13][14] Although the Wongs went on hiatus, other ethnic Chinese became involved in film. Several Chinese owned start-ups are recorded from 1929 on, including Nancing Film with Resia Boroboedoer (1928) and Tan's Film with Njai Dasima (1929).[15] By the early 1930s Chinese-owned businesses were the dominating force in the country's film industry.[16]

After the Great Depression reached the Indies, production slowed tremendously: the Dutch East Indies government collected higher taxes and cinemas sold tickets at lower prices, ensuring that there was a very low profit margin for local films. As a result, cinemas in the colony mainly showed Hollywood productions, while the domestic industry decayed.[17] The Teng Chun, who had made his debut in 1931 with Boenga Roos dari Tjikembang, was the only producer able to release films during 1934 and early 1935: his low budget but popular films were mainly inspired by Chinese mythology or martial arts, and although aimed at ethnic Chinese proved popular among native audiences because of their action sequences.[18]

Poster for Terang Boelan, one of three films credited with reviving the Indies' failing film industry

In an attempt to show that locally produced, well-made films could be profitable, the Dutch journalist Albert Balink, who had no formal film experience,[19] produced Pareh in 1935 in collaboration with Nelson Wong and his brothers. Though the film, costing 20 times as much as most contemporary productions, was an ultimately failure, it affected The Teng Chun's directorial style; the latter took less traditional stories.[20] Balink's next attempt, Terang Boelan, was released two years later. Unlike Pareh, Terang Boelan was a marked commercial success, earning 200,000 Straits dollars (then equivalent to US$ 114,470[21]) in two months.[22] These two films are, according to American visual anthropologist Karl G. Heider, Indonesia's most important films of the 1930s.[23]

The triple successes of Terang Boelan, Fatima (1938), and Alang-Alang (1939) revived the domestic film industry.[24] Four new production houses were established in 1940,[25] and actors and actresses previously attached to theatrical troupes entered the film industry, which was reaching new audiences.[26] The new works, fourteen in 1940 and thirty in 1941,[27] generally followed the formula established by Terang Boelan: songs, beautiful scenery and romance.[28] Others, such as Asmara Moerni, attempted to reach the growing native intelligentsia by drawing journalists or figures from the growing nationalist movement into cinema.[29]

Japanese occupation

After its genesis during the Dutch colonial era, the Indonesian film industry was coopted by the Japanese occupiers during the Second World War as a propaganda tool. The first thing the Japanese did was to halt all film production in Indonesia. Then the Office of Cultural Enlightenment (啓民文化指導所) headed by Ishimoto Tokichi appropriated facilities from all filmmaking organisations consolidating them into a single studio which became the Jakarta branch of the The Japan Film Corporation (日本映画社) or Nichi'ei.[30] The majority of films made in Indonesia under the Japanese were educational films and newsreels produced for audiences in Japan. The Jakarta branch was strategically placed at the extreme southern end of Japan's empire and soon became a centre of newsreel production in that region. Popular news serials such as News from the South and Berita Film di Djawa were produced here. Japanese newsreels promoted such topics as conscripted "romusha" labourers (ロムシャの生活, 1944), voluntary enlistment into the imperial Japanese Army (南の願望, 1944), and Japanese language acquisition by Indonesian children (ニッポン語競技会, 1944).[31]

The great victory in Japan's occupation of the Indonesian film industry did not lie in financial gain. Local Japanese-sponsored film production (other than newsreels) remained essentially negligible and the domestic exhibition market was too underdeveloped to be financially viable. However, Nichi'ei's occupation of the Indonesian film industry was a strategic victory over the West, demonstrating that a non-Western Asian nation could displace Hollywood and the Dutch. Indonesia was one of the last areas in the empire to surrender and many who worked at Nichi'ei stayed on after defeat to work for Indonesian independence from the Dutch.[31]

Korean director Hae Yeong (aka Hinatsu Eitaro) was one such person who migrated to Java from Korea in 1945 where he made the controversial "documentary" Calling Australia (豪州の呼び声, 1944). After the war, Hae changed his name to Dr. Huyung, married an Indonesian woman with whom he had two sons, and directed three films before his death in 1952, Between Sky and Earth (1951), Gladis Olah Raga (1951), and Bunga Rumar Makan (1952). Calling Australia was commissioned by the Imperial Japanese Army and depicted Japanese prisoner of war camps as if they were country clubs showing prisoners feasting on steak and beer, swimming, and playing sports. After the war, the film caused such a stir that The Netherlands Indies Film Unit rushed into production Nippon Presents which used some of the P.O.W.s from Calling Australia to expose that film as Japanese lies. In 1987, Australian filmmaker Graham Shirley assembled the remaining survivors to make yet another documentary about how both regimes had conspired to exploit the prisoners each for their own purposes.[31]

After independence

Former cinema Megaria (ca. 1960-80), today Cinema Metropole XXI.

