C. European Films Take Center Stage in Jakarta
Movie buffs in Jakarta hungry for a cultural slice of Europe have long since been introduced to the continent’s cinema through events such as the Europe on Screen film festival and the efforts of cultural institutions, including Erasmus Huis, Institut Francais Indonesia and the Goethe-Institut.
Now several Central European embassies in Jakarta are joining forces to organize a regular monthly film series showcasing the best movies from their countries.
“The idea for the monthly Central European Arthouse Cinema came to being when we were discussing with colleagues from several embassies the possibility of doing something more frequently,” said David Ambrus, third secretary of the Hungarian Embassy.
“And European countries already cooperate quite a bit in the field of culture here in Indonesia.”
Croatia, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary are among the participating countries for this new event series, with the first event taking place at the beginning of February at the Goethe-Institut in Menteng, Central Jakarta.
“We screened ‘Moszkva Ter,’ or ‘Moscow Square,’ a film set during the political transition of Hungary in 1989,” Ambrus said.
“The film achieved cult status in its home country. It is among the kinds of films that so far have not been shown in Jakarta, but audiences here will get to enjoy every month from now on,” he added.
Organizers of Central European Arthouse Cinema hope to present lesser-known regions of Europe and their art and culture to a wider audience. Ambrus is optimistic that the screenings will be well received.
“Jakarta has a very culture- and art-savvy audience that resonates well with initiatives like ours, so we hope they’ll be glad to see our films, most of which are being shown for the first time in Indonesia,” he said.
And while the works come from different countries, Ambrus said many of the films shared common Central European roots.
“These similarities stem from a common past, long interactions and an interconnectedness among the people of the region,” he said.
“Cinema is a relatively new art form, but the second part of the 20th century definitely left some unique traces on the films from this region.”
Shared themes include yearning for freedom and the need for change, transformation and new opportunities, love, joy, tragedy and loss. Many of the films also convey the same kind of humor. The diversity of the films is shown in the range of art classics from the 1960s and ’70s, up to more recent efforts that attempt to emulate the success of Hollywood blockbusters and box-office hits. “It is a terrific package and a new, different flavor in cinema,” Ambrus said.
Some of the films also offer a glimpse into the countries’ history, if the audience can read between the lines. “[Many films] deal with the political situation during communism in allegories, so that films would pass censorship, but the point would still be clear to the audience,” Ambrus said.
Some of the DVDs brought to Indonesia for screening contain deleted scenes in their special features sections — scenes that were deleted by the censors.
Artistically, the films are imbued with expressive subtly arising from the need to state political ideas delicately and through metaphor. “The artistic restrictions had a positive side effect, as they created a more poetic cinema out of sheer necessity,” Ambrus said.
Central European Arthouse Cinema will organize a film screening once a month until the end of the year, with each screening highlighting a different country from the region. While February is dedicated to Hungary, it will be Bulgaria’s turn in March, even though the selected film has yet to be officially announced. But Ambrus promised that every chosen movie would be an enjoyable viewing experience for the audience.
“We are aiming to present high-quality films in terms of artistic quality and audience acclaim in their respective countries and at cinema festivals,” he said.
For more information about upcoming screenings and the Central European Arthouse Cinema, visit facebook.com/CEACJakarta