The Indonesian Film Festival (IFF), screened at Melbourne’s ACMI theatre, is known for its ability to tackle controversial topics and push boundaries, and this year’s festival was no exception. In its 11th installment there were eight films screened and topics examined included LGBT rights, women’s rights and issues of freedom. Thursday night’s opening film was based on Dewi Lestari’s best-selling novel Filosofi Kopi (Philosophy of Coffee). The film follows the story of two friends Jody (Rio Dewanto) and Ben (Chicco Jerikho) as they attempt to save their coffee business. While the film itself has not been overly successful at the Indonesian box office it has given rise to an arguably more successful coffee shop in Jakarta.

Surrealism – Another Trip to the Moon

On the Friday night a surrealist film Another Trip to the Moon was screened. Moderator and film critic Peter Krausz said this was one of the films that really impressed him as, he “thought it was most unusual for an Indonesian film in terms of the arthouse approach.” This film would appear to be a breakaway from the traditional genres of romance and drama often associated with Indonesian films in the past.

Women’s Issues – Nay

Another film which broke away from stereotypical themes seen in previous Indonesian films was Nay. Written and directed by novelist Djenar Maesa Ayu it follows the story of Nay (Sha Ine Febriyanti) who discovers she is pregnant only to find her boyfriend is entirely disinterested in having the child. As she grapples with whether to have the child under serious hardship, an opportunity to star in a feature film arises. Sha Ine Febriyanti gives a fine performance as Nay in her first feature length film. IFF Liaison Officer Olyvia Samosir says she was impressed with the way Nay was able to “promote awareness about women’s issues.”

Horror Without the Ghosts – Badoet  

Perhaps the highlight of the Festival arrived on the final night with the screening of popcorn horror Badoet (The Clown). This film broke away from previous Indonesian horror films without the appearance of traditional ghosts such as kuntilanak or pocong. Nevertheless, this did not make the film any less scary judging by the screams of the capacity crowd. IFF Media Team Member Ralf Dudat described the final night as a huge success, especially with the Q&A featuring Badoet producer Daniel Topan. “The closing film was a highlight in that it really had such a good vibe, the audience was really into it, and the Q&A was great.”

Highlights of IFF – Q&A Sessions  

One of the other highlights of IFF is that every film had an actor, director or producer in attendance for the Q&A session. As Peter Krausz says, “What sets this Festival apart from most other festivals is having guests for every film and I think that’s fantastic. There is always a director, actor or whoever to represent the film and then talk about the film and I think that’s what sets the Indonesian Film Festival apart from most other film festivals.” Another highlight was the educational screening which gave students of Bahasa Indonesia a chance to connect with what they have been learning in the classroom through film.

Improvements for IFF – Funding and Publicity

Despite the films offering a variety of topics one disappointment was the half-empty theatres for many of the screenings. Ralf Dudat suggests better funding is one way the Festival could be improved. “From a planning point of view there are a lot of improvements needed. Funding, we’ve all been talking about that already. Funding is the basic and then long term strategy, and unites the vision of what we want the Film Festival to be.” Peter Krausz added that it would be great to see more Australians coming to the Festival. “[Audiences] need to be broadened so there is a much better understanding of Indonesian culture and cinema.”

Despite the relatively poor crowds, IFF achieved its objective of showcasing a variety of Indonesian films and breaking the stereotypes of what Indonesia actually is. As Olyvia Samosir points out, “What people think about Indonesia is not always the same as what we actually do. We just want to break the stereotypes and break the boundaries, to show people a different side of Indonesia.” In doing so, IFF has again shown itself to be a chance for filmmakers and audiences to see a different side and perspective of Indonesia. With greater funding and promotion next year there is no limits to what IFF could be.