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The team from Hello Asia attended the press conference to the film Filosofi Kopi (2015), Another Trip To The Moon (2015) and Negeri Van Oranje (2015) which were shown at the Indonesian Film Festival 2016 that was held at ACMI in Melbourne.

The producer and actor of Filosofi Kopi, Chicco Jerikho attended the press conference along with lead actress of Another Trip To The Moon, Tara Basro, and heroine of Negeri Van Oranje, Tatjana Saphira. Along with the cinematographer of Another Trip To The MoonSatrio Kurnianto, the crowd explored and discussed the past, present and future of Indonesian film industry.

There was a period of time when Indonesian film industry was considered “dead”, so if we look at the film industry now it has certainly developed in regards to the quality of the film. How about the responds of domestic audience itself?

Chicco Jerikho: Yes, in the 90s the Indonesian film industry did go through a difficult period before films like Ada Apa Dengan Cinta (2002) and Jelangkung (2001) were released, and it becomes the way it is now. The industry we believe requires time and trust of its audiences to go back to the way it was before where in early 90s the number of audience in Indonesia exceeded the its current amount.

The only films that have reached 4 million viewers in Indonesia are Laskar Pelangi (2008) and Habibie & Ainun (2012). For now we are going through developments such as increasing screens, opening up to foreign investments and many more.

With regards to Indonesian audiences itself, hopefully with the existence of foreign  investments films entering the industry will be better selected and more competitive as in its early days, the films and genres available in Indonesian film industry were limited. Many like to repeat the formula of previously successful films instead of creating a genre that is fresh and unique causing audiences to lose their faith in the local films.

So, we hope with events like Indonesian Film Festival we could raise awareness for the Indonesian films and continue making positive developments for our film industry.

Satrio Kurnianto: In my opinion, it’d be great if we could work together with government and consulate generals anywhere around the world. It could work as a great platform where we could introduce and showcase Indonesian films to the world. It could be an interesting program for Indonesian talents to reach an international audience and community.

It doesn’t have to just be restricted to filmmakers promoting in international festivals but perhaps it could also be a program in line with other cultural programs to introduce Indonesian culture run by consulate generals in Melbourne, for example. This could be just the support the Indonesian talents in the film industry needs so that they don’t always feel that they are struggling alone all the time – from creative thinking process to promoting the film.

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So in terms of its ability to attract international viewers, I still find that many Indonesian films like the ones seen in IFF Australia, to put it bluntly, are still in the pursuit of profit. I am curious about the circumstances in Indonesia, is it challenging filmmakers and talents alike in the country to produce quality and beautiful films like art house that might attract more festivals and audiences internationally instead of commercial box office films that bring in more profit because obviously it is still an important aspect of the business? If so, what are the challenges faced if you choose to pursue quality instead of its value of sale?

Satrio Kurnianto: In terms of quality, I think Indonesian films are ready to compete but the problem I find is that the mindset of the Indonesian audience who constantly compare our films with Hollywood films. Frankly, if we were given the same budget as Hollywood films, I am sure we could produce something of comparable quality otherwise I don’t think it’s fair to compare both film industry.

We have a lot ideas, we have rich cultures that could translate into very interesting story and stills but again filmmakers in Indonesia are always left alone to pursue investments for their projects. It’s really not that our filmmakers are incompetent – Joko Anwar has won awards in Venice and other independent filmmakers like Ifa Ivanshyah and Edwin’s Babi Buta, are the examples. So, I find it unfair that after all the lonely struggle local filmmakers go through for such outstanding projects, they are still treated like step children of the country.

We’ve tried our best to reach out to international film industry and connect our very own talents to the world, which eventually succeeded with the partnership with South Korea’s CJ Entertainment. But this is not a problem only to be blamed to the producer, it is a problem that we all have to take into our own hands and only be able to be solved if we all work and love Indonesia’s creative products together.

If we only continue comparing our products to Hollywood, it will not go anywhere. We have to realise that they have a longer cinematic history and have over hundreds of years experience, when we are lacking about 25 years behind digitally.

I know it’s always hard to believe that Indonesian films are actually screened at Rotterdam Film Festival because as a third world developing country the world does not believe that we are capable of making quality films. But we have heaps of filmmakers that are well loved and anticipated by big festivals like how Berlin Film Festival loves our fellow director, Edwin. But why is that the case? Indonesia should be the one embracing and valuing its own creative talents, don’t you think?

