Cinema and Indonesia

The Republic of Indonesia is an archipelago of more than 13,000 islands, harboring the fifth largest popuation in the world. The percentage of films produced annually in Indonesia in proportion to its population is one of the lowest in the Southeast Asian region.

Overt government censorship, limited resources for filmmaking, and inconsistent receptivity amongst the Indonesian people have been significant factors in the evolving tradition of Indonesian cinema.

In comparison to the cultural relevance and popular appeal of Indonesian theatre and centuries-old traditions of arts and performance thriving in local communities, the potential of an Indonesian cinema remains underdeveloped.

According to historians of Indonesian cinema (of which there are few), since its beginnings during the Dutch colonial period of the 1920s and 1930s, cinema in Indonesia has been primarily a commercial enterprise geared toward entertainment and profit.

Crude imitation of the Hollywood model defines much of the Indonesian filmmaking industry. Indonesian films are often criticized by their own audiences for presenting disproportionate levels of sex, violence, and opulence amidst the realities of Indonesian cultures and societies.

Despite the efforts of local directors in developing an Indonesian tradition of Third Cinema, films imported from India, China, and the United States still have a dominating presence in Indonesian theatres.

Perhaps in the spirit of change currently motivating the Indonesian people to confront their corrupt government and its long-weathered structures of oppression, the tradition of Indonesian cinema will also transcend its own ideological constraints, realizing its potential as a powerful medium supportive of the ideals of revolutionary transformation.