After independence, the Sukarno government used it for nationalistic, anti-Western purposes. Foreign film imports were banned. After the overthrow of Sukarno by Suharto's New Order regime, films were regulated through a censorship code that aimed to maintain the social order.[32] Usmar Ismail, a director from West Sumatra made a major imprint in Indonesian film in the 1950s and 1960s.


The industry reached its peak in the 1980s, with such successful films as Naga Bonar (1987) and Catatan Si Boy (1989). Warkop's comedy films, directed by Arizal also proved to be successful. The industry has also found appeal among teens with such fare as Pintar-pintar Bodoh (1982), and Maju Kena Mundur Kena (1984). Actors during this era included Deddy Mizwar, Eva Arnaz, Lidya Kandou, Onky Alexander, Meriam Bellina, Rano Karno, and Paramitha Rusady.[33] The film Tjoet Nja' Dhien (1988) winning 9 Citra Awards at the 1988 Indonesian Film Festival.[34] It was also the first Indonesian movie chosen for screening at the Cannes Film Festival,[34] where it was awarded Best International Film in 1989.[35]


However, by the 1990s imports of foreign films resumed, and the artistic quality of Indonesian films was reduced due to competition, especially from the US and Hong Kong. The number of movies produced decreased significantly, from 115 movies in 1990 to just 37 in 1993.[36] Rampant counterfeiting and television also contributed to the degradation of Indonesian cinema. In decade, Indonesian cinema was dominated by serial electronic cinema (sinetron). Multivision Plus under Raam Punjabi, controlled one of many cinema companies who produced sinetron. The majority of films produced were exploitive, adult-themed B-movies shown in budget cinemas and outdoor screenings or direct-to-video or television.[33] In 1996, 33 films were made in Indonesia, with majority of the films produced were filled with adult-themed content, and later on decreased significantly. Only seven domestic films were made in 1999.


Under the Reformasi movement of the post-Suharto era, independent filmmaking was a rebirth of the filming industry in Indonesia, where films started addressing topics which were previously banned such as religion, race, love and other topics.[32]

In 2002, the domestic films made increased from only 6 in 2000 and 2001, to 10 films, and as the years passed on, the domestic films made increased significantly.

Recent notable films include What's Up with Love? directed by Rudi Soedjarwo in 2002, Eliana Eliana, directed by Riri Riza, and Arisan! starring Tora Sudiro, which was released in 2005, Beauty and Warrior, Indonesia's first animated feature film was released. That same year Gie (dir. Riri Riza), based on a biopic of Indonesian activist Soe Hok Gie, was also released.

The release of Ayat-ayat Cinta (Verses of Love), directed by Hanung Bramantyo, attracted one segment of audience like never before in the Indonesian filming. The melodramatic story did not give new approaches to cinematic storytelling but the crossover between Islam and modern-romance story has succeeded in getting Muslim's around the country to lure the cinemas.[37]

In 2009, Infinite FrameWorks released their first full-length animation movie, Sing to the Dawn ("Meraih Mimpi" in Indonesian). The movie itself is almost Indonesian-made since some of top members are foreigners. However, all artists and dubbers are Indonesian and most of the dubbers are top celebrities (like Gita Gutawa, Surya Saputra, Patton, etc.).


In 2010-2011, due to the substantial increase in value added tax applied to foreign films, cinemas no longer have access to many foreign films, including Oscar-winning films. Foreign films include major box offices from the west, and other major film producers of the world. This has caused a massive ripple effect on the country's economy. It is assumed that this increases purchase of unlicensed DVDs. However, even copyright violating DVDs now take longer to obtain. The minimum cost to view a foreign film not screened locally, is 1 million Rupiah. This is equivalent to US$100, as it includes a plane ticket to Singapore.[38]

The Indonesian film market is in the C, D, E classes, and due to this, foreign porn stars such as Sasha Grey, Maria Ozawa, Sora Aoi, and Rin Sakuragi have been invited to play a part in movies. Most locally made movies are low-budget horror films.[39]

Locally made film quality has gone up in 2012, this is attested by the international release of films such as The Raid: Redemption, Modus Anomali, Dilema, Lovely Man, Java Heat, etc.

