Onward, upward!

Onward, upward!
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A scene from 'Soekarno: Indonesia Merdeka' A scene from ‘Soekarno: Indonesia Merdeka’ December is Indonesian cinema’s “Hollywood summer,” or the season when local big-budget movies are normally released. Most Jakarta cinemas are currently showing at least two or three Indonesian films — including “Soekarno: Indonesia Merdeka” (“Soekarno: Indonesia’s Independence”); “Tenggelamnya Kapal Van der Wijck” (“The Sinking of the Ship Van der Wijck”); and the second sequel of “Laskar Pelangi” (“Rainbow Warrior”) titled “Edensor”­— all of which were released shortly before Christmas, and just in time for the school holidays. This flood, and the relative dearth of foreign films in cinemas, is not an annual phenomenon but something of a local silver screen tide change. The passion for filmmaking in Indonesia right now is unprecedented and surprising given the lack of reliable sales agents and distributors in the country. This year, Indonesia made more movies than it did in the last two decades. And the numbers tell all. The Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy reported that there were 103 movies being produced this year— a rise from last year’s 99 works in progress, and 2011’s 82. This year’s production tally is even double the annual number of works in progress between 1992 and 2006. One of the contributing factors is the number of new directors, especially from the independent film production scene. Indonesian movies have short production phases so it is possible for actors to star in several movies a year. For example, Reza Rahadian appeared in no less than six films in 2012. He ended the year on a high note by portraying a former president in “Habibie & Ainun,” a film that attracted over 4 million viewers. This year, the actor hasn’t been slowing down either: he took the leads in “Operation Wedding,” “Adriana,” and played supporting roles in “Sang Kiai” (“The Religious Teacher”) and “Slank Nggak Ada Matinya.” (“Slank Will Never Die). But Reza’s impressive and growing list of films has been topped by Lukman Sardi. The actor consistently appeared in at least five movies — sometimes more — for every year since 2008. His most memorable roles in 2013 were in “Rectoverso,” where he portrayed an autistic man, and as Mohammad Hatta in “Soekarno: Indonesia Merdeka.” Busy beeA scene from 'Sokola Rimba' A scene from ‘Sokola Rimba’ Another busy bee of the film industry was Verdi Soelaiman, who was seen in 14 films over the past two years. Indonesian moviegoers also witnessed a big comeback for actor Vino G. Bastian who starred in five movies in 2013. Earlier this year, we saw Vino as a person living with HIV/Aids in the drama “Mika.” Then, he became the owner of an traditional bakery shop in “Madre,” and was a loving father in “Tampan Tailor.” The two were movies released on the same day in March. Later this year, he also appeared in “Cinta Mati” (“Love Is Dead”) and “Air Mata Terakhir Bunda,” (“A Mother’s Final Tears”) before announcing to the press that he would take a sabbatical to spend time with his newborn baby, Jizzy. This year was also successful for stand-up comedians — mostly thanks to Raditya Dika. At the premiere of “Cinta dalam Kardus,” (“Love in a Cardboard Box”), Dika said he was trying to provide more space in films for local comics. The Internet celebrity and author of eight books wore many hats this year. Not only was he cast in “Cinta Brontosaurus,” (“Brontosaurus Love”), “Cinta dalam Kardus” and “Manusia Setengah Salmon,” (“The Salmon-Man”) but Dika also began to write screenplays. In addition, his web series “Malam Minggu Miko” (“Miko’s Saturday Night”) is running its second season and will be made into a feature movie next year. With more than 800,000 viewers, “Cinta Brontosaurus” was the highest grossing movie for many months of this year until “99 Cahaya di Langit Eropa” (“99 Shadows in the European Sky”) broke the record. A film’s success is definitely a boost for other producers and investors. Last year, biopic “Habibie & Ainun” and action flick “The Raid” drew at least 5 million viewers. Three weeks after opening, it was “99 Cahaya di Langit Eropa,” from Maxima Pictures, which became the first local movie to attract over a million viewers. The drama is an adaptation of a book about being a Muslim in Europe and discovering the history of Islam on the foreign continent. Some of the world’s biggest cities made an appearance in several Indonesian movies this year. “9 Summers 10 Autumns” is set in New York, while “La Tahzan” was partly filmed in Japan. However, it was Europe that became the trending film destination. “Edensor” was filmed in Paris, following Ikal (Lukman Sardi) and Arai (Abimana Aryasatya) as they enroll as new students at the prestigious Sorbonne university. Maxima Pictures’ “Refrain,” directed by Fajar Nugros and starring Maudy Ayunda, took viewers all the way to Austria, while Dinna Jasanti’s debut “Laura dan Marsha” (“Laura and Marsha”), starring Prisia Nasution and Adinia Wirasti, followed the protagonists on their road trip around Europe, from Amsterdam to Venice. For other filmmakers, an effort to step out of Jakarta may not have led them all the way to Europe, but the results were breathtaking nonetheless. Duo Mira Lesmana and Riri Riza returned to cinemas last November with extraordinary work in “Sokola Rimba.” One of the best Indonesian movies this year, this cinematic treat highlighted local wisdom and other things unmeasurable within the modern perspective. It is rare to find such subtle storytelling in a local film. A scene from '99 Cahaya di Langit Eropa'. A scene from ’99 Cahaya di Langit Eropa’. An even rarer ingredient is the exploration of senses, which was the focus in Mouly Surya’s “What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Love.” The film, which premiered at the Sundance film festival, follows Diana and Fitri, two disabled girls seeking love. Mouly, who wrote and directed the film, provides viewers a truly unusual and rich experience. With solemn music, fantastic cinematography, viewers are lured into seeing and feeling things the way the girls do. December data from the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy also showed that 12 theaters closed nationally this year. There are 1,074 screens nationwide for both 21 Cinema and Blitzmegaplex. Looking ahead to 2014, local films like “Comic 8”and “ The Guardian” are likely to offer a wider range of genres than the usual horror, drama and comedy. There are plenty of promising flicks, including the likes of “2014,” “Killers,” the second sequel of “The Raid” titled “Berandal” (“Hooligan”) and “Tabula Rasa” (“The Flavor of Tabula”). In September, local filmmakers established the Indonesian Motion Pictures Association (Impas) to ensure regeneration and the passing of knowledge to keep the industry alive. They are on the right path. The Jakarta Globe

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