Winners of the Balinale Film Festival 2018 and attracting foreign film production companies to Indonesia

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IO – This year the Balinale or Bali film festival is in its twelfth year and showed 107 films from over 30 countries with over 100 film makers attending. Seventeen feature, docu­mentary and short films competed in Bali and Irish feature film “Mi­chal Inside” was announced as win­ner of this year’s Best Feature Film award. The film which was written and directed by Frank Berry and stars Dafhyd Flynn is about 18 year old Michael Healy who lives with his grandfather on a housing estate in Dublin.

Michael gets caught holding drugs for his brother’s friends and is sen­tenced to three months in prison where he is attacked and robbed. When drug dealers start bothering his grandfather he is forced to put into practice what he has learnt in prison. The competition jury for Bali­nale declared the film: “A powerful and heart wrenching gaze into the prison system and a teenager’s grad­ual fall into destruction”.

The Best Short Films award went to a truly hilarious Mafia style com­edy from Switzerland called “Punch­line” where two assassins deliberate what the best final words should be to their victim before they do away with him experimenting with quotes from The Godfather till verses from the Bible. Meanwhile, the jury chose “Invisible Hands” for best documen­tary: a film about the horrors of mod­ern day child slave labour.

Jean Huang former director of the Taipeh Film Festival who was one of the juries at the Balinale 2018 com­mented she hoped that the Balinale would continue to grow so that, “In the future I hope to be asked to give awards also for best music score, costumes and cinematography. Not only best films.”

The film festival was opened with verve by the Bali Commissioner of Police, Petrus Reinhard Golose who enthusiastically thanked God for the finishing the day before of the Garu­da Wisnu Kencana statue after 28 years,. “It is taller than the Statue of Liberty and while not the tallest in the world, it is the largest,” He re­marked proudly. He was also grati­fied to note that the IMF and World Bank would be holding the largest conference in Bali since Majapahit and informed the audience that now that they had visited Bali they only had another 17,408 other islands left to see. He ended by remarking modestly that, “Bali does not have natural resources like other islands in Indonesia. We just have our smiles which make us the very best hosts.”

The renown film director, Roland Joffe whose film “Forgiven” has not yet been aired in Indonesian cine­mas, had his film previewed at the Balinale. In his opening remarks he began by commenting on the Police Commissioner’s speech. “Bali is so cultured. Where else in the world is the police commissioner equipped to open a film festival so charmingly?”

The answer to that is probably India – if their cultural attaches are anything to judge by. In Jakarta the best Indian cultural attaches are the ones picked from the police depart­ment. In Indonesia we do not know much about the Indian police other than that they produce excellent cul­tural attaches.

“The Forgiven” is a very moving film about Bishop Desmond Tutu’s efforts to bring about truth and rec­onciliation between South Africa’s black and white peoples after Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa. The Bishop was appointed head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the film depicts the story of a white South African who committed atrocities and the moth­er whose daughter was tortured and killed. At the end of the screening there were few dry eyes left in the cinema. Joffe further titillated his Indonesian audience by affirming his interested in filming a six-part televi­sion series about the World War I spy named Matahari, in Indonesia.

An Indonesian film shown at the Balinale was Mooryati Soedidibyo’s epic historical film Sultan Agung di­rected by Hanung Bramantyo and starring both Marthino Lio and Aryo Bayu as Sultan Agung. Ibu Mooryati, the producer of the film appeared at the Balinale beautifully dressed in full sarong and kebaya to answer questions.

When asked why she had chosen to make a film about Sultan Agung whom it is not so easy to depict as a hero when his 40,000 troops twice failed to defeat the Dutch who had less than a quarter of his troops and who never rode into battle with his troops but remained in Mataram, she responded by replying that Sul­tan Agung nevertheless succeeded in unifying Madura and Java against the Dutch and he was her ancestor. When over ninety year old lady re­vealed that she was already prepar­ing for her next film she received a resounding ovation from the audi­ence.

Besides reviewing films from all over the world, the festival also had actors, screen writers, directors and producers speak at the festival. Sev­eral workshops and discussions were held at the festival and it was concluded that although Indonesian directors, technicians and crews are talented the Indonesian government still needs to do a number of things to ensure a competitive national film industry for the global market.

Deborah Gabinetti is the found­er of the Balinale which she has run for twelve years and she is also the founder of the Bali Film Commission which is endorsed by the government of Indonesia as well as the provincial government of Bali. It is an interna­tional film promotion board that tries to promote Indonesia to foreign film companies as a setting for their films using Indonesian talent not just for acting but also as film crews, techni­cians and writers as well as promot­ing Indonesian stories. It provides professional assistance and informa­tion to foreign production companies filming in Indonesia and is the only internationally recognized body of its kind in Indonesia.

