Volunteers restore vintage film collection
The Jakarta Post
Wina Adiyanan, a 24-year-old college graduate, stares ahead, eyes fixated on film-reel negatives in a laboratory at the State Film Company (PFN) in Jatinegara, East Jakarta. With her right hand she carefully rotates the knob, circulating through the split reels.
'The negatives are still sticky even though we already cleaned them,' she said, pointing out the damaged sectionss.
Wina and four others are part of a new film restoration program held by Lab Laba Laba, a community concerned with film preservation, to commemorate National Film Month in March. The volunteers have dedicated a whole month to cleaning and digitizing the vintage films that have sat abandoned for 12 years at the PFN building.
Lab Laba Laba founder Edwin said he was the one who stumbled across the 800 genre-spanning rolls of film, including documentaries, dramas and animation in the film vault.
The documentaries include range from government-run family planning initiatives to company profiles of state-owned companies. Other films include Serangan Fajar and Djakarta 1966, both by noted theater and film director Arifin C Noer, and Si Pincang by film director Kadirman.
'Half of the collection can be saved. The rest was already severely damaged,' he said.
Edwin, the writer and director of Postcards from the Zoo, a 2012 drama, said he found the collection when he came to the PFN to borrow a film splicer to join together lengths of photographic film last year. He also discovered a trove of old film equipment.
'The building used to be sealed. The equipment was broken and some of their parts stolen,' he said.
He said he found several rare and valuable pieces of equipment, including contact printers, optical printers, color machines and projectors for 35-milimeter (mm) and 16-mm reels.
'We were trying to fix and use the equipment during various workshops we held,' he said.
The film cleaning and preservation program has become popular among youngsters, especially film enthusiasts.
Wina said she thought the cleaning would be 'serious lab work' involving chemical substances and sophisticated tools. She said she was astonished to learn it involved just cloth and a single chemical solution.
Despite the simple equipment and technique required, Wina said she was sad to see hundreds of films deteriorating in a non-air conditioned film vault.
'It is sad to see a treasure like that abandoned for years,' she said.
Another volunteer, 36-year-old Arfan Adhi Perdana, said besides helping preserve the film, he had also learned to operate projectors and other equipment.
'I am involved in a film-screening community in Malang [East Java]. This program has inspired me to digitize the old film collection in Malang,' he said.
Arfan, who is a lecturer in Malang, said some film lovers in his city possessed celluloid films, but could not watch them because no one knew how to operate the film projectors.
Edwin said the community would hold an exhibition to showcase their hard work on a weekend in April.
He said the activities were funded by a number of institutions, including Dutch organization Hivos, SAM Fund by Rujak Center for Urban Studies and the Equator Film Expo.
Edwin said he hoped the effort would help showcase Indonesia's century-long audio/visual history.
'Besides doing preservation, we want to show artists they have options regarding the medium they want to work with,' he said.
Edwin said the knowledge on celluloid should be continued as the country had extensive audio/visual documentation.
'We actually have 55,000 celluloid archives at the ANRI [The National Archive of the Republic of Indonesia], but we only have record of 11,000 of them,' he said. He said those archives should not be allowed to vanish for lack of handlers with the requisite knowledge.
PFN spokeswoman F Shinta said the company supported Lab Laba Laba's efforts to preserve the collection, as well as to repair the equipment.
'We [the new management] never knew that the building held the film collection. We thought all the reels had been transferred to ANRI,' she said, alluding to the management turnover in 2013.
Shinta said the new management wanted to continue the preservation and build a film museum at the PFN once financially secure.
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