TALENT PRESS 2013: Adrian Jonathan Pasaribu

Public enlightenment is the name of the game now, and I certainly don’t want to be left out. Indonesian cinema desperately needs a second chance from its own public. I must contribute, one article at a time.

Adrian Jonathan Pasaribu

There are two different camps representing Indonesian cinema viewing. One is of all the works produced by Indonesian filmmakers, another is the films known and watched by the public. Unfortunately, the former is much greater than the latter.

There are two possible causes for this. First, the distribution system in Indonesia is not big enough to cover the whole population. At the moment, there are 162 theaters (716 screens) for 248 million people living in Indonesia. That means, on average, there is one screen for 346.369 people. Most of the theaters are located in shopping malls, in big cities. People in rural areas and from lower economic class have little access to cinema, while it is them who make up the most of the population.

Second, information regarding Indonesian cinema is awfully one-sided. Most of the media only covers the entertainment side of the industry, which often takes shape in news coverage, celebrity gossip, and reports from film events. Little effort is committed to cover the film scene outside the industry. Even less effort is made to create and publish analysis on the budding film scenes, both mainstream and alternative, be it film reviews, box-office reports, or critical essays.

As one local filmmaker put it, “Our national cinema has reached a certain value, a very noteworthy one. Sadly, very little of it is transmitted to the public.” Indeed, lack of public appreciation has been one big problem that Indonesian cinema suffers throughout generations. We always have a regeneration of filmmakers, but not of film critics. Consequently, Indonesian cinema lacks a mirror for further reflection. The public could never know about the totality of their national cinema, filmmakers rarely get critical analytical feedback on their works, and it is becoming more urgent now. The latest box-office report suggests a decline in cinema attendance for local films, while public consensus suggests that Indonesian cinema is nothing but sleazy horror and melodrama flicks. This requires rebalancing.

This is how I find where my duty lies. I have no power regarding film distribution. I have no connection to the government, and I am not rich enough to build screening rooms all over the country. But I can write, and I love cinema. I work for several media outlets and I live in a very interconnected environment, where one tweet or blog post could drive public opinion. Public enlightenment is the name of the game now and I certainly don’t want to be left out. I must contribute, one article at a time.

I've always believed that to write is to ruminate on second chances. At the moment, that is exactly what Indonesian cinema desperately needs: a second chance from its own public.