Gabinetti has more than twenty years’ experience working not only in America with companies such as CNN International, Discovery Chan­nel, ESPN, HBO and TNT Cartoon Network but also in Indonesia. One of her concerns is that Indonesia still has no official co-production treaty. To draw foreign film produc­tion houses to Indonesia she says, “Incentives are needed. Indonesia has so much to offer such as story ideas, diverse local cultures, talent­ed crews, beautiful sites but it took bringing Roland Joffe here so that he could see it for himself, to convince him to shoot “Matahari” in Indonesia. The Indonesian government needs to make it easy for them to come by of­fering such incentives. There are so many preconceived ideas about In­donesia that are so often incorrect.”

Last month there was public dis­tribution of a Hollywood film appar­ently meant to be filmed in Indonesia but finally shot in Columbia because of misconceptions that Indonesia was a dangerous country. “Come on, more dangerous than Columbia?” re­marked Julian Grimmond who was formerly Chairman of the Board of Film New Zealand the government body that marketed New Zealand to the international screen industry. “There was clearly a misconception about Indonesia there. However, countries like Malaysia and Vietnam provide much easier access. Not only with regard to permits but also less difficulty in bringing in foreign talent in helping to make the film. With its easy access Malaysia has about 3 or 4 small budget films (with budgets of about US$1 to 1,5 million each) made in Malaysia every month. In­donesia also has some regulatory problems that would need to be ad­dressed if it wants to attract more foreign film production.”

“Indonesia needs more co-produc­tion opportunities with foreign film­makers so that the Indonesian crews and directors have a wider scope for learning,” advised Seiko Kato, a Jap­anese film producer who is involved in international co-productions and is also interested in Indonesian doc­umentaries by the sea. “Also in oth­er countries filmmakers receive 30 percent tax relief. Indonesia should also have a really good quality film academy.”

“And to obtain foreign inves­tors you need numbers: how many films made per year, box office prof­its… you know if you look at the top twenty markets for films Indonesia is number 15 which is a good place to start,” declared Jean Huang who sat on the jury of the 2018 Balinale. Huang had her first taste of films as a young child when she had to help keep changing the reels during the films that the Catholic priest at her church showed. At the time there were not many cinemas in Taiwan so people were quite interested but the priest was only able to get Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy films. Later Huang’s college was among the first colleges in Taiwan to offer class­es in film critic. It was there that she learnt about the great film masters such as Fellini – after which she was always involved with film.

Julian Grimmond who was for­merly New Zealand has as everyone is well aware been extremely suc­cessful in marketing New Zealand to the film industry causing it to be used for filming films such the Hob­biton, the Last Samurai, the Tales of Narnia, The Piano etc. Grimmond is now with Global Film Solutions a company that provides risk manage­ment and production services for the film industry. He feels that Indonesia has such a unique voice and story and that its writers, directors and producers are pitching s many ideas for films but first it needs to decide what it wants to achieve in the film industry.

Does it want to incentive foreign film producers and directors to come to Indonesia and use Indonesian tal­ent to produce films. “It’s not a per­fect situation but then nowhere is perfect. Indonesia has the talented directors and writers but there has to be a mechanism or activator to draw the foreign filmmakers to make their films here. Fiji for example offered them a 70 percent rebate. Morocco offered itself as a safe place to make desert films. Incentive needs to be a carefully designed tool to achieve an outcome. Indonesia should start with a public and vigorous debate about what it truly wants to achieve.”

Huang says that the conclusion then has to be written into a national cultural policy and the country then needs one industry voice to fight for it that is usually a national film commission but In Indonesia it is currently the private sector through Deborah Gabinetti’s Bali Film Com­mission that is caring on the strug­gle.

Meanwhile, Indonesian German actress Cinta Laura Kiehl who has had a very successful acting and singing carrier in Indonesia starring in over 400 television episodes and recently returned to Indonesia with several Hollywood films under her belt also attended the Balinale. The attractive actress who will be meet­ing an Indonesian production house about K’tut Tantri’s book Revolt in Paradise which she hopes to make into a television series will also be pitching to an American film pro­duction company with whom she hopes to do a co-production. At the Balinale the attractive young actress remarked on how much improve­ment she found in the Indonesian film industry since her return after 15 years. “I have found improvement in so many fields from screen plays to acting and I feel so proud of Indo­nesia. It is really open for business especially co-production with inter­national companies. I think stories for such co-productions could show­case local culture while at the same time remaining interesting interna­tionally.” (Tamalia Alisjahbana)