Film festivals

The major film festival of Indonesia is the Jakarta International Film Festival (JiFFest) held every year in December since 1998. The eighth festival began on 8 December 2006 with Babel, a film starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. The 9th JiFFest was held on 7–16 December 2007.

Jakarta also hosted film festivals such as the 52nd Asia-Pacific Film Festival(APFF) on 18–22 November 2008

Another event is the Indonesian Film Festival (Festival Film Indonesia/FFI), which has been held intermittently since 1955. From 1973 to 1992, the festival was held annually and then discontinued until it was later revived in 2004. It hosts a competition, which hands out the Citra Award.

Movie theatres

The largest cinema chain in Indonesia is 21 Cineplex, which has cinemas spread throughout twenty-four cities on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Bali and Sulawesi. However, many smaller independent cinemas also exist. Another cinema chain is the recently opened Blitzmegaplex, which opened its first location in 2006 and have continued to expand each year, operating 7 locations as of mid-2011. Their flagship cineplex, the Blitz Megaplex Grand Indonesia in Jakarta, is dubbed Indonesia's largest cineplex by the MURI (Indonesian Record Museum).


See also


  1. 1 2 "Table 8: Cinema Infrastructure - Capacity". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  2. "Average national film production". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  3. "Table 11: Exhibition - Admissions & Gross Box Office (GBO)". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  4. "International Box Office: 13 Hot Emerging Markets". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  5. Biran 2009, p. 2.
  6. 1 2 Biran 2009, pp. 33–35.
  7. Biran 2009, p. 53.
  8. Biran 2009, p. 57.
  9. Robertson, Patrick (September 1993). The Guinness Book of Movie Facts & Feats. Abbeville Press. ISBN 978-1-55859-697-9.
  10. Biran 2009, pp. 60–61.
  11. Biran 2009, p. 73.
  12. Woodrich 2014, p. 27.
  13. Biran 2009, p. 77.
  14. JCG, Lily van Java.
  15. Biran 2009, p. 379.
  16. Biran 2009, pp. 380–381.
  17. Biran 2009, p. 145.
  18. Biran 2009, pp. 147–150.
  19. Biran 2009, pp. 160–162.
  20. New York Times 1938, Foreign Exchange.
  21. Biran 2009.
  22. Heider, Karl G. (1991). Indonesian Cinema: National Culture on Screen. U of Hawaii P. p. 15. ISBN 9780824813673. Retrieved 23 July 2012.
  23. Biran 2009, p. 182.
  24. Biran 2009, p. 205.
  25. Said 1982, p. 27.
  26. Biran 2009, p. 380–383.
  27. Biran 2009, p. 25; Said 1982, p. 25.
  28. Biran 2009, p. 260.
  29. Baskett, Michael (2008). The Attractive Empire: Transnational Film Culture in Imperial Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-3223-0.
  30. 1 2 3 Baskett, The Attractive Empire.
  31. 1 2 Sen, Krishna (2006). Giecko, Anne Tereska, ed. Contemporary Asian Cinema, Indonesia: Screening a Nation in the Post-New Order. Oxford/New York: Berg. pp. 96–107. ISBN 978-1-84520-237-8.
  32. 1 2 Kristianto, JB (2 July 2005). "Sepuluh Tahun Terakhir Perfilman Indonesia" (in Indonesian). Kompas. Archived from the original on 13 January 2008. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  33. 1 2 Monash 2007-08-03, Tjoet Nja' Dhien.
  34. Siapno 2006, p. 25.
  35. Kondisi Perfilman di Indonesia
  36. Sasono, Eric (4 April 2008). "Pertemuan Baru Islam dan Cinta". Kompas. Archived from the original on 16 April 2009.
  37. "New Import Policy Will Kill Indonesian Film Industry: Noorca". Jakarta Globe. 21 February 2011. Archived from the original on 23 September 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  38. Belford, Aubrey (28 March 2011). "Porn Stars, Clad? They Seem to Appeal to Indonesian Filmgoers". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 October 2016.

Works cited

External links

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