Screens of Balinale

ForbesLife - Balinale expands the relationship between Bali and Hollywood.

Oct-Dec 2015, Jakarta - With the Balinale, Deborah Gabinetti is expanding the long relationship between Bali and Hollywood. Movie goers got a taste of Bali when Eat, Pray, and Love starring Julia Roberts hit the heaters five years ago, with the beautiful scenery of Ubud as a prominent feature (Bali was the “love” in the title). While a modern movie, it was not Hollywood’s frst film involving Bali.

In fact, Hollywood’s love afair with Bali goes back to 1932, according to American Deborah Gabinetti, the executive director of the Bali International Film Festival (Balinale) and the director of the Bali Film Center. The flm Goona-Goona, An Authentic Melodrama of the Island of Bali was flmed by Andre Roosevelt, a nephew of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.

Bali was then the setting for the last silent flm ever produced in Hollywood. In 1935, paramount International released Legong: Dance of the Virgins. Director Henri de la Falaise featured a languorous lead actress called Putu and billed the flm as having an “all native” cast. Concerns about female topless nudity led it to be shown only outside the U.S. at first, but later it would be allowed in American theaters.

The interest to Bali continues in 1938, when renowned Hollywood director Busby Berkeley included a Bali-based song “I wanna go back to Bali, they don’t have a word for no” in his film Gold Diggersin Paris. Then came the Road to Bali in 1952, with an all-star cast of Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamore (in a wet sarong). While the flm was shot in a Hollywood backlot and not Bali, it helped cement’s Bali’s brand as an exotic locale.

Long inspired by Bali as a place of sensuality, mystery, romance, and adventure, these films helped launch the island as a paradise for a host of trendsetters including Walter Spies, Noel Coward, Margaret Mead, Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias, Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton, actress Colette Colbert and Charlie Chaplin. “Since then Bali has continued to be an artistic and spiritual haven for celebrities from around the world and a magnet for flmmakers today,” says Deborah.

To further this flm tradition, Deborah in 2007 established Balinale and the Bali Taksu Indonesia Foundation, supporting education, community and arts programs. The Balinale festival, held in late September, was a platform to showcase the works of flmmakers while presenting a program of award winning fiction, documentary, feature and short flms from around the world. This year Balinale festival featured 100 flms from 26 countries, many presented by the flmmakers and 26 of them Indonesian flms. The number of films screened this year was nearly double the 60 shown in 2014.

According to Deborah, Indonesia, and not just Bali, is an emerging market for film locations. While 17,000 islands, there are a wide variety of backgrounds to suit almost any type of flms, including the use of active volcanoes, temples and stunning landscapes. “The country is a vast tapestry of culture and topography; amazing untapped flming locations, rich story ideas and a willing, friendly and cooperative population,” Deborah says.

After Eat, Pray, and Love, there were a few films using Indonesia, such as Alex Cross released in 2012. Deborah is upbeat on the future potential of filmmaking in Indonesia. However she notes that Indonesia still needs to recognize its potential as a film destination and take advantage of the opportunities and long term benefits. “Film productions can create a positive image of the country and impact the local economy,” Deborah says.

According to Deborah, film festivals such as the Balinale can help boost this image, by attracting members of the global film community to attend the event, thus exposing them to Bali, and more broadly Indonesia, including decision makers who can green light projects. Attending and exhibiting at international industry events is also an efective tool in promoting a location.

Film production is a collaborative industry where producers employ a range of staff to contribute to the creation of a film. Indonesia should foster more skills needed for movie production and contribute to efforts to support local arts and artisans, says Deborah. “Co-production treaties will also contribute to a country’s ability to attract projects, increase skills and share experience,” Deborah says (YESSAR ROSENDAR)