Among the genres that characterized the cinema in Indonesia (colonized by the Netherlands during the 17th century, and independent from 1949) it is possible to identify those linked to a particular historical period (such as kompeni, from the 17th to the 19th century, and perjuangan, on the one between the Japanese retreat in 1945 and the proclamation of independence) and other more traditional ones (sentimental, horror, etc.). The first cinematographic activities began in the 10s of the 20th century, with documentaries made by Europeans. Due to the situation of economic and cultural marginalization in which the indigenous population found themselves, the production of feature films until the 1940s was mainly the work of filmmakers of Dutch or Chinese origin. Among the first to be remembered for the 1920s G. Kruger and F. Carli, already active in the documentary sector, and for the 1930s Albert Balink. Kruger directed the first known Indonesian feature film, Lutung kasarung (1926, The Loyal Monkey), based on a popular legend from the island of Java, and scripted by L. Heuveldorp. However, the film industry developed above all thanks to the activity of some Chinese producers-directors: the brothers Nelson, Jushua and Othniel Wong, Tan Khoen Hian with Tan’s Film, Teng Chun, who made with Cino Motion Pictures Corporation Cikebang rose (1931, La rosa di Cikebang), Indonesia’s first sound film. All of these films were played by Chinese actors, but inspired by local legends. In the Thirties Balink, with the collaboration of the Dutch documentary maker Mannus Franken, made important films such as Pareh (1934, Riso), an anthropological work that met with no commercial success, and Terang bulan (1937, Chiaro di luna), who instead had an excellent reception thanks to the exotic settings and the presence of Rukiah and Raden Mochtar, the first stars of the cinema Indonesian. In that decade the business had a great development: if the Wong brothers and Tan’s Film failed, starting from 1936 the Cino Motion Pictures Corporation, assuming the name of Java Industrial Film, became the first company of industrial dimensions, and the production grew from an average of 7 films in the period 1926-1939 to around 30 in 1941. With the occupation of the Indonesia by the Japanese army (January 1942), there was instead a drastic reduction in production. The occupiers closed down local companies.
The independence of the Indonesia it was proclaimed on August 17, 1945, a few days after the surrender of Japan. A troubled period of clashes with the Dutch (who in the meantime had regained possession of the archipelago) followed until 1947, in which no films were produced. A normalization process then began, which saw, among other things, the return to the activity of the Wong brothers and Tan Khoen Hian with the Tan and Wong Brothers Company, while Teng Chun founded the Bintang Surabaya Company with director Fred Young. After the recognition of independence by the Dutch (December 27, 1949) the production activity grew considerably (40 films in 1957). Among the personalities that characterized Indonesian cinema in the 1950s and in the first half of the 1960s, Huyung (Himatsu Heitaro, of Japanese origin: Antara bumi dan lagit, 1952, Between heaven and earth), Basuki Effendi (Pulang, 1952, The return), Kokot Sukardi (Si pincang, 1952, The cripple), Djadug Djajakusuma (Harimau Tjampa, 1953, The tiger of Tjampa; Tjambuk api, 1959, The whip of fire), Asrul Sani (Titian serambut dibelah tujuh, 1959, A hat divided into seven; Pagar kawat berduri, 1961, Behind the barbed wire), Bachtiar Siagian (Violetta, 1962), Wim Umboh (Macan Kemajoran, 1965, The Tiger of Kemajoran). In the field of production, the most interesting figures were Usmar Ismail and Djamaluddin Malik, founders in 1950 of the main companies of the period, PERFINI (Perusahaan Film Nasional Indonesia, National Film Society of Indonesia), closed in 1971, and PERSARI (Perseroan Artis Republik Indonesia, Society of Artists of the Republic of Indonesia), which continued its activity in the following decades. Ismail is also considered the greatest Indonesian director and the true protagonist of the rebirth of an authentically national cinema: in his career he alternated the works of civil commitment (Darah dan doa, 1950, The long journey; Dosa tak berampum, 1951, Inespiabile sin; Lewat jam malam, 1954, After the curfew; Pejoang, 1960, The fighter) to comedies (Crisis, 1953, Crisi; Tamu agung, 1955, The guest of honor; Liburan seniman, 1965, The artist’s holidays) and to musical (Tigra dara, 1956, Three women). During the 1960s, growing political tension also led to a split in the world of cinema, between pro-Communist directors and those most closely linked to Islamic culture. For Indonesia 2000, please check neovideogames.com.
The new government began to take an organic interest in national cinema: in 1967 it launched protectionist measures, and in 1968 it created a body for the development of production, the DPFN, from 1979 DFN (Dewan Film Nasional, National Council for Cinematography). The production crisis that followed the events of 1965 was thus overcome: some directors who had made their debut in the 1950s, such as Ismail (Ananda, 1970) and Sami (Apa yang kau tjari Palupi ?, 1969, What are you looking for Palupi? hidup, 1977, The Struggles of Life), while a new generation of filmmakers made their debut. Some of these had studied at VGIK in Moscow, such as Wim Umboh (Pengantin remaja, 1971, Marriage between teenagers), Sjumandjaja (Si mamad, 1973, Madre; Opera Jakarta, 1985) and Ami Prijono (Jakarta, Jakarta, 1977; Roro Mendut, 1982). Others came from the theater, such as Arifin C. Noer (Yuyun, pasien rumak sakit jiwa, 1980, Yuyun, hospitalized in an asylum; Serangan fajar, 1982, Attack at dawn), Teguh Karya (November 1828, 1977; Ibunda, 1986), Franky Rorimpandey (Perawan desa, 1980, The girl from the village), Ismail Subarjo (Perempuan dalam pasungan, 1981, A woman in chains), Edward Pesta Sirait (Gadis penakluk, 1980, A girl who intimidates) and Slamet Rahardjo (Rembulan dan matahari, 1979, The sun and the moon; Kembang kertas, 1985, Paper flowers). However, during the 1990s Indonesian cinema entered into a very serious crisis, due to various reasons (the liberalization of the market, which opened the way for a massive import of Indian films; the spread of television; the increasingly strict control exercised over directors by the Departement Penerangan, the Ministry of Information): production, which had grown to 112 films in 1990, gradually decreased, up to 4 in 1998. The overthrow of the military regime (May 1998), with the return to democracy and the dissolution of Departement Penerangan, favored the debut of new authors, such as Marselli Sumarno (Sri, 1999), Riri Riza (Petualangan Sherina, 2000, Sherina’s adventure), Nan T. Achnas (Pasir berbisik, 2001, Whispering Sands), Garin Nugroho (Puisi tak terkuburkan, also known as A poet, 2001; Aku ingin menciummu sekali saja, 2002, The Tale of the Bird-Man), Rudy Sudjarwo (Ada apa dengan cinta ?, 2002, What’s up with love?).