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There are several major changes in Festival Film Indonesia (FFI) this year. Not only will the awards ceremony be held at the end of the year, but the FFI committee—led by actor Lukman Sardi— will have the same composition until 2020, instead of being changed every year. It has also been decided that the names of the judges will not be revealed.
To cut a long story short, FFI is becoming more like the Academy Awards —an independent and the most prominent entity consisting of filmmakers whose votes determine what films deserve to be celebrated by the film industry.
Festival Film Indonesia has been trying to adapt the Academy Awards system since 2014. It is the first time in Indonesia that the voting judges will be chosen based on their professional background and involve an independent analyst to count the votes. The FFI is sending an important message to moviegoers and the film ecosystem on what films should be celebrated. Not just because they have been technically crafted, but also because the issues discussed in the films are extremely important to the context within the country.
And so how is Indonesia represented in the eye of cinema this year? What issues is FFI trying to highlight this year?
I am not a filmmaker myself, but as a moviegoer and active observant of the industry, I can’t help but come up with at least five points that the committee is trying to convey in the industry.
1. That art is more than just a commodity
Unlike the Academy Awards, for which nine or 10 films are nominated in the best picture category, in retrospect, FFI can only nominate five.
Yet this year, the committee has nominated only four films in the most anticipated category. They are Marlina Si Pembunuh dalam Empat Babak (Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts) (2017) — this year’s official Indonesian submission for the Oscars; Aruna dan Lidahnya (Aruna and Her Palate) (2018) — the second feature of Palari Films that was also nominated for this category last year; a dark horse titled Sekala & Niskala (2018) directed by a daughter of a legend; and the debut of a new production house telling the untold story of Sultan Agung (2018).
Even though these films have been critically acclaimed, ironically, none of them are considered to have been widely received by a mainstream audience. Not even Indonesia's 2018 highest grossing film has been nominated in this category.
As problematic as it sounds, it seems the popularity of the films is not determined by the quality of the film made but on the marketing strategy of the studio. That is why FFI thinks it’s essential to educate the public that movies are also art forms that the success of which should not be measured by the number of tickets sold.
Read also: 2018 Indonesian Film Festival: Full list of nominations
2. That a great performance is a great performance
Even though it seems that FFI only wants to celebrate arthouse genre, there is meant to be leniency in some categories.
The acting category, for example, goes against the primary stance in the first place. Just when we think there’s no way that a cheesy rom-com will be highlighted, it is.
Iqbal Ramadhan for his performance in Dilan 1990 (2018) and Adipati Dolken for his portrayal in Teman Tapi Menikah (Friends but Married) (2018) managed to secure best leading actor nominations.
This is something that neither the Academy nor Hollywood would do. Yet, it seems the judges argue that a great performance is a great performance. And as turns out, genre isn't a problem as long as they deliver magnificent performances worth considering.
3. That Indonesia is diverse
If anything, Indonesia should be more concerned about diversity than Hollywood. Although only three directors have been nominated in the best director category, we should be proud that two of the nominees are women.
Mouly Surya and Kamila Andini prove that women are just as good as men. These trailblazing women directed two Indonesian films set in unusual settings that capture other stories instead of just being about urban people living in the millennium era.
While Mouly captures what it means to be a woman seeking justice in Sumba, Kamila perfectly pictures what it feels like to be a Balinese child in mourning in one of the most poetic stories on screen. Their works manifest cultural and gender representation in the cinema.
Read also: Campaigning for 'Marlina' to reign at the Oscars
4. That FFI remains inconsistent
FFI is not flawless. It would be considered consistent only if it nominated five nominees in every category every year. Yet there are only four nominations in the best picture category and three directors in the best director category.
It is also confusing how six people could be nominated for the best child actor, best supporting actor and best leading actor categories. Isn’t it weird that five screenwriters have been nominated in the best original screenplay category, but only three writers have been nominated in the best-adapted screenplay category?
Why would numbers matter? Because it sends a consistent message of how many works deserve to be appreciated.
Coming up with five best works shouldn't be hard. If the committee doesn't believe there are people “good enough” to fill the spot in the category, it could always use the spot to highlight the least prominent filmmakers to give recognition to younger and new filmmakers in the industry.
In my humble opinion, Love for Sale (2018) has been snubbed this year. I think the film argues a very important topic and deserves to be nominated in the best picture and best director category. It is also not every day that we see an independent filmmaker come up with well-crafted science fiction film.
Nominating Tengkorak (2018) should also be part of FFI committee’s obligation in nurturing new talents.
5. That we still have a long way to go
It is clear that we still have a long way to go in becoming a more established industry in the country.
What makes Hollywood Hollywood is the fact it has tons of film critics to influence members of the Academy to watch and to vote for certain movies. We don’t.
When the Oscars were considered too "white” a couple of years ago, the Academy realized that it needed to put the spotlight on diversity. It was forced to realize what it meant to tell of the human condition regardless of sex, race or socioeconomic background. It made the awards season an annual TED-like conference in which each winner should give an inspiring speech that doesn't only thank their mom and dad, but also touches on important matters like inclusion, the glass ceiling and the importance of dreaming.
Sure, our film Industry has got way better. But we should never be satisfied.
It is time to be more critical and start questioning whether the Citra Trophy is still the most prestigious award in the film industry or not. (kes)
Reza Mardian is a film enthusiast and big fan of Disney, Pixar, Studio Ghibli and all films in the running for an Oscar or Festival Film Indonesia award. He is also a nursing graduate who is not a practicing nurse, and likes to post anything related to books and movies on his Instagram account @mardian.reza.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.
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