I was so heartbroken when my film was featured in Berlin but the representatives sent were not the crew and filmmakers – when these are the people who struggled and fought to put it out there. While on the other hand, public always view us as incapable of meeting Hollywood’s standard.

If Indonesian film industry were to be fair to screen Hollywood films for only 2 months no matter it’s quality, but we are still underhanded in our own country – when sales is low our film would be taken down on Thursday.

Usually, how long were given to local filmmakers? Weeks?

Satrio Kurnianto: Not weekly but I find there’s a conspiracy behind it all. I mean, if we couldn’t change or prioritise our own products that way, may be we could slowly come up with other solutions together. Like we could perhaps come up with other platforms other than 21 Cinema, which is monopolising the industry.

Chicco Jerikho: Yes, there are other cinema studios available to us now but that was also because of the tremendous efforts from the filmmakers. I think it all goes back to the mindset of the cinema goers in Indonesia that sadly has not reached the level of those in South Korea, America and India. People of those countries have accepted the fact that films are soft power of the country, and I think it’s true because films could act as an important medium of communication.

For commercial and non-commercial films, I think it all goes back to the financial support because usually more sponsors will be interested to invest in commercial films in comparison to non-commercial films simply because they could provide higher returns. It’s a very risky industry and these people definitely wish to make their investments worthwhile.

We’ve begun to slowly opening up to foreign investments amongst which are CJ Entertainment, XYZ Films, and the good news is there are increasing number of foreign production houses that are interested in our works and has shown interests in co-producing Indonesian films. So hopefully with their co-operation and of course our local government support to fully promote Indonesian films, we hope to see significant developments in the future.

We often see high quality Indonesian films screened at renown festivals even though they have such micro budgets. One of the example would be my own film titled, A Copy Of My Mind, it was produced with a micro budget with only 15 crew members. We used our own wardrobe, had any food that was convenient to the film locations, we had to depend a lot on mutual co-operation, sense of belonging and our passion for film.

Tara Basro: We had to depend a lot on our willingness and desire to fight to create, and our passion.

Chicco Jerikho: Yes, our mutual willingness and desire to fight to create, and our passion for filmmaking were so strong. If we have to say, our talents are no doubt up to standards from our director and DP to quality actors like Tara who went to Berlin Talent School, they are all very talented. So, it’s all back to the support we need from the government and thankfully now we are all working on it.

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In terms of government support that you mentioned earlier, how much would you say are available to Indonesian filmmakers? I understand that we need to amend the system in the country to help increase viewership and change the mindset of the viewers, but from the regulations aspect of it, do you think Indonesian filmmakers are familiar and comfortable enough with the current system? Also, I feel that Indonesian outstanding films are not supported enough with its promotional activities. What do you think could be done better?

Satrio Kurnianto: I feel that filmmakers know their place in the industry and we understand that Indonesia is a developing country and there are so many things that the country need to reflect on and improve. Film is just a small fragment of it. Investing the money on education would be better, wouldn’t it?

So to us it’s not just always about the money. The help could be in any forms and not just in monetary value. Providing a platform for us to connect would be a good start, or perhaps a more lenient regulations to film locally and internationally, permits and so on. Then we could all work together to find the financial supports.

I find the biggest challenge is to showcase Indonesian films to the world except for The Raid because Gareth directly deal with XYZ Films. As you can see through Gareth’s works,  producing films of Hollywood standards and quality in Indonesia is indeed possible – keeping in mind micro budget in Hollywood is a mainstream budget in Indonesia, which is a big difference.

Again, I feel that we have to work on this together including the promotions. For instance, it would be nice to entrust our consulates overseas with some leaflets and posters of our coming projects. Things like that that don’t require financial support.

It seems that we lack the space for discussions between the two parties here to work on potential promotional activities. That brings on the next question, how would you see the Indonesian film industry in 30 years time? And what should we start doing from now to achieve that?

Satrio Kurnianto: I think from the ability of the filmmakers and creative talents in Indonesia, we are ready to compete. The issue in my opinion would be the audience and distribution system in Indonesia. Because if Indonesian audiences are ready to embrace Indonesian film culture, young filmmakers would be more motivated and persistent in creating quality films, and vice versa.

We have 1,200 screens in Indonesia, half of which is owned by 21 Cinema while local filmmakers always have to compete hard for the other half of the screens. So hopefully there will be more investors coming in to increase the film distribution because obviously the current amount is not enough for Indonesian audience.

