RI and Australia build ties through film
Andrea Booth , Contributor , Jakarta | Sat, 03/27/2010 12:40 PM | Art and Design
A floating red balloon. The poignant crush between boys. A malfunctioning chainsaw, and a US$1 boat to navigate Jakarta floods.
These colorful images were prominent features at the Australian Alumni Film Festival 2010 last weekend at the Usmar Ismail Film Industry Center in South Jakarta.
If you thought Australian and Indonesian relations were stifled with hostility, the event was testament to the fact that both are working to strengthen ties. Saturday evening was packed with talented Indonesians' filmmaking skills they learned down under.
"Australia and Indonesia can better connect through the arts," Indonesian director Mira Lesmana told The Jakarta Post. "Film can help provide a means to strengthen ties between the neighbors."
Mira, who opened the festival showcasing eight selected shorts, is regarded as a strong presence in the country's film industry. With her production company Miles Films, she has produced many well-received films such as Ada apa dengan Cinta
, (What's up with Cinta) Eliana, Eliana
and the more recent Laskar Pelangi
(The Rainbow Warriors).
Whenever she traveled to Australia, Mira said, she met many fellow countrymen studying film. "There are many Indonesians in Australia who have a great interest in film. We are proud to be Australian Alumni."
The event was a collaboration between the Australian Embassy, OzMate - a social networking website exclusive to Indonesians studying in Australia - and Radio Australia, committed to bridging the gap between Indonesia and Australia.
For Indonesian filmmakers, who graduated from Australian universities and institutes, the night was filled with creativity and camaraderie, providing youths with the opportunity to further boost the nation's film industry.
Director Andra Fembriarto said he was proud his film was selected at the festival. His film, Jakarta 2012, satirized the willingness to adapt to a problem rather than solve it, such as the case of Jakarta's floods.
The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) graduate said he chose to study in Australia because of the quality of the university's media program. He added he wanted to use his skills to contribute to the growth of the Indonesian film industry.
"Events like this are also great to network, I hope there are more of them," he said.
Andra also said that Indonesia and Australia could benefit from working in collaboration.
"Both countries have many rich stories and skills they can provide one another."
He also pointed to the fact that this was a good time for Australia and Indonesia to begin working with one another because Australia was undergoing a shift in paradigm.
"It is moving from perceiving itself as a Western country to one that values its location in the East more."
Another filmmaker at the event, Wahyu Aditya, also founder and CEO of animation school HelloMotion Academy, said Indonesians greatly benefited from their ties with the Australian arts community because it broadened their perspective. Wahyu studied at the KvB Institute of Technology in North Sydney.
"Australia's link with the Western world gives Indonesia the opportunity to be exposed to new ideas," he said.
Wahyu's comedic animation Tahi Sapi Atau Bukan
(Bull $hit or not) followed the quest of three friends to determine the identity of the brown gob they stumbled upon.
"I want animation to become a lifestyle," he said of the genre. "One reason I created my film academy was to provide a large network of people to strengthen collaboration and further develop the animation genre."
Young filmmaker Debora Christy, whose Where is my Red-Heart Shaped Balloon
short was shown, said she was committed to using the skills she learned at UTS in Indonesia to tell the stories that mattered.
"Indonesia has many interesting and important stories it can tell through film," she asserted.
Mira Lesmana, who studied at the Australian International Independent School and then at the Jakarta Arts Institute, Indonesia, agreed.
"The selected shorts incorporate a variety of themes, which is great as we need many exchanges," she said. "There are thousands of stories to be told.
"The people selected tonight - independent, creative intellectuals - have the ability to communicate fresh ideas and the issues that need voicing."
However, she said that despite Indonesians arriving back in the country with their newfound skills, as well as the rapid growth the country's film industry over the past 12 years, it encountered many problems concerning the national film law.
"Indonesians must continue to fight it, but it's events like this, filled with unhindered creativity, that are inspiring for the industry."
Mira said another problem was filmmakers often did not have the opportunity to maximize their exposure.
"This type of initiative is a positive way to showcase the work of upcoming filmmakers.
"I've noticed sometimes filmmakers find it hard to connect with the movies they produce, but these filmmakers have engaged fully. One prominent theme discussed in some of these shorts - Indonesians adjusting to Australia - is one they are quite passionate about."
Building the relationship between Australia and Indonesia and working together was a sentiment felt by festivalgoers that evening. However, Mira emphasized stories and form must be contemporary and relevant if people were to engage.
Shannon Smith, education counselor at the Australian Embassy, believes Indonesian film is on the right track.
"Indonesian storytelling is modern," he said. "It's a modern country and its films are progressive, dealing with topics from sexuality to the topical environmental issue."
Shannon added that while many people were involved in the arts in Indonesia, he saw the need to make it more visible. "This event is part of the effort to better expose it."
Kimo Stamboel of the Mo Brothers, who showed short film Dara
, which was made into the 2009 feature Rumah Dara
(Dara's home), capped the spirit of the festival.
"Indonesia and Australia can produce great films by sharing their respective skills and working together."