Jakarta film archive struggles
to survive

By Muninggar Sri Saraswati

JAKARTA (JP): Film records human life just like a book does. It documents human life in a different form: a combination of motion picture and recorded sound.

To learn more about film, particularly about Indonesian cinema, check out Sinematek Indonesia.

Situated in Usmar Ismail Film Center on Jl. HR Rasuna Said, South Jakarta, Sinematek is the only film archive in the country. It houses various kinds of Indonesian film archives, including copies, negatives, dialogue sheets and publications.

You will discover film as a reflection of culture, instead of just entertainment. You can watch the same movie your parents did when they were still dating.

You can observe the life of the Indonesian people in a previous era, from their lifestyle to discourses on gender and politics and so forth.

Sinematek in fact plays a significant role in the film industry here. Its function is to preserve, develop and maintain the film collection.

Sinematek has a collection of posters, which are quite interesting since the illustrations were made using old fashioned media, such as watercolors. Currently most movie posters are made from photographs.

Another interesting scene in Sinematek is some 58 cameras and projectors used to produce movies in the past.

However, it is the printed materials collected by the agency that attract the most visitors.

The main visitors to Sinematek are university students and scholars, who are conducting research related to cinema, sociology or culture.

Sinematek would also be more than happy to lend their collections for public interest, such as to the Jakarta International Film Festival.

""But if you want to borrow our films to celebrate your birthday, even if you pay Rp 1 million, we won't lend them,"" S.M. Ardan, the deputy head of Sinematek, told The Jakarta Post.

Sinematek's collection covers more than 2,000 films including videos and laser discs, more than 7,000 film posters, about 35,000 photographic prints and more than 10,000 printed materials such as books, film scripts and dialog sheets.

Among its collection are internationally acclaimed Asian and non-Asian movies.

Ardan said that the agency obtained some films from the producers themselves and from mobile theater owners, who had gone bankrupt and sold old Indonesian movies at reasonable prices or gave away their collections.

There is no charge for borrowing books and films, but for each film, one has to pay a Rp 15,000 administrative fee.

Scholars and institutions usually give a donation to express their gratitude.

Yet, Sinematek, which was founded in 1975 during the tenure of governor Ali Sadikin, as a part of Usmar Ismail Film Center, is facing financial problems.

Sinematek now relies on the Rp 17 million monthly allowance provided by the Film Center Foundation and the National Film Management.

The shortage of funds prevents the agency from managing its work well. Sinematek can no longer keep its film collection up to date, or improve the maintenance of its collection.

But the worst setback happened two years ago, when the agency could no longer afford to pay its annual membership fee to the International Federation of Film Archives. The fee is 37,500 Belgium francs (about Rp 7.5 million), a staff member said.

Ardan said FFAF had not terminated Sinematek's membership, but he added that Sinematek would accept its fate should that happen.

This is unfortunate, because the federation, which links more than 60 film archive associations around the world, provides Sinematek with information about film preservation.

Ardan urged the government and film society to help the agency, considering that Sinematek is a noncommercial agency, not a film rental business.


Commenting on the issue, film observer Marselli Sumarno, suggested that Sinematek be creative in exploring ways to overcome its financial problems.

Marselli, a film lecturer at Jakarta Arts Institute, said that instead of placing hopes in the government, Sinematek should start making efforts to be financially independent.

Being a noncommercial agency means the agency is not profit oriented. However, it is acceptable for Sinematek to make money to maintain its existence, he said.

He said that some foreign film archive agencies are able to raise funds by screening their film collection to visitors or producing old movies in a new form, like VCD, to name a few.

""Such productions could become a good source of revenue that would enable Sinematek to survive,"" Marselli remarked.

He suggested that Sinematek recruit some new personnel, who have knowledge about new film technology and a business orientation, in order to revitalize the agency.

Marselli noted that the reorganization of Sinematek is a must due to its important role in documenting Indonesian culture, by preserving film memorabilia.

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