The passing of legendary cineaste Misbach Yusa Biran means one thing for Indonesian cinema — that the country has lost another great film figure.
Actors, actresses, those behind-the-scenes and movie buffs expressed loss upon hearing the news of the death of the film director and scriptwriter on Wednesday morning.
“Indonesia has lost its national film figure that had shown great dedication,” veteran actor Rano Karno said as quoted by antara.com.
Actor-turned-director Deddy Mizwar shared the same feeling as Rano, mentioning Misbach as an influential personage in the movie business.
People’s condolences expressing deep loss also flooded Twitter the day the initiator of the Indonesian film archive, Sinematek, passed away.
Misbach passed away at the age of 78 at Eka Hospital in Bumi Serpong Damai, Tangerang, after days of intensive treatment due to a lung infection.
His death was deemed a major loss for local cinema because no figure in the Indonesian film industry had fought as hard as he did to improve the quality of film in the country.
For almost half of his career, Misbach had been complaining about the poor quality of local films, a
fact that encouraged him to quit directing and move to scriptwriting in the 1970s.
He left his passion for directing out of frustration with an environment that was not in line with his idealism.
Unfortunately, things did not get any better for him.
The Jakarta Post’s latest interview with Misbach back in 2010 found him still complaining about the Indonesian film industry.
“It’s like we’re going back to the 1970s, when exploitive, adult-themed movies hit the big time,” he remarked.
Born in Rangkasbitung in 1933, as a boy, he had penchant for art. Misbach started his career in film at 22 by joining Perfini (the Indonesian National Film Company), where his idealism was nurtured by legendary filmmaker Usmar Ismail.
“Perfini wasn’t like other studios only focused on making profits. That was why I was interesting in joining it,” Misbach told the Post.
His first job was as a script recorder, but later he became assistant director and soon progressed to writing and directing one film after another, including Ayahku (My Father), Macan Kemayoran (Kemayoran Heroes), Bintang Ketjil (Little Star) and Holiday in Bali.
For someone who had no background in film, Misbach was deemed talented and a quick study.
The highlight of his career was when he swept the awards for Best Story and Best Director at National Film Appreciation Week in 1967 for Dibalik Tjahaja Gemerlapan (Behind the Glittering Light).
But that joy did not last long with the flourishing of lowbrow films, which forced Misbach to quit filmmaking as a way to show his lack of support for the worsening film industry of the 70s.
Misbach, however, decided to stick to scriptwriting as he considered film his main means for artistic and intellectual expression, but most importantly for raising the quality of human lives, particularly the lives of Indonesians.
Until his death, Misbach remained unsatisfied with the local film industry and kept demonstrating his opposition by avoiding directing roles and only taking scriptwriting work.
Yet, complaints were not the only thing Misbach did to improve things. Apart from staging a lifetime protest against the industry by quitting filmmaking, the award-winning filmmaker and scriptwriter also did several things deemed big contributions to Indonesian cinema.
One was establishing Sinematek, the first archive for Indonesian films, with fellow author and filmmaker Asrul Sani in 1975.
“Films should nurture people. That’s why I think it’s important to document Indonesian films at Sinematek. The center will give future generations a place to learn,” the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award SEAPAVAA (the Southeast Asia-Pacific Audiovisual Archive Association) explained.
Misbach’s concern for the future of Indonesia’s film industry is also reflected in his dedication to teaching scriptwriting to young creative talents since 1973.
The man believed “teaching young talent was necessary to build their character and idealism” in filmmaking.
Beside his established career in film, Misbach was also a talented writer and columnist, whose works had been published and had garnered acclaim.
The former journalist was reported to still be actively writing and translating film books before illness took his life.
His latest book was Techniques of Scriptwriting published in 2010.
Misbach is survived by his wife, actress Nanny Widjaja, and their five children.
He was buried at the Al-Ihyah Cemetery in Bogor, where his daughter, actress Sukma Ayu, who died a few years ago, also rests in peace.
Given his strong positions, struggle and effort for more than 50 years to better the quality of local films, Indonesian cinema has truly suffered a great loss.