Posted by: mel | November 21, 2009

Local flair to open Jakarta film festival

Jakarta Post | Anissa S. Febrina, Jakarta | Entertainment | 21 November 2009

It’s been perhaps the most anticipated event for Indonesian movie buffs, but it took more than a decade for an actual Indonesian masterpiece to receive the spotlight at the Jakarta International Film Festival (JiFFest).

This year, the 11th JiFFest is set to place the increasingly growing Indonesian movie industry under the limelight as the festival will open with director Riri Riza and producer Mira Lesmana’s Sang Pemimpi (The Dreamers).

“This year marks a new chapter for JiFFest in promoting the next generation of local filmgoers and filmmakers,” festival manager Nauval Yazid said.

Perhaps, it’s a matter of supply and demand as the number of Indonesian movies produced annually has grown exponentially.

But, the festival expects a high standard from local productions it has chosen to shortlist, and an even higher one for the honor of opening or closing the event.

The last Indonesian movie to have been granted such privilege was Perempuan Punya Cerita (Chants of Lotus), a compilation of four short films about marginalized women in Indonesia, which closed the festival in 2007.

“When we started, Indonesia was only releasing four films a year. Almost 100 have reached our silver screens this year,” Nauval added.

“The fact that many new talents in the Indonesian film industry have honed their skills in past JiFFest workshops, screenings and discussions is truly encouraging.”

Sang Pemimpi, the sequel to last year’s Laskar Pelangi (The Rainbow Troops), doesn’t get much more local, in terms of story, context and approach to film-making. It is the second part of best-selling Laskar Pelangi tetralogy written by Andrea Hirata and set in Belitung.

The festival coined Laskar Pelangi, a big hit attracting 5 million viewers, “the highest grossing Indonesian box-office of all time”.

In addition to choosing a local movie for the opening of the festival, the organizer also shortlisted 15 films under the Indonesian Feature Film Competition, initiated as part of the event in 2006.

And there’s something to be noted from the movies that will compete to win JiFFest’s Best Indonesian Feature and Best Indonesian Director prize.

“Most of them were directors’ d*but films or their second. This also reflects that some 20 percent of Indonesian films released this year are directed by new and emerging filmmakers,” Nauval explained.

Hailed as one of the most exciting film festivals in Asia – and the biggest since 2006, the event initiated by duo Shanty Harmayn and Natacha Devillers in 1999 has grown in terms of the number of movies screened during the last decade.

The festival, which started with 62 films in 1999, screened 230 movies to more than 63,000 spectators in 2006, or three times more than in its first year. Last year’s festival however only brought some 138 works to around 28,000 spectators.

Despite its ups and downs, the festival has been welcomed as a breath of fresh air amid the flock of mainstream Hollywood movies, and even a trend-setter as more and more film festivals are sprouting across the country.

Its existence has perhaps also helped support the growth of the Indonesian movie industry, by becoming the stepping-stone for the next generation of local moviemakers.

So, will this JiFFest be showing mostly local films? Well, the word “international” in the festival’s label will still have to live up to its name and the event promises just that: a window to other parts of the world.

Under its Islamic-themed international films section, the 11th JiFFest is scheduled to show Letter to the President by Petr Lom, a foreign journalist documenting his observations of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Lom will also share his experience making the documentary at one of the festival’s workshops.

Aside from Lom’s work, the festival will also feature a movie on the Chinese Uyghur community leader Rabeeya Khader, The 10 Conditions of Love, and Yasmin Ahmad’s controversial piece Muallaf.

From the South East Asia region, JiFFest has chosen to screen the Phillipines’ Adela, Vietnam’s Legend is Alive, Singapore’s Here, as well as a Thai take of the vein of Paris Je t’aime titled Sawasdee Bangkok.

In its World Cinema section, the audience will be able to choose from an array of works, which will include Japan’s Departure, winner of this year’s Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

A few more festival highlights include Hollywood heartthrob Eric Bana’s directing d*but Love the Beast, Nobel prize winner Joseph Stiglitz’ Around the World with Joseph Stiglitz focusing on globalization, and an auto-documentary from the Grandmother of French New Wave cinema, Agnes Varda, The Beaches of Agnes.

On the sidelines of the screening, this year’s JiFFest will showcase graphic and visual design works from Swiss artists based in Hollywood, a book launching and several workshops.

So, movie-buffs, prepare to be indulged!

The 11th Jakarta International Film Festival (JiFFest) will run from Dec. 4 until Dec. 12 at the Blitz Megaplex, Grand Indonesia, Central Jakarta. More information can be found on www.jiffest.org.

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