The Indonesian film industry is undergoing a revival these days, with fewer cheesy horror and comedy flciks (though of course there are still a ton of those) and more films focused on telling quality stories with flair and originality. Let’s hope the trend continues in 2015!
“Supernova” left a big impression on a whole generation of teenage Indonesian readers when it came out in 2001, mixing romantic melodrama with scientific and philosophical theory to create a compelling story. This year’s film adaptation of the book has a tough time fitting all of the novel’s dense references and parallel story structures comfortably onto the big screen, but Lestari said she was very satisfied with director Rizal Mantovani’s slickly produced interpretation of her tale.
8. Tabula Rasa
Worth watching for the food photography alone. The story focuses on a young man from Papua whose dreams of becoming a footballer are crushed, only for him to find a new purpose in life working as a cook at a Padang restaurant. A first-rate foodie film, the gorgeous cinematography manages to make the preparation of Padang cuisine look like an art form (and the food itself look ridiculously delicious). The family drama at the film’s center lacks some spice but is not overly sweet or sentimental either.
7. Selamat Pagi, Malam
“Selamat Pagi, Malam” tells the story of three women trying to find love of various kinds in the chaotic city of Jakarta. A lot of the movie’s best jokes can only truly be understood by those living in the capital (this must be the first movie to feature a tongsis and rainbow cake), making this sincere and funny film extra enjoyable for those of us living in the Big Durian.
6. Pendekar Tongkat Emas
Although it looks a bit like an old-school kung-fu movie from a distance, this Indonesian silat flick is a thoroughly local film that totally kicks ass. The fight choreography is beautiful and the cinematography, especially the time lapse shots of East Sumba’s magnificent scenery, is often breathtaking. Veteran actress Christine Hakim lends a bit of dramatic weight to the otherwise predictable story.
With a successful showing at the Sundance Film Festival early this year, Killers, this sophomore directing effort from the Mo Brothers (Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto) made an auspicious start for Indonesian films in 2014. A unique Japanese-Indonesian horror hybrid, this psychological thriller tells the twisted tale of two very different killers, one in Tokyo and one in Jakarta, who form a strange fascination with each other due to their shared hobby. The Mo Brothers directed 2009’s Rumah Dara, one of the few great Indonesian horror movies in recent times, and Killers is a fine follow-up, full of gorgeous cinematography in service of shocking violence.
Director Sidi Saleh took home the highly prestigious Orizzonti Award for best short film at this year’s Venice International Film Festival for this brief but entrancing look at an Indonesian maid who must care for her autistic employer while struggling with her own internal crisis.
The first documentary to ever get a wide theatrical release in Indonesia, Daniel Ziv’s “Jalanan” managed to take the hardscrabble lives of three of Jakarta’s street musicians and turn it into a highly watchable, crowd pleaser of a movie – bursting at the seams with humor and heart. It’s not just an ode to the people living at the margins of Jakartan society, it’s a testament to the human spirit’s ability to triumph over the most difficult situations.
2. The Look of Silence
Calling “The Look of Silence” a sequel to “The Act of Killing” is not quite right. “Look” serves as a companion piece to “Act,” telling a very different yet intimately connected story. If “Act” was all about the killers who helped orchestrate the mass murder of over 500,000 people during 1965-1966 Communist purge, then “Look” is about the victims of that horrible crime against humanity and their search for answers. As such, it tells a quieter, more reflective story than its technically-daring, emotional gut-punch of a predecessor. But that does not make it any less powerful or essential as a piece of art. The fact that Indonesia’s Commission on Human Rights is supporting nationwide screenings of the film is definitely a step in the right direction towards Indonesia healing the massive wound this genocide has left upon its psyche.
1.The Raid 2
It might not be the most “important” Indonesian film of the year but, for a certain kind of moviegoer, “The Raid 2” was definitely the most enjoyable.
But “The Raid 2” is still pretty damn important. When “The Raid” came out in 2012, it not only raised the bar for all Indonesian movies, it raised the bar for action movies everywhere. For example, the directors of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” said The Raid was a big influence on the Marvel blockbuster.
Somehow “The Raid 2” manages to top its predecessor in both the story and action departments, telling a much more tense, complex tale while also taking the fight choreography in jaw-dropping new directions. It’s a bloody symphony of hardboiled cinematic delights and, if gore doesn’t bother you, there’s no reason you shouldn’t get a visceral kick out of watching this masterpiece.