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Campaigning for 'Marlina' to reign at the Oscars

Reza Mardian
Reza Mardian

Film enthusiast and a big fan of Disney, Pixar, Studio Ghibli, and all films in the running for an Oscar or Festival Film Indonesia award

Jakarta  /  Thu, September 20, 2018  /  01:41 pm
Campaigning for 'Marlina' to reign at the Oscars

A still from 'Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts.' (Cinesurya Pictures/File)

For the first time in history, Indonesia might score her first Oscar nomination — or even win — at the Academy Awards in February 2019, with Marlina the Murder in Four Acts ( 2017 ) being Indonesia’s official submission for the 91st Academy Awards in the foreign film category.

The film tells the story of widow in Sumba seeking justice after burglars forcefully take her wealth and dignity. Written and directed by Citra Trophy winner Mouly Surya and based on the original story by Garin Nugroho, the film has been screened at numerous international festivals, such as the 2017 Cannes Film Festival (Directors’ Fortnight) and the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), bringing it praise from critics all over the world. Marlina was also screened in the United States and received positive reviews. Godfrey Cheshire from gave Marlina a score of 3 out of 4.

There was a lot of misconception when the news went viral. People thought an official submission in the Academy Awards meant that the film had already been nominated. The number of nominations that will be recognized by the members of the Academy for Oscar night will be only five. Submitting a film for a category doesn’t mean that it has been officially recognized by the international community. On the contrary, it is our job to campaign for the film to ensure it’s nominated.

The members of the Academy are highly political. The chance of them watching every film submitted for an award is not that big. And the trend of who wins a category constantly changes. Last yearSebastian Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman ( 2017 ) from Chile won the category, while Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman ( 2016 ) won the category before that. And if we reflect based on these two past recipients, we could come up with certain indicators and a strategy on how to campaign for Marlina to be victorious.  

Read also: 'Marlina' to represent Indonesia at 2019 Academy Awards

First, the films most likely to be nominated (or even win) the category are ones that are socially relevant. The #MeToo initiative campaigned during the award season last year managed to direct the focus on gender equality, making films embody this message, like A Fantastic Woman telling the story of a transgender attempting to mourn his partner’s death while facing discrimination. And like it or not, the Academy likes being political. The whole reason why Frances McDormand managed to win her second Oscar for her portrayal as Mildred Hayes in the Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri ( 2017 ) was because it screamed values that they’d been championing.

The second indicator in determining films to be nominated is the halo effect. Farhadi won his first Oscar for A Separation ( 2011 ). Before it was nominated for an Oscar, The Salesman had been screened at numerous international festivals and had received positive reviews. Having critics constantly talk about films alerts member of the Academy, who will then watch and vote on the films to be nominated.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Frankly speaking, several other foreign films have their own Oscar buzz. Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters ( 2018 ) won the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year. The Academy Award-winning director, Alfonso Cuarón, also managed to get his film Roma ( 2018 ) screened at the Venice Film Festival, TIFF and Telluride Film festival—three festivals considered to be the festival darlings for any movie running for Best Picture. The movies have also receive positive reviews and are likely to score nominations.

So, what does that mean? Have we lost already? Nope. Not at all. This is actually the moment when we should fight. Marlina the Murder in Four Acts is probably more relevant than the two aforementioned contenders. The issue for gender equality remains sexy these days, and with McDorman’s speech last year, it will remain relevant for a few more years. Mouly Surya is also a director who happens to be a woman. If the members of the Academy do a quick Google search on this film, there’s a big chance they will like the film and cast, and give Indonesia her first nomination at the Oscars. Grassroots movements like this need the participation of every social media user and Indonesian moviegoer. Simple things, like #MarlinaGoesToOscar could be an influential campaign that creates awareness. To have our official submission constantly talked about by ourselves is a start to creating bigger noise. At the end of the day, we should be the one making our own Oscar buzz.

Having one of our films awarded in Hollywood would open doors for our amazing filmmakers in attracting investors and boosting our creative economy. It’s not just a matter of pride. It’s also a matter of sustainability, betterment and creating a healthier film ecosystem in this country. (kes)


Reza Mardian is a film enthusiast and a big fan of Disney, Pixar, Studio Ghibli, and all films in the running for an Oscar or Festival Film Indonesia award. He is also a nursing graduate who is not working as a nurse, and likes to post anything related to books and movies on his Instagram account @mardian.reza

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.