Academic research on Indonesian Cinema

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Academic research on Indonesian Cinema

Before 2000, there had been a very few academic studies on Indonesian cinema with three books become the most cited ones: Salim Said’s Shadow of the Silver Screen, Karl Heider’s Indonesia Cinema: National Culture on Screen and Krishna Sen’s Indonesian Cinema: Framing New Order. Recently, Indonesian cinema has become the study object of many scholars, including some Indonesians who went abroad to pursue master and doctoral degree in film studies and other fields. Most of their finished works are available online, and some others have been published as a book.

Below is the list of these scholars’ works (including mine), which mostly available online. Some of them are not directly studying Indonesian cinema but closely related to the subject. I took the liberty to abridge the abstract accompanying each entry.


Doctoral theses

  1. JM Allen. The Films of Asrul Sani from 1966 to 1983: A New Art for Mankind. Department of Asian Studies. Department of Southeast Asian Studies, University of Sydney, 2000.

Examining four films as examples of four different genres, in the context of Sani’s other work, allows discovery of the complex creativity of an exemplar who desired “a new art for a new mankind”. Choosing a set period permits discovery of the context from which films can be interpreted. Some Third World film theories and postcolonial literary theory are used to test these discoveries. Sani’s work examines the leadership role of intellectuals, artists and religious scholars and the place of the masses. It expresses Islamic doctrine and convictions and translates them into patterns of moral code and legitimisation of the socio-political environment. Sani seeks too to encourage dynamism and spiritual rearmament. Sometimes his images are complex and his techniques can be read at several levels. His personal vision often dims, his commitment to film as poetry and as “a thorny conscience” falters, but some sense of hope remains.


  1. Joshua Lincoln Oppenheimer. Show of Force film, ghosts and genres of historical performance in the Indonesian genocide. University of the Arts London, 2004.

This thesis proposes a theory of performativity, spectrality and genres of historical performance; specifically, it is argues that spectres are performatively conjured as the obscene to any symbolic performance – including both historical acts as well as their rehearsal and restaging in re-enactment, testimony, or dramatisation; such spectres constitute a power that may be claimed by the performer. This power interacts with actual structures of power, as well as processes that seek to record, circulate or excavate such historical performances, including our filmmaking process. In the case of this film project, perpetrators are lured by the apparatus of filmmaking into naming names and revealing routines of mass murder hitherto obscene to official histories, and they do so through dramatisations and re-enactments manifestly conditioned by the codes of film and television genres. This latter point reveals the complex ways in which remembrance is always already well-rehearsed, scripted and generic.

This thesis describes a film practice that is necessarily a social practice, at once producing works and doing work. Building on models of collective filmmaking developed by Jean Rouch and George Stoney, we incorporate experimental production techniques including spirit possession, re-narration, infiltration, and genre-based fiction filmmaking in order to define a new model for film production that the author has termed “archaeological performance”. Moving beyond the interview-based approaches of Lanzmann and Ophtlls, archaeological performance suggests a hybrid and interventionist form of cinema adequate to addressing a history whose very incoherence has served as an instrument of terror.


  1. Jennifer Ann Dudley. Traversing The Boundaries? Art and Film in Indonesia with Particular Reference to Perbatasan/Boundaries: Lucia Hartini, Paintings from A Life. Murdoch University, 2006.

This thesis considers the dynamic of these conditions within a focused long-term study of the art and life of Indonesian “Surealis” painter, Lucia Hartini. My doctoral dissertation  comprises  this  thesis  and  the  forty-two  minute  documentary  film  Perbatasan  /  Boundaries:  Lucia  Hartini,  Paintings  from  a  Life  (1999  –  2002)  which  I  filmed  in  Indonesia and presents Lucia Hartini and her art in the context of her times from the historical  standpoint  of  Reformasi  and  millennial  change.  Art  historically,  this  thesis  informs   us   of   a   wider   journey,   that   of   selected   twentieth   century   Indonesian   contemporary artists exploring concepts of simulacra, hyper-reality, the meta-real and the surreal through the stylistic use of photo realism.


  1. Catherine Quirine Van Heeren. Contemporary Indonesian film: spirits of reform and ghosts from the past. Department of Languages and Cultures of Indonesia. Leiden University, 2009.

This dissertation is about film as a social practice within the shifting political and cultural frames of the Indonesian nation. It explores historically emergent forms of representation and imagination of communities in the Indonesian audio-visual mediascape, and addresses the impact of discourses and film mediation practices on the production of collective identities and social realities. The account ranges from discourses on idealized Indonesian identities in television and film discourses under President Soeharto’s New Order regime, to a topsy-turvy heated debate about the representation of the Indonesian nation and the social and daily-lived realities of the people in film and on television during the era of Reform, up to 2007.


  1. Tracy Wright Webster. Pergaulan bebas and gendered youth culture in Yogyakarta. Indonesia. School of Social Sciences, University of Western Australia, 2010.

