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Review: 9th Indonesian Film Festival

THIS year’s Indonesian Film Festival has come and gone, having brought with it an excellent lineup of movies representing the best the Indonesian film industry had to offer in the past year. Daniel Driscoll was on the scene to talk to some the festival’s special guests and provide his opinion on the films he saw.

Karina Salim and Anggun Priambodo in What they talk about when they don't talk about love. Image provided.

Anggun Priambodo and Karina Salim in What they talk about when they don’t talk about love. Image provided.

During the ten-day run of this year’s Indonesian Film Festival, there were three short film competition winners, informal meet and greets, workshops, seminars, Q&As and interviews with some of the stars of the films. That’s a whole lot of activity for what can be considered a relatively low-profile film festival!

The festival had an excellent mix of films with a variable attendance throughout – some sessions saw sold out cinemas while others remained relatively low.

Higher profile opening night films like Something in the Way were inevitably going to attract a higher attendance figure than lesser publicised films like Sagarmartha.

Compared to some festivals, including the Melbourne Queer Film Festival that ran the previous month at ACMI, this festival kept a low-profile but certainly new its audience – the local Indonesian community – and catered accordingly with most material available at the information desk in the native language.

The films on offer were a great cross section that gave good insight into what the Indonesian film industry is producing currently. The informal meet and greets, workshops and seminars were an excellent addition to the program and offered the general public an opportunity they rarely get to experience.

The meet and greets with guest speakers Anggy Umbara (Something in the Way) and Kemal Palevi (Comic 8) and workshops/seminars with Hanung Bramantyo (director of 2014) and Mira Lesmana (producer on Sokola Rimba) proved to be quite a hit with the audience in attendance. 

Luckily, we managed to interview a few of the personalities who were on hand to promote their films at the festival.

Meld Magazine spoke with Ratu Felisha and Verdi Solaiman from Something in the Way who discussed the experience of approaching social taboos in the film and the challenge the roles offered:

Meanwhile, Ayushita and Karina Salim from What they don’t talk about when they talk about love gave more detail on their characters and how the film was made better by the inclusion of actual sight impaired actors:

All in all, I felt that the ninth installment of the Indonesian Film Festival was a successful display of Indonesian culture on film. I’m looking forward to the next festival and eagerly anticipate another excellent slice of Indonesian film in 2015! 

Below you’ll find reviews of two films I managed to catch at the festival this year.

Sagarmartha

Sagarmartha. Image provided

Nadine Chandrawinata in Sagarmartha. Image provided

While backpacking through India, Shila (Nadine Chandrawinata) and Kirana (Ranggani Puspandya) decide to fulfill a promise they made to each other while at university – to climb Sagarmatha (Mount Everest), the tallest mountain the world. The women agree to put together a book with their combined passions of writing and photography, documenting their journey to the summit. 

From their long train ride to Nepal to meeting new people and experiencing aspects of their friendship that the regularity of university wouldn’t have offered, they eventually approach the foot of the mountain only to have their friendship tested.

The film slowly paces towards its conclusion, where an alternating timeline gives the viewers a sense of impending doom. The film rounds out its characters the further it goes along , detailing how they met and where they’re going. Shila has gone along with the trip in order to hide from her boyfriend, avoiding giving him a definitive answer on whether she wants to get married. Kirana, who is more of a free spirit, enjoys the time spent with her friend and the adventure of it all. Sagarmartha is a physical and mental journey to a fateful decision for both women.

Sagamartha spends the first hour on their friendship, with roughly the last half-hour devoted to their climb up the mountain. This aspect of the film is somewhat odd, with the two women taking it upon themselves to climb most of the mountain without guides. Admittedly, this is probably not as dangerous as it seems. Furthermore, the argument that splits them feels contrived and their decision to split up part-way up the mountain defies belief.

The plot is unnecessarily slow and appears more interested in simply hanging out with its characters instead of advancing the plot. This is just not a film I can recommend and I am a little puzzled as to how it found its way into the small selection of films on offer.

2014

Political thriller 2014. Image provided

Political thriller 2014. Image provided

Closing the Indonesian Film Festival this year was 2014, a political thriller which sees Bagas Notolegowo (Ray Sahetapy) a politician and candidate in the 2014 Indonesian Presidential Election whose world is turned upside down when he is framed for the murder of another candidate. In order to prove his father’s innocence his son Ricky (Rizky Nazar) seeks legal help from Indonesia’s top lawyer, Khrisna Dorotajun (Donny Damara). Along with Krishna’s daughter, Laras (Maudy Ayunda), Ricky works to unravel the conspiracy against his father, even if it means putting himself in danger.

2014 is a surprisingly good thriller. After Bagas is framed for murder the action really kicks off. The film moves at a cracking pace, carefully revealing a vast government conspiracy involving corrupt officials, with someone always one more rung up the ladder.

Filled with whip-fast action sequences and top notch acting by everyone involved, the film is a must-see if or when it gets a run on Australian screens.

I didn’t know what to expect when I went in to see the film but it is definitely something special. Despite the simple ‘good guy, bad guy’ signals of the film, the film’s simplicity can easily be forgiven as it was made for the local Indonesian audience and rarely detracts from its already well-written story and fully-fleshed out characters.

On the film’s ‘good guy, bad guy’ identifiers, the film’s producer, Celerina Judisari, said in a Q&A after the film’s screening that it was “for the young people of Indonesia”. He explained that it was “intentionally pretty black and white” as it was made so in order to get the film’s message through to younger audiences.

The smattering of comedy throughout is also well-timed, with the occasional wise crack or comedic observance just adding to the film’s charm.

With the Indonesian film industry lacking distributors, 2014 will need all the help it can get to be seen, so go catch it if it does indeed have a local showing or is released locally through home media in Australia.

Look out for the Indonesian Film Festival when it returns to screens in 2015.

1 comment on this postSubmit yours
  1. I’m a regular watcher of Indonesian films that much but occasionally sometime I watch Indonesian films. It’s really informative and good to know what actually happened during 9th Indonesian film festival. Thanks.

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