Text : Jaya L ; Photos : IVAA Documentation
Yogyakarta – As a part of a “Menjegal Film Indonesia: Pemetaan Ekonomi Politik Industri Film Indonesia” book launch events, a book published in collaboration between Rumah Film and Tifa foundation, a discussion was held in Rumah IVAA Yogyakarta on Friday 10 February 2012. The discussion’s theme was “The Condition of Film Industry Structures & National Film Aesthetics: Why Is It Difficult to Produce Good Films?” and presented three discussants: Hikmat Darmawan, one of the researchers and authors of the book; Krisnadi Yuliawan, Chief Editor of new.rumahfilm.org; and Ferdiansyah Thajib, researcher from Kunci Cultural Studies Center.
The afternoon’s discussion was opened by Hikmat Darmawan with the story of how Rumah Film was created because of two reasons. The first was the discontentment toward the media for their inadequacy in opening a wider discourses on what is a film and its various aspects. Second was when structural approach to film and the issues of national and international films receive little media attention. Because of these things they established Rumah Film in the form of online media to investigate, research and study everything related to Indonesian films. The online media format was chosen because it is cheap and reaches a wider audience compared to the printed media.
Hikmat continued that too often we neglect that a film is a political economy matter. Films are commonly written and positioned as entertainment or consumption item and the writings ended up functioning merely as a guidance to spectacle. The aspects in films are rarely discussed, such as the fiscal distribution in films, etc.
On the theme of the discussion “Why Is It Difficult to Produce Good Films?” Hikmat said the theme came up from a half leisure-half serious discussion, which is a daily thing in Rumah Film, when they were observing the timelines of film workers in the online social media network during the case of film import tax evation by film importers in early 2011. After the case, updates in the film workers timelines were not how to fight in expanding good films, instead the issue was how the audience ran away because of the bad quality of films. This was related to the matter of the audience’s taste and how to satisfy the taste, which eventually ended up on the issue of politic of taste that according to Hilkmat is not convincing.
Hikmat then gave an example, during the period between 2005 to 2008, the average number of audience for one film title is between 300 thousands to 500 thousands. To gain the number of 500 thousands audience per film title is easy. But now to get the 300 thousands audience per film title is a target difficult to reach. For example, the film Sang Penari that won the best film in Indonesia Film Festival 2011. Although the film receives good critic from film critics and observers and was widely covered by the media, it could only get 150 thousands audience.
The film industry consists of three sub-sectors, the production sub-sector, the distribution sub-sector and the exhibition sub-sector. In the Indonesian film industry, distribution sub-sector is slowly diminishing, crushed by the oligopolic market because it is mixed with the exhibition sub-sector. In this condition, film producers no longer receive supports from the distributors, causing an imbalance in the bargaining positions between the producers and the exhibitors. The absence of distributors becomes a burden for producers because they have to perform distributors’ tasks, which include film distribution and promotion that of course require quite a cost. This causes the expense of film production to increase.
In this kind of condition the film producer must able to discover an alternative mode to keep producing, such as collaborating with local governments or looking for fundings from funding institutions. Short films also became an alternative to keep the production. But when it comes back to exhibition issues, these alternatives meet another dead end. Because these alternative efforts are non-structural and are only done when cornered.
Next it was Krisnadi Yuliawan describing the process of creating the book Menjegal Film Indonesia, which he admitted of being not too involved in other than being a proofreader. In Rumah Film they saw that there are many people discussing films but so few who understood about it. Starting from this, a desire to compile a book analyzing reasons why Indonesian films stucked. But the idea was altered due to lack of materials. It was then decided to do a mapping on Indonesian films because it will be useful later.
As they did their research, they were surprised by findings that had never appeared in any discussions regarding national films. From these findings a question rose on the role of political economy outside the film that causes the current condition of Indonesian film productions. To answer this question, a group of researchers consisted of Eric Sasono, Ekky Imanjaya, Ifan Adriansyah Ismail and Hikmat Darmawan focused their research on the conditions of the three sub-sectors of film industry, production, distribution and exhibition which is a part of the supply chain management. The three sub-sectors were observed within the national and global context because it is considered to be important to show that the film industry is impossible to be free from the political economy context surrounding it.
The research result in the form of the book is still far from expectations. There are still many scattered subjects gathered but yet to be included. In the end it mostly discussed why the distribution sub-sector diminish. Simply put, according to Krisnadi, the matters of Indonesian film is not only about the production sub-sector. Many felt they had done something for Indonesian films, but what they’re actually doing is sabotaging it.
Ferdiansyah Thajib who was invited as a discussant and reviewer of the book Menjegal Film Indonesia, stated that the book expands perception on the complexity of film industry political economy. While on the book’s position in the world of social analysis intertextuality on Indonesian films, Ferdi associated it with Alex Sihar’s 2007 essay titled “The Prospect of Alternative Film Distribution in Indonesia” and Ariani Darmawan’s 2011 essay titled “There Are Much Fog Up There, Making & Watching Films Our Way”, also the dissertation of Thomas Barker in 2010 titled “A Cultural Economy of the Contemporary Indonesian Film Industry”.
And then consecutively Ferdi discussed on the content of the book that more or less touches the subject of Indonesian films quality that gets more and more worrying, the film supporting infrastructure in the field of economy and culture that tends to have negative effects for the film development, the shambles of cultural policies and the heart of the problem that is the chain of production, distribution and exhibition, which when observed from the point of economy politics could be immediately seen how the film industry has developed into a gigantic business controlling every line whether it is direct or indirect as an informal oligopoly, or what the book describes as distribution-exhibition complex.
Ferdi also gave notes on the book in terms of its fluency in detailing the deep cohesion that constructed the history of Indonesian contemporary film industry. But at the end of his description, which ranges between the audience’s position, social background and taste, also the film quality, Ferdi questioned who are the real Indonesian movie theatre goers in the context of political economy approach.
After giving chances to the discussion participants to comment and ask questions, Hikmat gave a case example on how political economy and structural aspects are influential to the aesthetics. The sudden change of AIF Europe – America Chairman in 1985, when many national films that are still remembered today were produced, which is continued by the many changes strengthening the position of imported films and gradually kills national films. The chances of exhibiting national films were made scarce by the rule of audience minimal absorption during the show.
The condition of lacking movie audience at the moment is not entirely because of bad movies. Movie going for Indonesian people is a social experience and the movie theater itself is a social and cultural event. Thus, for film workers, outside of the complex structural problems, the issue is no longer about good or bad films. The more important issue right now what do the society need movies for and where films would be brought for them.