It was 1948 when Soedarto, a teacher turned army captain, was duty-bound to eliminate friends who were involved in the PKI (Communist Party of Indonesia) uprising in Madiun in East Java. The Dutch force, which was still rife in the fledgling nation, captured and tortured Soedarto. He was freed around the time when Indonesia was liberated in 1949 and soon after he journeyed to Jakarta to witness President Soekarno's return. Unfortunately, Soedarto was shot on his way to the capital by an avenging friend for the Madiun days—leaving behind his romantic interest, a German nurse.

Such a tragic storyline belongs to the movie Darah dan Doa (The Long March of Siliwangi) by H. Usmar Ismail Mangkuto Ameh and adapted from Sitor Situmorang's short story. The first day of the shoot on March 30 was then commemorated as Indonesia's National Film Day, for this is considered as the first fully Indonesian-made movie according to Ismail.

This was also the first movie produced by Perfini (Perusahaan Film Nasional Indonesia, or the Indonesian National Film Company), which was established earlier in March 1950 by Ismail and his ex-theatre and Jogjakarta-based friends. He did not recognise his three previous works or the 1926 movie Loetoeng Kasaroeng because they had Dutch involvement.

At first, the government favoured October 6 as National Film Day, based on the day in 1945 when Japan handed over its Jakarta-based film production company, Nippon Eiga Sha, to be headed by R.M. Soetarto—another contributor to the cinematic world—and Indonesia changed it to BFI (News Film Indonesia). After much consideration, on March 29, 1999, then-president B.J. Habibie decided to choose March 30.

When he passed away at 49 years old, Ismail had been involved in around 28 movies as a director, producer or writer. His fellow director and script-writer H. Misbach Yusa Biran noted that movies by Perfini always criticise the social and political situation of the time and relate to what the people are going through.

Ismail has been honoured by three Indonesian presidents: Soekarno in 1962, Soeharto in 1969 and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2009. His movies have earned many awards: Pedjuang (Fighters for Freedom) was entered in the second Moscow International Film Festival; Harimau Campa (Campa Tiger) and Lewat Djam Malam (After the Curfew) won the Citra Trophy from the Indonesia Film Festival; and Tamu Agung (Exalted Guest) won Best Comedy during the 1956 Asia-Pacific Film Festival in Hong Kong.

Tags: National Film Day, Indonesian Cinema, Usmar Ismail, Director, Film, History