Singapore Media Festival’s editorial team presents a three-part series that focuses on Indonesian industry professionals and personalities under SMF – The Scoop.
In Indonesia – Unfolding The Story, Shanty Harmayn, a prominent voice for the advancement of Indonesia’s creative industries, sheds light on the country’s developing landscape and the transformative roles its film industry has taken on.
(Above) Shanty Harmayn. Photo courtesy of Shanty.
You have been heavily involved in the film scene since you established your Jakarta-based production company Salto Films in 1998. What changes has the Indonesian film scene undergone?
Huge changes! When I established Salto in 1998, not a lot of Indonesian films were produced then. Maybe 1-2 per year? Flash-forward to 2017, we are seeing more than 120 local films being produced annually. You can say that it’s the Second Rise now; there was a drop in film production starting in 2010, but now we are seeing resurgence. There are so many films now and what is more interesting is the diversity of genres.
My hope is that the growth we have now will have a long life span. One of the requirements to growth is good infrastructure and human resources that can support the industry. For example, building more screens for a bigger capacity because that’s one of the ways to sustain growth.
In an interview with BBC, you mentioned that in order to make the Indonesian film industry more internationally relevant, filmmakers need to work with the government to create an infrastructure to show that the industry and creative talents can produce consistent good work such as the The Raid: Redemption. What has since changed for Indonesia’s filmmakers?
When The Raid: Redemption was released, it brought Indonesia to the world stage. When you build an industry, it can’t be just one film. We need twenty of The Raid: Redemption. You got to have that consistency and diversity. This can be achieved if there is a systematic way of building talent. There needs to be contribution from the government (which they already are starting) as well as awareness from the stakeholders in the industry.
When people talk about Indonesia, there are around 250 million people here. You would question how many of them get access to movies - be it through the TV or theater with the former having highest reach now. There are approximately 1,200 screens servicing the whole of Indonesia. There is room for the industry to grow, but only if the population gets the access.
There is also an interesting phenomenon: Indonesia’s regional films, which were made in local language, are able to attract a hundred thousand audiences even with a limited release in the region, and can even beat a nationwide release! You can see this in cities like Makassar.
(Above) Image from The Raid: Redemption directed by Gareth Evans. Photo courtesy of Indiewire.
Has the government played a role in grooming local talent for worldwide reception and partnership?
When President Jokowi became president, one of his first orders was to make creative economy its focus. This was a good sign and we are observing how they are rolling out the plan for something so new - the country is big and the government body has to work on 14, 15 areas of the creative economy. It’s not just film, but for other creative sectors as well. For the longest time, we weren’t seen as a serious potential industry that can bring in revenue.
We can be very happy and creative about the growth (of film productions), but we also need to feed it.
(Above) Image from Marlina the Murderer in 4 Acts directed by Mouly Surya.
(From top) Headshot directed by Timo Tjahjanto, The Dancer directed by Ifa Isfansyah and Warkop DKI Reborn directed by Anggy Umbara. Photo courtesy of SGIFF, Salto Films and Falcon Pictures respectively.
Indonesian films such as The Raid, Headshot and The Dancer have all received regional acclaim, with Headshot being featured as one of SGIFF 2016’s Asian Vision films. Has there been an increasing level of recognition for Indonesian films? If so, what can you share about this trend?
There are several interesting films that I personally look forward to this year.
The film, Marlina the Murderer in 4 Acts, is a Western directed by Indonesia’s leading female filmmaker Mouly Surya and stars a female protagonist played by Marsha Timothy. It’s a very interesting film that was screened at Cannes and Toronto and is doing well in international sales now.
Another film that also premiered in Toronto includes Kamila Andini’s The Seen and Unseen as well as Posesif which is directed by Edwin and distributed by Palari Films.
There are also some sequels of super box office comedies - one of which is Warkop DKI Reborn which is based on a famous comedy IP in the 1980’s. The film adaptation became the best selling Indonesian film of all time, gaining more than 6 million viewers and broke record with 4,6 million viewers in 12 days. 212 Warrior, a martial art film based on the famous Indonesian IP Wiro Sableng of Lifelike Pictures and Fox International Production, is currently in production.
It is a very lively market out there, with a diversity of genres – from comic, western horror to martial arts. Producers are taking risks and making bigger budget films. What I like is that they are telling different stories - and the market is responding. That’s exciting, isn’t it?
(Above) Image from Turah directed by Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo. Photo courtesy of Qubicle.
What are some interesting festivals happening in Indonesia right now? And how are the dynamics of these festivals shaping the Indonesian media scene?
The Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival (JAFF) is taking place soon in December. It is a place where you can discover new talent and meet many independent filmmakers. For the past three years, they have screened gems and their films have travelled all over the world - its importance lies in them nurturing the local community.
One of the films, Turah, directed by Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo, had even travelled to Singapore as part of SGIFF 2016, and won the SGIFF Asian Feature Film: Special Mention. JAFF is the place to find great independent films and talented emerging filmmakers.
Several top directors who are making waves in the industry came from the same indie community and were also involved in JAFF. One of them is someone whom I have worked closely with - Ifa Isfansyah, director of The Dancer. JAFF itself is intimate - they intend to keep it that way. My interpretation is that though they keep it intimate, it also becomes their strength. JAFF is unique in that way.
You are very familiar with the Singapore film community and you are also an advisory board member of the Singapore Media Festival. The Country-of-Focus for this year’s Singapore Media Festival is Indonesia. What kind of Indonesian participation can we expect to see at this year’s Singapore Media Festival?
My hope is for Indonesian producers to be able to come to SMF and SGIFF to exchange knowledge, share about our market and potential, understand the Southeast Asian market better and to also learn to keep up with the changes in technology. I hope that more Indonesian producers can attend the Singapore Media Festival because I think it’s even more crucial to be exposed to each other as a region.
(Above) Visitors attending JAFF. Photo courtesy of JAFF.
(Indonesian) producers are taking risks and making bigger budget films... they are telling different stories - and the market is responding. That’s exciting, isn’t it ?