In contemporary Indonesia there is a moral panic about the behaviour of young people. This moral panic identifies the issue as one of pergaulan bebas (literally, free socialising). Behaviours considered pergaulan bebas include premarital sex, alcohol and drug consumption, clubbing, consumption of pornography and cybersex, smoking, going out at night and gang fighting. Since many of these behaviours, in particular premarital sex, alcohol use, smoking and going out at night, are condoned for male youth, the discourse of pergaulan bebas settles most heavily on young women. This discourse reinforces existing socio-sexual and spatial taboos for female bodies in new and arguably sinister ways. This is particularly so in the context of dramatic global technological and market changes. As a social discourse played out on ever-younger gendered, sexed bodies, the discourse of pergaulan bebas requires negotiation by youth, whether or not they practise the behaviours implied in pergaulan bebas, for all youth are constructed as ‘at risk’. Since the demise of the New Order in 1998, the Indonesian nation-state has been experiencing an existential crisis.


  1. Thomas Barker. A Cultural Economy of The Contemporary Indonesian Film Industry. Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore, 2011.

Following the end of the New Order (1967-1998) and the subsequent period of reformasi, Indonesian feature films revitalized as a mode of cultural expression and as a culture industry. By 2008, filmmaking was dominated by a new generation of filmmakers and their films were prevalent in Indonesia’s cinemas. Whereas pre-1998 filmmaking was subject to state control and operated through a cultural economy of national cinema, after 1998 film integrated with prevailing modes of pop culture. As the first major study of the Indonesian film industry since 1998, this thesis asks: How did filmmaking and the film industry revitalize?

What are the consequences of film becoming pop culture? By deploying a cultural economy approach, this thesis analyses the sociology of film production in combination with a cultural analysis of a selection of films, to answer the above questions. In doing so, it shows that current film production remains structured by the past and is subject to the logic of pop culture.


  1. Nadi Tofighian. Blurring the Colonial Binary: Turn-of-the-Century Transnational Entertainment in Southeast Asia.  Faculty of Humanities, Department of Media Studies. Stockholm University, 2013.

This dissertation examines and writes the early history of distribution and exhibition of moving images in Southeast Asia by observing the intersection of transnational itinerant entertainment and colonialism. It is a cultural history of turn-of-the-century Southeast Asia, and focuses on the movement of films, people, and amusements across oceans and national borders. The starting point is two simultaneous and interrelated processes in the late 1800s, to which cinema contributed. One process, colonialism and imperialism, separated people into different classes of people, ruler and ruled, white and non-white, thereby creating and widening a colonial binary. The other process was bringing the world closer, through technology, trade, and migration, and compressing the notions of time and space.

The study assesses the development of cinema in a colonial setting and how its development disrupted notions of racial hierarchies. The first decade of cinema in Southeast Asia, particularly in Singapore, is used as a point of reference from where issues such as imperialism, colonial discourse, nation-building, ethnicity, gender, and race is discussed. The development of film exhibition and distribution in Southeast Asia is tracked from travelling film exhibitors and agents to the opening of a regional Pathé Frères office and permanent film venues. By having a transnational perspective the interconnectedness of Southeast Asia is demonstrated, as well as its constructed national borders.

Cinematic venues throughout Southeast Asia negotiated segregated, colonial racial politics by creating a common social space where people from different ethnic and social backgrounds gathered. Furthermore, this study analyses what kind of worldview the exhibited pictures had and how audiences reproduced their meanings.


  1. Budi Irawanto. Emancipating Desire, Empowering Fantasy: Cultural Politics of Contemporary Cinema in Indonesia and Malaysia. Department of Southeast Asian Studies. National University of Singapore, 2014.

This thesis examines the intricate and co-constitutive relationship between cinema and politics within the fast changing socio-political landscapes of contemporary Indonesia and Malaysia since the Reformasi era. Employing an ‘inter-referencing’ method and drawing on Jacques Ranciere’s and Alain Badiou’s theories on the potentiality of cinema for progressive social change, I examine new film practices, genres, networks, industry structures and social struggles in Indonesia and Malaysia today which are aided by the advancement in new digital technology.

This thesis argues that contemporary Indonesian and Malaysian indie films can no longer be understood simply as a critique or allegory of existing socio-political conditions. Rather, they signal a ‘coming of democratic society’ which has yet to materialize but is nonetheless making its presence amidst rising conservative moral forces, social cleavages, and desperation of authoritative regimes in these two countries. As a major study of Indonesian and Malaysian independent cinema since 1998, employing an inter-referencing approach, this thesis offers intriguing insights into the interactive flows of structures, visions and politics of the independent film communities in these two countries.


  1. Leonie Schmidt. Visions of the Future Imagining Islamic Modernities in Indonesian Islamic-themed post-Suharto Popular and Visual Culture. University of Amsterdam, 2014.

Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population and in the midst of modernization and Islamization. This confronts Indonesian Muslims with the questions what it means to be modern and Muslim, and whether or not Indonesia is on the ‘right’ path toward the ‘right’ kind of modernity. Products of popular and visual culture – like the Obama artwork that is featured on the cover of this book – provide perfect tools to publicly fantasize Islamic modernities. This book zooms in on these products and asks how Islamic modernities are imagined, negotiated and contested in popular and visual culture.


  1. Anton Sutandio. Historical Trauma and the Discourse of Indonesian-ness in Contemporary Indonesian Horror Films. Interdisciplinary Arts (Fine Arts). Ohio University, 2014.

This dissertation investigates six contemporary Indonesian terror-evoking films that address the historical trauma of the New Order regime under Soeharto. The films chosen were: Rizal Mantovani’s Jelangkung/The Uninvited (2001) and Air Terjun Pengantin/The Bride’s Waterfall (2009), Allan Luanrdi’s Karma (2008), Monty Tiwa’s Keramat/Sacred (2009), Helfi Kardit’s Arwah Goyang Karawang/Karawang Dance Ghost (2011), and Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing (2012). The textual analysis of this dissertation focuses on the allegorical functions of these films in contextualizing different senses of historical trauma and negotiating the discourse of Indonesian-ness. The distinct cataclysmic tenor of each film suggests an unresolved trauma of the nation that points to the latent ideological influence of the fallen New Order regime. This influence manifests itself in the retrospective understanding of Indonesian history and the contemporary discourse of Indonesian-ness.

The investigation focuses on three different components of historical trauma that pertains to pemuda/youth activists, gender performativity, and ethnicity, in particular the Chinese-Indonesians. Since this dissertation explicitly engages with political trauma, gender, and ethnic conflict, various studies on the respective fields constitute the analytical framework for this project.


  1. Intan Paramaditha. The Wild Child’s Desire: Cinema, Sexual Politics, and the Experimental Nation in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia. New York University, 2014.

A study of Indonesian cinema, this dissertation focuses on a new generation of cultural producers — film directors, producers, scriptwriters, festival organizers, programmers, and activists – who emerged in the period of political reform (Reformasi) in 1998. While offering new perspectives particularly on youth and sexuality in their films, members of this generation have also proposed a film law reform and demanded the abolition of film censorship. Emphasizing both artistic practices and political activism, my research is built on the following questions: Why do these cultural producers, who project their aspirations in the transnational landscape, actively invest in the process of redefining the nation through film practices and a collective engagement in the advocacy against censorship? How does the sexuality discourse in the censorship case relate to the larger debates around sexuality and national morality that have been haunting the nation for the past decade?

This dissertation investigates how the new generation’s desire for the nation in post-authoritarian Indonesia is articulated through sexual politics; it analyzes how such desire is shaped and limited by the discourses of paternalism, transnationalism, and religion, within which other national actors are implicated. I use the term “Wild Child” to describe how this generation conceptualizes itself vis-à-vis persisting state and cultural paternalism; sexual politics serves as a tool for cultural producers to perform their status as mature, knowledgeable citizen subjects.


  1. Novi Kurnia. Women Directors in Post-New Order Indonesia: Making Films, Making A Difference. Department of Women’s Studies, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Flinders University, 2014.

As the first major study of women film directors and their films in post-New Order Indonesia, this thesis asks questions about whether and how the presence of women directors is changing the nature of post-1998 Indonesian cinema. The thesis first locates itself in the growing international literature about women directors, and the very recent development of literature about Indonesian women and their films. It then probes the dynamic changes in the landscape of post-New Order Indonesian cinema in general in order to situate these women directors’ directorial contributions.

This thesis makes three arguments. Firstly, the presence of women directors, especially those who direct sidestream films, is proof that the domination of male directors as well as the Jakarta-(or Java)-centric nature of film production has been challenged. Secondly, some of these women directors bring an awareness of their identity as women to their filmmaking and this further challenges the patriarchal culture of film production. Thirdly, these women directors offer more diverse representations of gender in their films than was previously the case and this constitutes a significant departure from the representation of gender in films made during the New Order, including those directed by the small number of women who made films during that time. Further, some of the new generations of women directors do not only take on gender issues in their films but also explore religion and ethnicity in new ways.