In terms of system, we have put in tremendous efforts into the creative making of films, associations, communities, festivals and so on but in reality the people who received the credits are still not the filmmakers. It’s a shame, really. A friend of mine and a documenter, Rudi Gajahmada was invited to Dubai to showcase his film but the Indonesian representatives there did not know who he was. When he is the one promoting to foreign investors and inviting them to invest in Indonesia, his own country does not recognise his effort. Isn’t it a shame?

Even though we couldn’t personally reap what we sow, we have started moving towards change. Hopefully, our future generations would be able to enjoy the benefits in the future.

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Could you walk us through briefly the distribution system in Indonesia?

Chicco Jerikho: In terms of distributions, thankfully we are working on improving the structure at the moment. We have now  expanded to remote areas and have opened several theatres in areas such as Kraten, Purbalingga and Purwokerto that had no cinema before. Hopefully, the developments will continue to progress well in the future.

Seeing the progress of Indonesian films through IFF Australia, we see a trend of unconventional films bravely covering social, economical and political criticisms. For instance, in Filosofi Kopi there were scenes criticising modern community’s needs for internet, Instagram culture and so on. How do you think these developments of social, economical and political representations in Indonesian films would continue to develop and affect Indonesian film sphere in the future?

Tara Basro: Chicco, may be you want to talk about the new movement you created with the making of Filosofi Kopi? That is an interesting social change and good example of the use of technology and how it affects our film industry. It’s something new.

Chicco Jerikho: Oh yes, so basically I wanted to try something different to increase awareness and interests of Indonesian audience for Filosofi Kopi and produced the idea of user generated movie. I dare say that Filosofi Kopi is the first user generated movie because I got the audience involved in the making process by contributing their ideas for the films through an online platform.

Audience get to collaborate with us, contribute their opinions from the narrative to the way Ben looks. Eventually Filosofi Kopi is not just a film but to me it is also a movement – not only in the film industry but also in Indonesia’s coffee culture as it elevates Indonesia’s coffee that has been descended from its 3rd rank to the 6th in the world. Additionally, besides aiming to introduce Barista as a profession to Indonesia, Filosofi Kopi also provides its audience with post-cinematic experience by visiting the cafe, try the coffee and even chat with us about Indonesian coffee, its farmers and its history.

Tatjana Saphira: I agree with what Chicco pointed that film could act as a medium and it could connect a lot of things together. That’s how important film is, and that’s why Indonesia need to work together to further develop its films industry.

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Tara and Tatjana, perhaps you could share with us how you research and prepare for your roles for Another Trip To The Moon and Negeri Van Oranje respectively?

Tara Basro: I feel that I have always been passionate about my roles and have been fortunate to try many different roles like martial arts so I get to learn new things everyday. So for the preparations, first thing that I do is to detach myself from my life and what I have now. So basically, I talk a lot with the directors and producers about what kind of worlds and characters they want to create and then I create character history based on that. For me every process just all comes naturally.

Were there any particular challenges you faced while filming for Another Trip To The Moon?

Tara Basro: It was a lot harder to convey something without saying a word because there not a single dialogue in the film. I think in this project I get a lot of help from my environment, directors and other elements around.

Tatjana Saphira: For me preparation wise, usually we get time to prepare for the role for about a month. It is an important time for character development and during that time for me it is also important to build chemistry with other characters especially when the theme revolves around friendship and love, which are the main themes for Negeri Van Oranje.

So I spent a lot of time with other actors the month before the filming to prepare for the role. For me it is quite challenging because I am rather quiet and introverted in reality but in the story I have to be friends with these four guys I just met who are way older than me with totally different interests. The four of them just click right away so it was quite difficult for me to follow their dynamics.

But we had fun filming in Netherlands. It was spring but it was pretty cold still so it was rather difficult concentrating in the cold weather and strong wind. Especially for me…

Chicco Jerikho: (laughs) because you had to deal and be patient with four guys.

Tatjana Saphira: Not at all, because my wardrobe wasn’t meant for such cold weather. So it was difficult. But then again, it’s very interesting like what Tara mentioned this job allows her to learn new things everyday and it’s the same for me. Besides allowing me to learn new things, it has also brought me to many places that I’ve never been before so it’s been a fun experience.

The Indonesian Film Festival Australia 2016 was running from 13 to 20 April 2016 at ACMI, Melbourne. Find out more about the festival at www.iffaustralia.com.

Photo courtesy of Indonesian Film Festival Australia.