In the last year three Indonesian films have made a splash internationally. The Act of Killing, The Raid 2: Berandal and Jalanan each represent different parts of Indonesia, and they each are bringing Indonesia to the forefront of the cinematic world.

The Raid 2 uses Jakarta as the backdrop, while The Act of Killing and Jalanan are both documentaries, addressing contrastingly different aspects of modern-day Indonesia.

The Act of Killing was released in 2013 to mixed responses, especially in Indonesia. The film looks at the 1965 communist killings which saw thousands of supposed communist Indonesians killed. In Indonesia this is a hugely sensitive issue, still largely not discussed in public discourse. The film was not submitted to be shown in Indonesia and instead the directors posted it online in full. The film has worked to open up public discussion about the killings, which are still not talked about.

Globally The Act of Killing has received extensive critical acclaim. In 2014 it received the BAFTA award for Best Documentary Film, and was nominated for Best Documentary at the Oscars. Moreover the film has received more than 15 awards from film festivals across the globe and a number of other nominations.

Jalanan is a story that follows the lives of 3 buskers in Jakarta, Boni, Ho and Titi who busk on Jakarta’s angkot (mini-buses). As a documentary the film follows these three musicians who are living below the poverty line, singing on the angkot to collect what money they can. In contrast to The Act of Killing, Jalanan is set in contemporary Jakarta and focuses on ever-present issues.

Jalanan is one of the finest portrayals of Indonesian life to emerge for outside audiences in years. 

Jalanan is the brainchild of filmmaker Daniel Ziv, who followed Boni, Ho and Titi over a period of 6 years. After premiering at the Busan International Film Festival in 2013 and winning Best Documentary, global critical acclaim has followed. However unlike The Act of Killing, Jalanan opened in Indonesian cinemas in April 2014.

Both The Act of Killing and Jalanan demonstrate the emerging role of Indonesian films, opening up dialogue about social and political issues. Jalanan is largely a portrayal of inequality in Indonesia, what life is like without education, employment, housing or money. The Act of Killing brings to the forefront the political issue of 1965, which remains a silent aspect of Indonesia’s history.