New Indonesia Film Law Stirs Controversy

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Last month, just as I was writing about the changes in administration of the Thai film industry as a result of the Film Act of 2008 replacing the archaic 1930 Act, Indonesian filmmakers were denouncing their government for introduction of a new film act.

The Indonesian government passed into law on Sept. 8, 2009, legislation that increases censorship of local production and limits the distribution of foreign films.

The controversial bill requires that:
* 60% of screen time be reserved for local productions regardless of quality.
* Local filmmakers submit an outline of their projects, including title, story and production plan, to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism three months before production begins.
* Limits be placed on the depiction of drug use, sexual content and other controversial topics.

Local filmmakers say the new law places restrictions on creativity, and that the 60% quota, designed to protect the local film industry, could actually harm it.

“That stipulation will only encourage the production of low-quality movies to fulfill the 60% quota,” said leading Indonesian filmmaker Mira Lesmana, producer of the widely acclaimed movie Laskar Pelangi (Rainbow Warriors). “There is no point in setting a 60 percent quota for Indonesian movies,” she added. “It will only serve as justification for those seeking mere profits and not thinking about the quality of the movies they produce.”

Indonesia Minister of Culture and Tourism Jero Wacik staunchly defended the bill, but resigned a few hours after its passage. It is the second law under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to provoke opposition from the cultural industries following an anti-pornography bill last year.

Despite filmmaker opposition to the new law, Wacik announced on Sept. 7 that the Indonesian movie industry was "vibrant" and "highly expected to improve production up to 200 movies by the year 2014." Around 87 Indonesian movies were produced in 2008, with production ramped up to 95 movies this year, according to Minister Wacik.

Wacik maintained that many queues of people wanting to watch Indonesian movies could be seen in front of movie theatre ticket booths over the last few years, something that was hardly seen three or five years ago.

Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world and the largest Muslim nation. It has recently experienced box-office growth due to rollout of new cinemas. The country’s pay-TV industry is also booming.

Thai Petition Calls for Original Soundtracks
Back in September, a petition was passed around the foreign community in Hua Hin, Thailand (about 90 miles west of Bangkok), urging Major Cineplex, Thailand's largest theatre circuit, to show movies in their original soundtracks on a regular basis. Some 99% of the time, Major runs English-language movies dubbed in Thai. Even all movie newspaper ads are in Thai, which the foreign community also objects to.

The petition maintained, "When either the cinema or their head office are [sic] contacted, they state that they do not show movies in English because there is no demand. When asked how they know, they respond, 'because we asked our customers.’”

The petition, which was to be sent to Major headquarters on Sept. 30, had 392 signatures when we last checked.

Blog Salutes Vintage Asian Theatres
Several years ago when visiting the Hawaii International Film Festival, I took a drive around the Big Island with Festival director Chuck Boller. We stopped in several small towns, visiting the remnants of movie theatres of yesteryear. That trip left a lasting impression.

Now, thanks to a blog called The Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project, you can visit old movie theatres from around Southeast Asia (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia).

The owner of the blog, who remains unnamed, says of its stories and pictures of old movie houses: "This is a photographic archive of derelict or converted movie theatres in Southeast Asia. Ever since the convenience of the home-entertainment center has become widely available, movie theatre-going has been on the path to extinction. Declining audiences and rising operational costs have made the business feasible only for larger conglomerates, while the independent, family-run theatre has been squeezed out of the picture. Here their memories are kept alive.” Check it out.

Toho Hikes Price for 3D Films
Toho Cinemas in Tokyo is adding a 300 yen charge (approx US$3.34) to all 3D movies, bringing the ticket price up to 2,100 yen ($23.40). That’s close to $50 for two people. Ouch! The 3D surcharge begins on Oct. 17. Compare that with 3D’s $6.50 per ticket (220 baht) here in Bangkok on equally technologically advanced systems.

Bangkok Hosts Varied Film Fests
If you never thought of Bangkok as a film-oriented locale, think again. The September- November period is chock-full of movie events, with something for all cinema lovers.

First up was the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand-hosted Bangkok International Film Festival, which ran Sept. 24–30. Using the theme of “Old Hollywood Glamour,” reflecting a golden era of both Thai and international films, there were approximately 80 movies presented in the festival with two competition sections: the main competition and the Southeast Asian competition.

Running concurrent with the Bangkok Festival, Sept 25-30, was the first Bangkok International Animation Film Festival, hosted by the Software Industry Promotion Agency (SIPA), in cooperation with the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand.
Also from Sept. 25-30, SF Cinema City, Thailand's second-largest exhibitor, held a Chinese Film Festival in line with China's October 1 celebration of the establishment of the People's Republic of China and the 100th anniversary of Chinese film

Last but not least is the seventh World Film Festival of Bangkok, running Nov 6–15, hosted by the nation and Thailand's largest exhibitor, Major Cineplex. The objective of the festival is to introduce quality, non-mainstream films from all over the world. It aims to become a showcase for independent films and new work from rising talents and cinema masters, to show the continuity from generation to generation. More than 80 international films are screened at the festival each year.

Contact Asia-Pacific bureau chief Scott Rosenberg with your news items at (662) 982-4525, by fax at (662) 982-4526, or by e-mail at scott.rosenberg@gmail.com.