  1. Alicia Izharuddin. Gender and Islam in Indonesian Cinema. Centre for Gender Studies, SOAS, 2014.

My PhD thesis draws from feminist and post-structuralist approaches to examine the construction of gender and Islam in Indonesian Islamic cinema between 1977 to 2011. This thesis asks: how, when, and where do Indonesian femininity and masculinity in film become ʻMuslim? Previous studies on representations of gender in Islam have shown that clothes are immediate markers of Islamic identity. This thesis, however, seeks to transcend clothing as an obvious visual marker of Islamic identity and the fixation on the Islamic veil and turban and focus instead on the dynamic relationship between modernity and (trans)-nationalism in the construction of Muslim femininity and masculinity in Indonesian cinema. The Islamic film genre produces various mechanisms to isolate Muslim characters from their non-Muslim counterparts while at the same time marking distinctions between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Muslim. This thesis demonstrates that such mechanisms behind the binaries of the Muslim/non- Muslim and ‘good’ Muslim/’bad’ Muslim are shifting concepts rather than fixed and self-evident. Furthermore, these shifting distinctions are achieved through narrative device, audio-visual tropes, and political discourse and governed by economic and cultural imperatives in the Islamic film genre. Ultimately, this thesis aims to make a contribution to the study of gender in Indonesian cinema more generally and to the definition of Islamic cinema as a film genre.


  1. Laura Coppens. Film activism in contemporary Indonesia: queer autoethnography, film festival politics, and the subversion of heteronormativity. Zurich University, 2015.

This dissertation explores the cultural phenomenon of film activism in the context of democratization and Islamization in post-Suharto Indonesia. Focusing on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) cultural producers, namely the organizers of Asia’s largest queer film festival, the Q! Film Festival, and the directors of the collaborative film anthology Anak-Anak Srikandi, it aims to illuminate an aesthetic movement that has played an active part in the construction of the new Indonesian nation since the political reformation in 1998. By demonstrating how film activists in contemporary Indonesia generate new forms of queer knowledge and enable community and alliance building based on affinity, I challenge and ask for the extension of existing notions of the political in LGBT rights activism.

I argue that film activism creates inclusive critical sites of resistance where oppressive heteronormative discourses can be subverted and reconfigured in liberatory ways. Drawing on anthropological fieldwork at the Q! Film Festival, interviews with key participants, close ethnographic analysis of Anak-Anak Srikandi and of my own involvement in the film’s production, this work contributes to the study and practice of anthropological filmmaking, to the emerging field of film festival studies, and also to interdisciplinary studies of non-Western media.


  1. Dafna Ruppin. The Komedi Bioscoop: The Emergence of Movie-going in Colonial Indonesia, 1896-1914. University of Utrecht, 2015.

The Komedi Bioscoop traces the emergence of a local culture of movie-going in the Netherlands Indies (present-day Indonesia) from 1896 until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. It outlines the introduction of the new technology by independent touring exhibitors, the constitution of a market for moving picture shows, the embedding of moving picture exhibition within the local popular entertainment scene, and the Dutch colonial authorities’ efforts to control film consumption and distribution.

Focusing on the cinema as a social institution, in which technology, race and colonialism converged, moving picture venues in the Indies – ranging from canvas or bamboo tents to cinema palaces of brick and stone – are perceived as liminal spaces in which daily interactions across boundaries could occur within colonial Indonesia’s multi-ethnic and increasingly polarized colonial society.


  1. Gaston Soehadi. Teguh Karya: a film auteur working within a collective. School of Media, Film and Journalism, Monash University, 2015.

This thesis examines the thirteen feature films written and directed by Teguh Karya, one of the most popular and innovative Indonesian film directors working during the 1970s and 1980s. In order to examine Teguh Karya’s films, the thesis uses authorship approaches that place the film director as an artist and his films as his personal reflections. It combines auteur-structuralism, which seeks to uncover the underlying structure of a film, and a pragmatic authorship approach that looks at the relationship between the filmmaker (Teguh Karya) and the local film industry. This combination of approaches is important since Teguh worked closely with his theatre collective, Teater Populer, within the commercial film industry. Applying these approaches to Teguh’s films, the thesis argues that his films are better explored in terms of their variety, change and development, and their interest in engaging with different issues of his society and its history.


  1. Dag S. Yngvesson. Non-Aligned Features: The Coincidence of Modernity and the Screen in Indonesia. University of Minnesota, 2016.

Examining Indonesian cinema from independence in 1949 until the present, I focus in particular on complicating understandings of how Western technologies, techniques and ideas have functioned as catalysts or determinants for the development of both nationalism and national cinemas worldwide. I examine local cinematic canons that bear the imprint of centuries of engagement with various transnational networks and forces. In the view that emerges, the pervasive politics of left-right alignment specific to the Cold War appear radically shifted – not simply, however, to a place “between” the binary poles of the United States and the Soviet Union, or within the triad of classical, oppositional, and Third cinemas that articulate their struggle as an epic of superpowers. Instead, following many of the Indonesian cineastes and critics I study, I endeavour to open the reading, viewing, present to an older domain of aesthetics and commodity exchange in which the linear arrangement of events leading to and from the rise of capitalism in Europe is made to coincide with other probable causes of the modern.


  1. Ekky Imanjaya.The Cultural Traffic of Classic Indonesian Exploitation Cinema. School of Art, Media and American Studies, University of East Anglia, 2016.

