Indonesian Film Selection
10 recent Indonesian films you should watch.
by Ken Jenie
Fiksi (Mouly Surya, 2008)
In the year when the movie released, Fiksi was nominated for 10 different categories for the 2008’s Indonesian Film Festival. The film won 4 of the trophies, followed by “Best Director” by Jiffest and became the 2008 official selection for Pusan International Film Festival and World Film Festival of Bangkok. An appropriate acknowledgment for its gripping 110 minutes. Ladya Cheryl’s unbroken eye contacts thoroughly enact Alisha’s-the main character deranged psyche. With an intriguing script by Joko Anwar and Mouly Surya’s crafty direction, Fiksi favorably introducing the new wave of Indonesian thriller movie with Kala (2007), and Pintu Terlarang (2009).
Babibuta Yang Ingin Terbang (Edwin, 2008)
A fragmented story of identity and uncertainty, Edwin’s first feature film follows its protagonists as they attempt to find content with the personal and situational reality of Indonesia they live in. Race and racial tension being a reoccurring theme, and sets a backdrop for social commentaries through the narrative – for example, a boy of Manado descent is constantly harassed and bullied because people think he is Chinese. The film often feels detached, giving the audience time to observe and make sense of the situations – revealing the normalcy of everyday life, even when it sometimes seems absurd.
Belakang Hotel (Watchdoc, 2015)
What made “Belakang Hotel” a significant documentary is its heedful viewpoint citing the environmental issues currently happening in Yogyakarta. The massive hotel construction causes a major drought to the people around the area, a paradox of Yogyakarta as one of Indonesia’s city for tourism. Made by the people from Watchdoc who also responsible for the movie “Yang Ketu7uh”, the documentary reveal the first dry wells phenomenon in Yogyakarta as a sign of the failure of urban planning of the suave city. This film is a part of the “Jogja Asat” (The Drought of Yogyakarta) a movement initiated by artist and environmentalist of the city to build an awareness to the public about the threat of the Yogyakarta’s urban planning mishap. “Belakang Hotel” also an important movie that can be seen as an alarm for the people across the nation about the same threat that might be happening to their city.
Senyap/The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2014)
Following Joshua Oppenheimer’s masterpiece, The Act of Killing, Senyap is a companion piece and an equally thought-provoking documentary. The film focuses on a family whose eldest son was murdered in the massacres of 1965, and their youngest son search to find closure by confronting the men who killed his brother. Just like Oppenheimer’s previous film, Senyap addresses the grave atrocities that has been swept under our nation history’s rug, that admittance and reconciliation is needed so countries and its people can live productive and honest lives.
Vakansi yang Janggal dan Penyakit Lainnya (Yosep Anggi Noen, 2012)
This is the movie that put the name Yosep Anggi Noen in the radar of bright filmmakers from Indonesia. In his first feature film, Yosep Anggi Noen presents an art-house road movie that builds between three characters, a husband, a wife, and the wife’s co-worker. Although it sounds like a quite simple plot, the movie has it charms on the director’s photography, its attention to every little detail that frame the scene, and the brief dialogues between the modest yet engaging characters. It is no surprise that the movie receive a lot of positive critics from international film festivals. The good thing is that after this move, Yosep Anggi Noen succeeded in maintaining his sharp filmmaking by making another good movie titled, “A Lady Caddy Who Never Saw a Hole in One” (2013).
Tabula Rasa (Adriyanto Dewo, 2014)
This is the kind of movie that is missing from Indonesian theaters, a modest drama based on real life phenomenon that transpires in our daily lives. Its plot takes place in a traditional Minang diner where it illustrate the comedy and tension of a family inside the restaurant. Tumpal Tampubolon’s heartfelt script and the bold chemistry between the actors accompany Lifelike Pictures’ vibrant color and angle to build a unique drama around the exoticism of Minang cuisine. There is a big hope that there will be more national films that could share Tabula Rasa’s approach in filmmaking to make a more vibrant scene in Indonesian film history.
Rocket Rain (Anggun Priambodo, 2013)
Anggun Priambodo’s very first feature is a story of two friends who leaves the big city to work on a video project and, through their daily interactions, reveal their personal trials to find comfort in their crumbling individual families. Rocket Rain’s narrative weaves between surreal expressions (such as a girl riding a corn-shaped statue like a rocket) to sobering discussions, such as the two protagonists discussing what marriage should ideally be like. Awkward, quirky, and somber all at the same time, Rocket Rain is a film where the audience is invited to experience the characters’ state of mind.
Negeri di Bawah Kabut (Shalahuddin Siregar, 2011)
Also known by its English name, The Land Beneath the Fog, Shalahuddin Siregar’s film centers on families in the farming village of Genikan in Central Java, and their struggle to adapt to the conditions of the changing climate and its impact on their livelihood. Its narrative is compelling and serves as a reminder that Indonesia is a land that reaches beyond its burgeoning cities.
Cahaya dari Timur: Beta Maluku (Angga Sasongko, 2014)
There might be nothing new about Cahaya dari Timur’s plot: the struggle of an ex-football player in mentoring a football school team to claim its glory, a classic storyline for a sports-themed movie. But, the fact that the movie took place in Maluku and is based on a real socio-cultural dispute that split the area into two strongholds: Tulehu (Moslem dominated area) and Passo (Christian dominated area), is the point why this movie matter. Sani Tawainella’s (portrayed decently by Chico Jerrico) struggle to put an end to the conflict by using football as a way to unite his homeland somehow justify the popular expression that said “football is the sport that have the ability to unite a country”. And it became more special to know that Hendra Adi Bayaw, Rizki Pelu, and Alfin Tuasalamony-the leading names from Indonesia’s Under 23 national team, arise from the very team that Sani coached.
Iblis Jalanan (Gundala Pictures, 2014)
Inspired by a song by Bangkutaman, this short film is a half music video and half documentary about wall of death motorcyclists in a carnival. Wall of death is an attraction where a giant barrel is used by motorcyclists to do death-defying stunts. Gundala Pictures’ approach to the film balances the private, emotional stories of the characters and their rock n roll performances very well, with footage of their act mixed commentaries that reveal their life experiences and aspiration. Iblis Jalanan is an entertaining film with a strong emotional depth. Certainly recommended.