The Beguiled and The Beguiling: An Introduction to Indonesian Documentary
Edwin's Golden Leopard win for Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash at the 2021 Locarno Film Festival has catapulted Indonesian cinema to the forefront of the global conversation around arthouse and documentary film. Here's an introduction to the country's tradition of non-fiction to mark the occasion.
The shifting political situation in Indonesia in 1998, better known as the Reformation Era, brought changes to the mode of production of documentary films in Indonesia. Film had been brought to Indonesia through colonialism; as a medium it was more commonly used by authorities to convey their achievements through public service announcement films. After 1998, independent production schemes came to be more free in determining their artistic choices. The presence of new television stations and the emergence of film festivals like Arkipel also brought about an enrichment of Indonesian documentary cinema.
Indonesian filmmakers couldn't follow the well-trodden path of world documentary out of necessity. They had to turn to local wisdom, creating in the process a new wave of non-fiction cinema that is altogether more singular in make-up. Many of these films nonetheless found great success at international festivals like Toronto or IFFR. In these films, it is no longer just a matter of telling a story, but of blending fiction into documentary practice to force the social or political issues that are at the heart of Indonesian society to the forefront of the audience's minds.
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