Classic Indonesian exploitation films (originally produced, distributed, and exhibited in the New Order’s Indonesia from 1979 to 1995) are commonly negligible in both national and transnational cinema contexts, in the discourses of film criticism, journalism, and studies. Nonetheless, in the 2000s, there has been a global interest in re-circulating and consuming this kind of films. The films are internationally considered as “cult movies” and celebrated by global fans.

This thesis will focus on the cultural traffic of the films, from late 1970s to early 2010s, from Indonesia to other countries. By analyzing the global flows of the films I will argue that despite the marginal status of the films, classic Indonesian exploitation films become the center of a taste battle among a variety of interest groups and agencies. The process will include challenging the official history of Indonesian cinema by investigating the framework of cultural traffic as well as politics of taste, and highlighting the significance of exploitation and B-films, paving the way into some findings that recommend accommodating the movies in serious discourses on cinema, nationally and globally.


  1. Maria Myutel. Indians and National Television in Indonesia: Behind the Seen. School of Culture, History and Language, Australian National University, 2016.

This is the first in-depth study of the critical power of the Indian (Sindhi) ethnic minority in modern Indonesian public culture. The research is a close examination of the success and dominance of the Sindhi community in the production of popular dramas for national television in Indonesia. Despite several decades of Sindhis’ control over media production, scholars have ignored the significant influence of this South Asian community on contemporary Indonesian culture, economy and politics. Moreover, previous research has emphasised either unilateral dominance of the state over selected minority groups or resistance of minorities to state power, largely oversimplifying the existing relations between ethnic minorities and nation-state.

Highlighting the collaborative nature of interaction between the Sindhi community and the Indonesian state, in the media production industry in particular, the study sheds light on the previously unknown aspects of ethnic politics in post-independence Indonesia and moves beyond the issues of assimilation or discrimination central to many existing studies of minority-majority relations. Likewise, in the midst of increasing scholarly interest in the Islamisation of modern Indonesia, the study serves as a reminder of unsettled ethno-racial tensions that continue to define the distribution of political, economic and social power in Indonesia.


  1. Darlene Machell De Leon Espena. Cinema and Politics: The Creation of Postcolonial Self/Other and the Shaping of Strategic Cultures in Southeast Asia, 1945 -1967. School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, 2017.

This research examines the intersections among Southeast Asian strategic cultures, cinematic visualizations, and the formation of Southeast Asian foreign policies from 1945 to 1967. Veering away from realist, political, economic, and strategic frameworks on foreign policy and international studies, I apply cultural analysis to the study of the foreign policy orientations of Southeast Asian states in the early period of the Cold War–a period that coincided with the era of nation-building and decolonization in Southeast Asia. The underlying premise of this approach is that politics and foreign policy formulation are not impervious to culture–that the processes by which states relate to one another are inevitably grounded in distinct cultural spheres. Through an investigation of the strategic cultures of Southeast Asian states, I provide a provocative alternative for understanding how and why these states navigated the Cold War the way they did. I examine how Southeast Asian strategic cultures reflected and/or were shaped by the dominant ideologies in the national cinemas in three countries–Malaya/Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. I then explore how the strategic cultures of these Southeast Asian states eventually influenced their nation-building processes and international relations.

I argue that Southeast Asian films advance a cultural narrative about anti-colonialism, independence, and nation-building that produced, affirmed, and reinforced the Southeast Asian strategic culture of non-alignment. The ideologies, (re)created, negotiated, and embodied in Southeast Asian films, reflected and influenced the strategic cultures of Southeast Asian states. I further maintain that the strategic cultures not only shaped the perceptions of Southeast Asians concerning international affairs, they also affected the manner in which the peoples viewed themselves and others, and shaped their international behaviour.


  1. Meghan Downes. (Un)toward Progress: Stories of Modernity and Development in Indonesian Film and Fiction. Australian National University, 2017.

In this thesis, I trace a powerful narrative theme of ‘progress’ across several different genres of storytelling: fictional stories in cinema and literature, audience accounts of everyday consumption practices, and the various stories circulating in media, public debate, and academic scholarship. Stories of progress are pervasive and compelling in contemporary Indonesia, whether in ‘inspirational’ films and novels featuring upwardly mobile young protagonists, or in audience discussions and media debates about the potential of such fictional stories to ‘advance’ and ‘develop’ the nation in both material and moral terms. Central to many of these stories are the keywords ‘modernity’ and ‘development.’


  1. I Gusti Agung Ketut Satrya Wibawa, Constructing the Nation: Representation and Children in Indonesian Cinema. School of Media, Culture & Creative Arts. Curtin University, 2018.

This doctoral thesis applies a critical national cinema perspective to the examination of the changing discursive construction of Indonesia as a nation through the representation of children in Indonesian cinema. Cinema studies scholars have generally observed that Indonesian film has been utilised to explore issues such as social class, the family, the authoritarian state, and national identity in relation to this nation’s modern history of geopolitical and internal conflict (Said, 1991; Heider, 1991; Sen, 1994; Robert, 2000; Biran, 2009; Barker, 2011; Van Heeren, 2012; Paramaditha, 2014, Heryanto, 2014, Hanan, 2017).

