• Sri Dance Company.

  • Guests mingling during the opening reception.

  • Emma and Chitarra.

The Los Angeles Indonesian Film Festival and the Center for Southeast Asian Studies co-hosted an evening at UCLA that combined Indonesian food, dance and cinema to celebrate the country's growing film industry.

by Guilia Piscitelli (UCLA 2021)

The 6th annual Los Angeles Indonesian Film Festival took place from October 16 to October 20, 2019 at various locations throughout Los Angeles. The festival was sponsored by the Indonesian Muslim Foundation, Indonesian American Business Council, Indonesian Women Alliance, Visual Communications, Dapoer Kita Productions, Indonesian Bruin Students Association and the UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS). 

On Friday, October 18, the festival  and CSEAS co-hosted the film "Keluarga Cemara (Cemara Family)" and a discssion with the producer at the UCLA James Bridges Theater. The evening began with a welcome reception featuring delicious Indonesian food, musical performances by Emma and Chitarra and an intimate Indonesian dance performance by Sri Dance Company. Audience members included members of the greater Los Angeles Indonesian community, UCLA students and faculty.

Celebrating the Indonesian film industry’s growth

Following the welcome reception, guests took their seats in the James Bridges Theater where the official entertainment began. The program opened with a speech by Mrs. Dian Srinursih of Pusbang Film and Saud Krisnawan, consul general of the Indonesian Consulate to Los Angeles.. “I’m so grateful that this event is not only a platform to showcase the talents of the Indonesian film industry, but now has transformed into a media which builds up people-to-people contact of our two countries,” said Consul General Krisnawan.

Thanks to the exposure created by events such as the Los Angeles Indonesian Film Festival, there is growing confidence in Indonesian filmmakers, and a growing audience for the films that they create, he continued. In 2007, noted Krisnawan, the Indonesian film industry only managed to release seven films per year, while today it averages 15 to 20 films each month. “It is our humble duty as an Indonesian community to continue supporting and promoting our national film industry even further,” he concluded. 

Feature Film: "Keluarga Cemara (Cemara Family)"

Prior to the feature film, a short film about silat —a martial art indigenous to Indonesia — was screened. The short provided insight into the artistry and dedication behind silat, as well as the effect that its recent popularity in Hollywood films has had on the traditional form of martial art.

“Keluarga Cemara” follows an Indonesian family in the aftermath of a personal financial crisis. Facing bankruptcy, the family is forced to move into their run-down cabin in a small community outside of Jakarta where they begin a new life and attempt to regain a sense of normalcy and financial stability. Through the hardships they face, the family ultimately is reminded of what is most important: the time they spend together.

While to date the Indonesian film industry has focused on creating horror films, "Keluarga Cemara" is a heart-warming film about family. This exception to industry norm proved successful, as the film became one of the all-time highest grossing films in Indonesia. Based on the laughter resounding from the audience in the James Bridges Theater, the film clearly has popular appeal.

Following the screening, audience members engaged in a question and answer session with Angga Dwimas Sasongko, producer of the feature film and founder of Visinema Pictures, an award-winning film production company based in Jakarta. He explained that the company plans to continue creating films for families and youth and is already planning to release sequels and build an amusement park based on the film, he told the audience. He specified that the sequels would highlight the adventures of individual family members.

The future of the Indonesian film industry

“Keluarga Cemara” is a celebration of the resilience of Indonesian families. Its success in the box office appears to indicate that Indonesian viewers are ready to see their filmmakers create more films outside of the horror genre, starting a new trend in Indonesian film production.

Perhaps in the next decade, we will see Indonesian films rise to the same level of box office success as films produced in Hollywood and Bollywood. Until then, supporters of Indonesian film and culture continue to encourage the production of beautifully made, but underappreciated films like "Keluarga Cemara," together with the festivals that showcase them.

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Published: Thursday, October 31, 2019