A. Junaidi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Young directors, actors and actresses have been the face of Indonesia at international film festivals for the past decade or so, but ironically, they had received no recognition at home.
Now, the film community have the National Film Supervisory Body (BP2N) to thank for its efforts in preparing the first Indonesian Film Festival since 1992.
BP2N chairman Johnny Safruddin revealed on Tuesday at a seminar commemorating the 54th anniversary of National Film Day, held at the Usmar Ismail Film Center, that the revived prestigious event would select about 50 local films produced in the past three years to compete in the festival.
Although he did not mention precise dates for the festival, he claimed the government had allocated Rp 800 million (US$94,117) for its preparation.
Due to financial constraints, the film supervisory body has been approaching the Bali, Riau and East Kalimantan provincial administrations to ask them to host the festival.
""We hope to raise financial support from the province willing to host the festival. In return, it can benefit from the event as a free promotional forum,"" Johnny said.
The last Indonesian Film Festival was held in 1992 in Jakarta, at which a comedy, Ramadhan dan Ramona (Ramadhan and Ramona), directed by Chaerul Umam and starring acting couple Jamal Mirdad and Lidya Kandou, won the Citra Award for best film. The film also won poet Putu Wijaya an award for best screenplay.
The annual festival was eventually brought to a halt by a sharp decline in national film productions, which was blamed on tough competition from imported films.
Many critics saw the ""death"" of the national film industry as a result of the monopolistic practice of cinema chain and American film importer 21 Group, which was controlled by then-president Soeharto's cousin Sudwikatmono.
The situation was a stark contrast to the pledge made by then-information minister and Soeharto loyalist Harmoko to help the national film industry maintain its grip as ""the host on home soil"" amid the invasion of imported films.
Compelled by the ailing film industry, many film producers and stars moved from the movie screen to television, particularly soap operas, or sinetron, which is booming.
Since the fall of Soeharto in May 1998, the country has seen young, talented directors and producers lead the recovery of the national film industry.
New faces in the film industry, such as directors Mira Lesmana, Nia Dinata, Riri Riza and Rudi Sudjarwo, replaced the likes of Eros Djarot, Slamet Rahardjo Djarot and Chaerul Umam.
The new series of films focused on various themes, from children and teenagers to post-modern issues, such as homosexuality, which was the inspiration behind acclaimed urbanite film Arisan (Get-together).
Meanwhile, Director General of Film and Television Sri Hastanto at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture supported the festival's revival.
As for its arrangement, he said, ""We'll let the film community organize the festival. We will not intervene like we did in the past.""
National Film Day falls on March 30 and is dedicated to the first Indonesian film titled Darah dan Doa (Blood and Praying), about veteran freedom fighters in the independence war against the Dutch, directed by Usmar Ismail in 1950.