However, there has been limited dedicated scholarly attention given solely to the representation of children in this nation’s cinema (Kittley, 1999; Strassler, 1999; Spyer, 2004; Wibawa, 2008; Allen, 2011; and Noorman & Nafisah, 2016) although the Indonesian child has been a favourite subject of Indonesian film directors and screenwriters. This thesis conducts close analysis of fiction films that place child characters in the main narrative, made in Indonesia from the colonial era to the period of political reform that followed the fall of the New Order, in order to examine the way these representations are constructed to convey cultural narratives and ideologies about Indonesia as a nation. As a creative-production research project, this thesis consists of an exegetical written component and a creative component (essay film), both of which address in their own way the same central research question concerning the discursive construction of the nation through the representation of children in Indonesian cinema.


  1. Miaw Lee Teo. Recuperation and Fragmented Identity: Chinese Stories in Contemporary Indonesian Film. School of the Arts and Media Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences. University of New South Wales, 2018.

This thesis seeks to unpack the multifaceted meaning of ‘Chinese films’ and ‘Chineseness’ as represented in contemporary Indonesian cinema. It evaluates the hybrid experiences of the ethnic Chinese minority in Indonesia through cinematic stories, themes and narrative styles of feature-length films produced in the early 2000s by the three key indigenous filmmakers and also focuses on Edwin as a case study to highlight a very different approach compared to the Chinese-themed films by indigenous Indonesian filmmakers. He expresses his experience of being Chinese in Indonesia through personal experience and through the adoption of an ‘accented’ style. The thesis argues that where the indigenous filmmakers narrate Chinese stories from the outside, Edwin manages to approach the trauma, fragmentation, dislocatedness and hybridity of being Chinese in Indonesia in a style that emerges from the inside and as such closely approximates this experience.


  1. Evi Eliyanah. Reconfiguring Ideal Masculinity: Gender Politics in Indonesian Cinema. Australian National University, 2019.

My thesis examines Indonesian filmmakers’ struggles in undermining the hegemonic ideal, bapakism. It focuses on the crucial years of 2000–2014. Profound socio-political and economic shifts had forced changes to Indonesia’s official patterning of gender relations during the period. Consequently, the changes provoked a requestioning of what constituted ideal masculinity, as well as femininity in Indonesia. So far, inadequate scholarly attention has been paid to the workings of power and class dimensions underlying the rejuvenated gender politics to secure hegemonic masculinity, especially in popular culture. Commercial cinema was, and still is, one of the most crucial arenas in popular culture, in which political agents—primarily urban, highly educated middle classes—sought to legitimise alternative ideals or to reinforce the existing hegemonic masculinity.

My thesis is interested in exploring commercial filmmakers’ choices, negotiations and compromises in shaping what could be represented and idealised on Indonesian commercial cinema at this given time. Taking into account the flourishing of the ‘new man’ on-screen, I decided to use the filmmakers’ struggles to legitimise this alternative ideal in commercial cinema as my analytic lens. The ‘new man’ challenges the hegemonic bapakism’s valorisation of breadwinning, authoritative patron leadership and heteronormativity. Combining textual analysis, field research and interface ethnography, I argue that commercial filmmakers struggled to innovate and experiment with alternative ideals which promoted equal and fluid gender relations on the big screen. Yet, the filmmakers’ struggles were overshadowed by middle-class biases and moral panic.


  1. Gerardus Majella Adhyanggono. Imagining Javanesness in Contemporary Indonesian Socio-Cultural Documentaries. Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts. Lancaster University, 2019.

This thesis explores imagination of Javaneseness, from a selection of contemporary Indonesian socio-cultural-themed documentaries in the first decade of the Indonesian reform period. The 1998 political change of Indonesia, from the authoritarian regime of the New Order to a more democratic one, rendered significant impacts in many aspects of Indonesians’ lives. Personal attempts to reinterpret ethnic identities was one of them. These were captured in the documentary filmmaking practices of the period where imagining Javaneseness had been hardly problematised before. Such attempts matter as in the New Order period, the regime had developed its Java-centric state culture that was aristocratic, moralistic, and capitalistic. The examined documentaries of this post-authoritarian period suggests that Javaneseness is not a homogeneous construct, but heterogeneous, amorphous, and transient one. I make use of a hermeneutic constructionism to analyse Javanesenessin the films.


  1. Tito Imanda. 2019. Collaborative Filmmaking with Traditional Performers in Highland Java: A Practice-Based PhD Thesis. Goldsmiths, University of London, 2019.

