Film, decay & forgotten dreams
The Jakarta Post
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 'defective'; 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.
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.
'There is a threat that the history that Indonesian cinema has had over the last 100 years will be forgotten,' Edwin says.
' Words and images JP/Seto Wardhana
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