The renaissance in Indonesian cinema is being celebrated at the Busan International Film Festival this year with 15 films, shorts and series being showcased.
Hilmar Farid, Director General of Culture at Indonesia‘s Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology, is leading a 50-strong delegation of filmmakers, committee members and media to the festival. Variety spoke with Farid about the country’s boom and its upcoming opportunities and challenges.
Indonesia is making quite a splash at Busan this year and has been consistently making waves internationally with accolades at Locarno and Venice. Why do you think the independent cinema of Indonesia has reached this level?
In the last 10 years, Indonesian filmmakers have gradually appeared on the world festival circuit. Every year they productively produce quality films that narrate Indonesia’s diversity, prioritize women’s perspectives and speak about empowerment. This consistency is the pillar of Indonesia’s international presence. Of course, this initiative cannot be left for too long without more systemic support. This is where the government plays a facilitating role. Helping coordinate between stakeholders, encouraging the birth of film development labs, supporting travel grants, and various other needs that can strengthen the initiative of filmmakers in developing this industry. So, it was collaborative work that brought Indonesian cinema to its current state… although not yet ideal, but gradually moving towards a more established industry.
What are the opportunities for Indonesian cinema going forward? And what are the challenges?
Opportunities and challenges are of course many. Changes in the industrial landscape due to technological developments have resulted in fundamental changes in media consumption patterns. As one of the largest potential markets in the world [Indonesia has a population of 277 million], of course, this change in consumption patterns is a challenge and a potential that requires new strategies to implement.
What is the distribution scenario for independent films in Indonesia?
The traditional basis is of course the development of the number of cinema screens. The number of Indonesian cinema screens has doubled in the last eight years. Apart from that, there is also the development of semi-commercial screens based on cultural hubs. We call them: micro cinemas. It is also important to support the development of OTT [streaming]-based distribution, while looking for new opportunities that not only allow for increased outreach, but also diversification of audiovisual formats. That way, in the future, Indonesia will have various film business models that complement each other.
What is the distribution scenario for independent Indonesian films internationally?
Most Indonesian independent films are distributed internationally by their own producers’ initiatives. The government supports this with facilitation, both funding and other forms of incentives for them. In the future, we will likely consolidate this effort so that it might be able to produce a bigger impact. Consolidation with coordination of market agencies, international publications & PR-ing activities, and also festival travel support.
Around the world, a lot of independent films now go directly to streaming platforms without a theatrical release. Is this the case in Indonesia as well?
OTT currently provides a short-term option that makes things easier for independent filmmakers. There are some films that fit this way, but that doesn’t mean it’s a generic formula for all films. Traditional screens remain important to continue to expand their numbers and outreach. Although for Indonesia increasing the number of screens is not an easy thing considering that Indonesia is an archipelago state.
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