This thesis analyzes the process of collaboration with a Javanese traditional performance group in adapting their work to film. The project has both practical and research goals. The practical goal is to collaborate with a traditional performance group from a rural area, and help facilitate their exploration of a new medium and to express themselves through film. The research goal of this project is to record, understand and analyze the process, while laying the groundwork for further collaborations and research in other contexts and with different communities. The underlying research question for this thesis is: “how does collaboration contribute and facilitate the group’s adaptation of its aesthetics and artistic expression to film?”


  1. Ari Ernesto Purnama. Meaningful looks: the transformation, function and meaning of visual style in contemporary Indonesian film. University of Groningen, 2019.

What can the visual style of Indonesian films tell us about contemporary Indonesia, the world’s third largest democracy? This thesis examines how Indonesian film has changed in the years following the end of Suharto’s dictatorship, with an emphasis on visual techniques such as lighting, location shooting and set design, and camera movement. It focuses especially on the ways that these techniques have been used to develop innovative modes of cinematic storytelling, contributing to the wider reinvigoration of Indonesian cinema in the 21st Century.

By employing the poetics of cinema as its methodological framework, and using the functional theories of film style as its theoretical lenses, this dissertation is intended as a contribution towards developing a stylistics of contemporary Indonesian film. It will be the first account that systematically examines the aesthetic dimension of Indonesian cinema. It is written in the conviction that Indonesian film can be treated as worthy aesthetic objects, just as other Indonesian arts have been in fields such as musicology (gamelan), theater studies (ludruk; wayang), textile studies (batik) and art history (Javanese-Buddhist wall reliefs; sculptures; paintings).


  1. Eric Sasono. Publicness and the public in contemporary Indonesian documentary film cultures. Department of Film Studies, King’s College London, 2019.

This thesis investigates the academically neglected topic of documentary film culture in Indonesia since the political change of 1998. It asks: what kind of documentary film cultures have been established since the 1998 political change? As the infrastructure and channels for documentary film distribution have been barely exist, how do they circulate among their public and what type of institutional arrangements involved to make documentary films able to get circulated in Indonesia? Furthermore this asks: how this documentary culture is related to publicness and the discussion of the public in Indonesia?

This thesis approaches publicness through the tension between local and global settings, and the aesthetic and the institutional. Grounding the discussion on the transition from authoritarian regime into a more open political situation that occurred since 1998 in Indonesia, the thesis examines constrain and support for documentary films to reach their publics and getting the subject matter contributing into the discussion about the public.


  1. Monolog Diponegoro. Pascasarjana, Institut Seni Indonesia Surakarta, 2019. [Bahasa Indonesia]

Monologue film of Diponegoro tells a tale of Diponegoro’s life in defending right on his land and searching for a figure of mom. In Indonesian film industry, biographical film mostly  causes  a  great  loss  due  to  its  high-cost  production  contradicting  with  the  low  interest   of   enthusiasts   in   biographical   film.   The   relatively   low   cost-produced monologue  film  of  Diponegoro  compared  to  the  production  cost  of  most  films,  might  give  an  alternative  to  press  the  risk  of  biographical  film.  Biographical  film  plays  an  important role since it contains many figures which might give enrichment to people’s perspective  in  addressing  the  current  issues.  Monologue movie  of  Diponegoro  opens  the   insight   on   new   approach   as   a   fruitful   contribution   to   the   development   of   biographical films in Indonesia.


Master theses

  1. Ekky Imanjaya. The Backdoors of Jakarta: Representation of Jakarta and Its Social Issues in Post-Reform Indonesian Cinema. Department of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam, 2008.


  1. JV Aartsen. Film World Indonesia: The Rise After The Fall. Utrecht University, 2011.


  1. Zaki Habibi. Social Memory in Javanese Hip-Hop: A Post-structural Study on Representation of Social Memory in the Documentary Film: Hiphopdiningrat (2010) School of Communications and Arts, Edith Cowan University, 2012.

This study examines the way in which media, culture, memory and identity are
connected to one another in their composite contexts in an amalgamation of local
and global expressions in contemporary culture. The relationship between cultural
texts, mediation of memory and questions surrounding identity form the foundation
of this study.

The film entitled Hiphopdiningrat was made and released by a hip-hop group
called Jogja Hip-Hop Foundation (JHF) in December 2010. JHF is based in
Yogyakarta, a province at the heart of Java Island in Indonesia, Southeast Asia.
However, this film signifies more than a documentation of the music group. They
consistently employ Javanese culture in their works, both in terms of their vernacular
expressions as well as reinterpreting the Javanese classic literatures. This results in
more complex ideas about the hybridisation of youth culture (hip-hop), local-global
tension and cultural identity.

The literature framing this study takes a particular perspective in examining
Javanese hip-hop. The literature begins by viewing documentary as text, expanding
from realism to representation. Then, the literature continues by understanding social
memory in relation to cinema and elaborating the characteristics of hip-hop culture
that celebrate differences and proclaim diversities.


