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‘Tengkorak’ opens Indonesia on Screen in Berlin

Katrin Figge

The Jakarta Post

Berlin, Germany  /  Mon, April 22, 2019  /  07:01 pm
‘Tengkorak’ opens Indonesia on Screen in Berlin

Rare treat: ‘Tengkorak’ opens the Indonesia on Screen film festival in Berlin. The movie has been widely praised for making a foray into the science fiction genre that so far has been largely overlooked by Indonesian film producers. (Courtesy of Akasacara Film & Vokasi Studios/-)

Babylon, a cinema in Berlin with a long tradition of showing independent and non-mainstream films, kicked off the second edition of Indonesia on Screen on Saturday.

In collaboration with the Indonesian House of Culture Berlin, the film festival, which runs through April 28, will present 10 movies from the archipelago – a rare feat in Germany, where Indonesian cinema still remains relatively unknown.

The opening film of this year’s festival was Tengkorak (Skull), which was released in 2017 but now shown for the first time in Germany.

Upon its release in Indonesia, director Yusron Fuadi, who also stars in the movie, was widely praised for making a foray into the science fiction genre – a genre that so far has been largely overlooked in Indonesian film production.

“I am actually still trying to absorb the fact that my face is shown on this building in Berlin, this is very surreal to me,” said Yusron, who attended the festival opening, with a laugh, referring to the Tengkorak film poster adorning the façade of the Babylon cinema.

Tengkorak begins after a major earthquake in Yogyakarta, through which a 1-mile long skeleton fossilized for 170,000 years is discovered, puzzling scientists, politicians and religious leaders – not only in Indonesia, but across the globe. The skull is said to hold the truth of the world. A young girl working at a research center inadvertently gets caught up in the events unfolding and needs to escape to survive.

“Every single frame of this movie is a labor of love,” Yusron explained. “It’s an independent film, which I have been working on for four years with a crew of volunteers, none of whom have been paid – so it truly is a love letter.”

The reason he decided to play the part of Yus was simple, he continued.

“I didn’t have any money to pay an Indonesian A-list actor to become part of this film, and I also needed to find someone who doesn’t have any scheduling conflict when shooting this movie – so the answer was simple,” Yusron joked.

“I understand that the movie was met with mixed reviews in Indonesia when it was first released. There were some who didn’t know what to do with the subject matter, but others really loved it. And, to be honest, I prefer it that way. It’s better than making a film that people watch and forget about after five minutes,” Yus said.

Some of the other Indonesian films shown at the festival are Menuju Rembulan (Another Trip to the Moon), Garin Nugroho’s Nyai – A Woman from Java, the restored version of Tiga Dara (Three Maidens) and Turah (Leftovers).

Indonesia on Screen: Babylon, a cinema in Berlin known for supporting independent movies, currently hosts the second edition of the Indonesian film festival.Indonesia on Screen: Babylon, a cinema in Berlin known for supporting independent movies, currently hosts the second edition of the Indonesian film festival. (Katrin Figge/-)

Babylon manager Timothy Grossman said he was certainly not an expert when it comes to Indonesian film productions. “However, I am well aware of the fact that Indonesia is one of the most populous, diverse and exciting countries in the world.”

After the inaugural Indonesia on Screen festival last year, Grossman said he took the opportunity to travel to Indonesia for the first time.

“I spent four weeks there and was amazed, and so it became clear to me pretty quickly that we have to host a second edition of the film festival this year,” he said.

In addition to Indonesia on Screen, Babylon also hosts the program Cinema Indonesia, in cooperation with the Indonesian House of Culture Berlin as well, with the aim of familiarizing the German audience with Indonesian cinema. (ste)