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Jakarta Post
The Jakarta Post
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Film, decay & forgotten dreams

  • Seto Wardhana

    The Jakarta Post

| Mon, March 30, 2015 | 09:11 am
Film, decay & forgotten dreams

Unreel: A volunteer cleans a reel of film with a cotton ball and alcohol, in the laboratory of the State Film Production Company.

A man sits at a worktable, using alcohol and cotton balls to clean a reel of 16 millimeter (mm) celluloid film.

Hundreds of meters of film pass between the man'€™s hands. Individual frames look a little more clean as the alcohol strips away dirt. The process will be repeated several times before the reel is deemed clean enough for the next step.

Nearby there is a climate-controlled room where films are stored as they await their turn. Many reels bear well known names or the titles of famous movies.

For example, there are the classic war films Serangan Fajar (Dawn Attack) and Bandung Lautan Api (Bandung, Sea of Fire); as well as audio recordings of three National Heroes: Achenese guerilla fighters Teuku Cik Ditiro and Cut Meutia and Independence-era fighter Douwes Dekker.

Some film have been stored in racks and labeled '€œdefective'€; others sit in canisters that have been thoroughly rusted.

In another room, experimental filmmaker Richard Tuohy and film software developer and cinematographer Carl Looper can be seen unpacking two 16 mm film projectors that will be connected to a computer.

Rust: Some of the films undergoing cleaning and preservation have been stored in rusted film canisters.Rust: Some of the films undergoing cleaning and preservation have been stored in rusted film canisters.

The Australians are building an ersatz setup to capture digital copies of the films that have already been cleaned.

Tuohy and Looper are working with local auteur director Edwin, who founded the Laba-Laba Community to promote the preservation and use of celluloid.

For the last month, Laba-Laba'€™s volunteers have been working to clean more than 800 reels of film before converting the celluloid into digital images for further cleaning and repair.

Some of their work will on display at the State Film Production Building in East Jakarta, to coincide with National Film Day, which falls on March 30.

A lack of awareness about preservation and archiving shouldn'€™t endanger the nation'€™s cinematic heritage, Edwin says.

The director, who helmed critically acclaimed films such as Postcards from the Zoo and Babi Buta Yang Ingin Terbang (The Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly) is famous for shooting exclusively on celluloid.

'€œThere is a threat that the history that Indonesian cinema has had over the last 100 years will be forgotten,'€ Edwin says.

In storage: A volunteer replaces a film on a shelf in the State Film Production Company'€™s laboratory. Films are sporadically labeled.In storage: A volunteer replaces a film on a shelf in the State Film Production Company'€™s laboratory. Films are sporadically labeled.

At work: Richard Tuohy, an experimental filmmaker from Australia, assembles his film-to-digital converter, in the laboratory of the State Film Production Company, on March 17.At work: Richard Tuohy, an experimental filmmaker from Australia, assembles his film-to-digital converter, in the laboratory of the State Film Production Company, on March 17.

Detailed: Fims are unspooled and cleaned by hand.Detailed: Fims are unspooled and cleaned by hand.

'€” Words and images JP/Seto Wardhana

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