  1. Lisabona Rahman. Archiving Outside Of The Frame, The Story Continues. Case Study of Lewat Djam Malam Film Restoration Project. MA Preservation and Presentation of the Moving Image. Graduate School of Humanities, University of Amsterdam, 2013.


Chris woodroch

  1. Christopher Allen Woodrich. Ekranisasi Awal: Bringing Novels into Silver Screen in the Dutch East Indies. Faculty of Cultural Studies, University of Gajah Mada, 2014.

This study discusses the social act of adapting films from novels, as found in the Dutch East Indies, where this phenomenon began in 1927 with the adaptation of Eulis Atjih by G. Krugers and ended in 1942—before the Japanese occupation—with the adaptation of Siti Noerbaja by Lie Tek Swie. The adaptation process from this period is little understood, yet important for understanding the history of screen adaptations, which are quickly becoming the most lucrative type of film in Indonesia. As such, this research was conducted in order to better understand the origins of this phenomenon and the earliest considerations in making the social act.


  1. Ana Paula Pérez Córdova. A Documentary of the Imagination: The Use of Reenactments in The Act of Killing. Master of Arts in Film and Media Production, Lund University, 2015.

This  thesis will  provide a  formal  analysis  of  Joshua  Oppenheimer’s  documentary The  Act  of Killing(2012),by analysing the different stylistic techniques used in the reenactments such as the cinematography, editing,  sound and mise-en-scène, and  by  analyzing the ways  in  which  these documentary  techniques affected  the  film  and the people  who  committed  the  crimes.  This research also reflects the way in which reviewers all over the world have related to and received this film. Through different  reenactments and a  unique filming  method,  Oppenheimer  challenges the executioners of one of the worst world genocides, the massacres of Indonesiain1965, to recreate their  crimes  in  any  ways  they  wanted  to.


  1. Arni Dewi Boronnia. The Making of Negeri Laskar Pelangi (The Rainbow Troops): Film tourism as placemaking in Indonesia. Wageningan University, 2018.

The focus of this research is to explain the use of film tourism as a destination branding as well as the impact of film tourism phenomena and placemaking practice from the perspective of the residents. This study provides a better understanding not only on how people perceive places materially and socially but also how such identity of a place created and contested by using the key concept of place branding and place attachment to explain placemaking concept further.

This study argues that the local government of Belitung use the name of the film in their destination branding tagline to create a destination identity and it was built opportunistically according to the popularity of the movie as it considered as the most representable and marketable image. Thus, the study considers three things that it is important to take into account within film tourism placemaking: taking into account the localities of the place and resident’s culture within the creation of destination identity, keeping the story of the film alive within the people and community not only as an attempt to influence people’s attachment but also to create a comprehensive film tourism destination, and collaboration with various tourism actors in order to maintain the trend of the film which also affecting tourist flow.


  1. Anggit Pangastuti. Female Sexploitation in Indonesian Horror Films: Sundel Bolong (A Perforated Prostitute Ghost, 1981), Gairah Malam III (Night Passion III, 1996), and Air Terjun Pengantin (Lost Paradise – Playmates in Hell, 2009). Master of Communication Studies, Auckland University of Technology, 2019.

This research explores the portrayal of female sexual exploitation (sexploitation) and representation in three Indonesian horror films: Sundel Bolong (A Perforated Prostitute Ghost, 1981), Gairah Malam III (Night Passion III, 1996), and Air Terjun Pengantin (Lost Paradise – Playmates in Hell, 2009). These films coincide with three significant political periods in Indonesia, namely: the New Order period; the Transition period; and the post-New Order period that shaped and reflects the present Indonesian society.

The research finds that female characters are depicted as dependent, passive and helpless, which is associated with Indonesian ideals of womanhood during the New-Order and Transition periods. However, during the Post-New Order period, female representation has changed. The female character is depicted as a survivor who does not need a man’s support and protection. She is more independent, active and fierce; yet, she still cannot escape fully from society’s expectation for her to follow the patriarchal rule.




4 responses to “Academic research on Indonesian Cinema”

  1. Yusuf Kurniawan Avatar

    Mas Eric adakah sumber artikel buku atau artikel yang berbahasa Indonesia atau dari buku dan tulisan tersebut adakah versi terjemahan Indonesia nya ?

    1. Eric Sasono Avatar
      Eric Sasono

      Dewan Kesenian Jakarta baru2 ini menerbitkan buku seri Wacana Sinema. Salah satunya terjemahan dari salah satu disertasi yang disebutkan di daftar itu. Kalau tak salah Quirine Van Heeren penulisnya. Coba meluncur ke laman Dewan Kesenian Jakarta.

  2. Gönül Dönmez-Colin Avatar
    Gönül Dönmez-Colin

    Please note that my book Women, Islam and Cinema (Reaktionbooks 2004) also includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh as well as Iran and Turkey.

  3. […] Academic Research on Indonesian Cinema […]

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