From silent movies, musical to heavy censorship under President Suharto’s dictatorship, the Indonesian movie industry has gone through a lot of changes since Usmar Ismail's Darah dan Doa released in 1950.
Look at the genres: from romance, horror to the recently soaring comedies genre (cringe, satirical, parody or slapstick, you name it) along with small, experimental movies, the themes are fluid and the audience simply craves for more items in terms of quality and quantity.
On March 30, we will be celebrating National Film Day, and what better way to celebrate the dedicated day than celebrating those illustrious movie figures behind the screen? We have narrowed down and handpicked six of the most influential modern Indonesian film directors who have broken the barriers, jumpstarted a new genre, or who have simply kept on directing exciting and interesting movies over the time. Let's start!
The Makassar-born film director has come a long way since he directed the cult-hit Kuldesak in 1998 with prominent Indonesian movie producer Mira Lesmana. He then directed Petualangan Sherina (2000), whichwent on to earned Rp 10 billion, an activist-based movie Gie (2005), a children’s movie Laskar Pelangi (2008), and the latest sequel to Ada Apa Dengan Cinta 2 in 2016.
Born in 1970, Riri Riza is known for his creative way of storytelling and his artistic approach in filmmaking. He championed young creative individuals to experiment and wished for more diverse movie genres in the film industry. Next, Riri Riza plans to make a movie about Indonesian poet Chairil Anwar according to Kompas.com.
Joko Anwar is one of the most prolific names in the Indonesian movie industry. Starting as a journalist and a film critic, Joko was then asked by film producer Nia Dinata to direct a movie called Arisan! which went on to become a commercial and critical success in 2003. The movie opened many doors for Joko who later went on to direct Janji Joni, Jakarta Undercover, Kala, Pintu Terlarang and A Copy of My Mind in 2015.
The Twitter star (with more than 1 million followers) is also known for his unapologetic behaviour and his innovative way of filmmaking that ranges from horror, thriller and drama— Joko, to say the least, is a creative chameleon in the Indonesian film industry. His next movies will be circling around thriller, children’s movie and a sequel to his latest hit movie.
The award-winning director is arguably Indonesia’s pioneer for female director. Nia Dinata started her career by directing video clips and commercial before making her first feature film Ca-bau-kan with actor Ferry Salim and Niniek L. Karim in 2002, followed by Arisan! in 2003 and the controversial Berbagi Suami in 2006.
She recently directed her hit sequel Arisan! 2 in 2011 and a musical remake Ini Kisah Tiga Dara last year. Nia Dinata is widely popular on tackling controversial topics, such as homosexuality and polygamy and by bringing up gender-equality issues to the silver screen. Nia Dinata has also expressed her interest in producing documentaries.
Angga Dwimas Sasongko
Angga Dwimas Sasongko is a respected film director who started his career by directing dozens of TV commercial videos and music videos since he was a 19-year-old boy. Angga then left his high-paying job to make movies by establishing a production house called Visinema Pictures. After its inception in 2008, Angga and team has produced and directed six movies including Hari Untuk Amanda (2010), Cahaya Dari Timur Beta Maluku (2014)and the commercial hit Filosofi Kopi (2015). The 32-year-old director is also involved in a non-profit organisation called Green Music Foundation that he managed together with musician Glenn Fredly.
The director of the new Galih dan Ratna film made his first movie just seven years ago with Madame X and since then has been an unstoppable force in the movie industry. Whether it’s directing a female-empowerment movie like Selamat Pagi, Malam, or a short drama movie about teenage boys’ coming-of-age in The Fox Exploits The Tiger’s Might, Lucky Kuswandi is a bold filmmaker who uses films as a medium to express social commentaries and his passion for filmmaking. Elsewhere, Lucky is also the co-founder of CONQ: a LGBT sharing platform that also produced a web series in 2015.
The Mo Brothers
The Mo Brothers are made up of two Indonesian film directors Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel. The two are known for their violent slasher horror movies that can be seen in their first collaboration is Ruma Dara released in 2010, which is part of the Indonesian horror anthology Takut: Faces of Fear. This is then followed by Macabre in 2010 and the box-office earner Headshot last year. While they are not directing a movie as Mo Brothers, Timo Tjahjanto have also participated in directing Hollywood horror movies, such as The ABCs of Death (2012) and V/H/S/2 (2013). He is also directing the much anticipated action-thriller The Night Comes for Us with Indonesian stars Joe Taslim and Iko Uwais. Meanwhile, Kimo is announced to direct a new action-packed movie entitled One Good Thing with Indonesian martial artist and actor Yayan Ruhian.
See also: Our interview with Director Garin Nugroho about his directorial journey and Setan Jawa.