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Jakarta Post

City to take over decaying national film archives

  • Corry Elyda

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, March 1, 2014   /  09:51 am
City to take over decaying national film archives

Restored heritage: A film preservation worker looks at damaged frames as he cleans the celluloid film of Usmar Ismail'€™s Anak Perawan di Sarang Penyamun (Virgin in the Bandit'€™s Lair, 1962) with methyl chloroform. JP/Corry Elyda

The city administration is planning to take over the Indonesian cinematheque Sinematek from the nonprofit foundation Yayasan Pusat Perfilman Haji Usmar Ismail (YPPHUI) in order to save hundreds of ill-maintained old national films.

Jakarta Tourism Agency head Arie Budiman has said that his agency decided to take over the operation of Sinematek after film communities conveyed their concerns about the condition of the collection of old films, many of which were damaged, that are stored in Sinematek.

'€œWe are now asking the Jakarta Arts Council'€™s film committee to formulate a plan to manage Sinematek,'€ he said.

Sinematek, located in Kuningan, South Jakarta, was established by then Jakarta governor Ali Sadikin in 1975. It was intended to be a center for film archiving, education and exhibition.

The archive houses 2,714 film titles comprising 632 master copies and 318 screening copies, plus 1,615 documentary film copies in 35 millimeter and 16 mm formats. Most of the films are in poor or damaged condition due to lack of funding for maintenance.

The film archiving center previously received regular funds from the city budget. However, in 2001 the city administration stopped giving any money to the center. YPPHUI was brought in to secure funding for Sinematek by renting the building out for events, movie screenings or performances. These events rarely took place, however, and it failed to make up a financial shortfall.

Arie said the city had given the cinematheque to the foundation in 2001 with the understanding that it would ensure the preservation of the film archive. '€œHowever, the performance of the foundation has been disappointing,'€ he said.

The agency head said he expected that the Jakarta Arts Council would submit a proposal soon so the agency could gather all stakeholders to gather and pin down a solution.

'€œIf we can move through the process quickly, we can submit the financial plan in the 2014 city budget revision,'€ he said.

He added that the city administration wanted to make sure that Sinematek was handled by professionals skilled in archiving, film center management and the relevant technology.

Jakarta Arts Council film committee member Alex Sihar said that after the budget allocation was disbursed, the committee could begin properly managing Sinematek.

Alex called on the foundation to go along with the city and hand over the operation of Sinematek.

'€œIf the foundation is not able to manage Sinematek, it should be declared bankrupt, so the government or the city administration can take back the assets,'€ he said.

Sinematek chairman Adisurya Abdi said he had been trying to keep up maintenance from the existing funding source for the last seven months. '€œWe still have financial difficulties but we do our best,'€ he said.

'€œThe government, especially the central government, has been talking a lot about the idea of helping us. However, it has just been talk so far.'€

Adisurya, added however, that he did not agree with a government takeover of Sinematek. He said the government'€™s track record of maintaining archives was poor.

The chairman said he wanted Sinematek to remain independent as an institution with funding coming from the government or the city.

YPPHUI chairman Djonny Syafruddin said he did not mind if the operation of Sinematek was taken over by the government or the city. '€œHowever, if it is taken over, the conditions should be way better than the current ones,'€ he said.

Djonny said the government should have a clear plan like building studios or planning to digitally transfer the celluloid films, making them easier to preserve.

According to Djonny, Sinematek spends around Rp 200 million (US$17,200) a year on film preservation but the foundation is only able to cover around Rp 100 million.