Modern Indonesian culture (cinema, music and literature) is very original and dynamic. This has happened historically: over the past seventy years, the country has experienced decolonization, occupation, an attempt to build national communism, a military anti-communist dictatorship, and a kind of “corrupt Nepalese quasi-democracy”. You can’t start a conversation about Indonesian cinema without introducing the reader to a brief introduction to the history of this country.
Until 1945 Indonesia was a Dutch colony
After a long struggle for independence, the nationalist and socialist Sukarno came to power in the country. This was a disaster for culture — Sukarno imposed severe censorship in the country against the “poison of the West”, Chinese and Japanese imperialists and other external enemies, as a result of which Western films, magazines and books completely disappeared from use.
In the economic sphere, the government did the same:
- by tightening all possible nuts and closing the Indonesian market
- simultaneously nationalizing all available property and robbing innocent Chinese in full.
Indonesian red nationalists treated the Chinese diaspora as a kind of justification for the government’s incompetent policy for: they were mysteriously blamed for everything from water and light outages to economic collapse.
In parallel with these extraordinary measures, Sukarno tried to force the Indonesian intellectuals to develop a national xxi indo culture in isolation from Western trends. These attempts were not successful. The money allocated for the development of culture was immediately stolen, the intellectuals mostly criticized the government’s insane measures and did not want to develop the culture that Sukarno wanted to cultivate in the country.
When the Indonesian economy began to completely collapse (even medical services and basic food became unavailable), the country was transformed. A group of military men headed by General Suharto took power.
The Communist era was called the “Old order”
A new era of military dictatorship is called the “New order”. In economy, Suharto was based on a relatively open market and moderate nationalism; in culture, he was more of a westerner. Due to him, Indonesia opened up to the foreign market of the nonton xxi industry (except for the Chinese, the country continued to wage its own “Cold war” throughout the rule of the military).
It was under his leadership that nude films and horror films based on the dark folklore heritage and various scary legends began to be made in a very backward and conservative country with the largest percentage of the Muslim population in the world. Another interesting feature of the young Indonesian cinema (typical, however, for many young cinematographers — Turkish, Indian) was the shooting of cripples from Western films. One of the most striking examples is “Satan’s bed” (Batas Impian Ranjang Setan), a remake of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” with an amusingly made-up Kruger and a shaman who fought him in the finale. In movie databases, the film dates back to 1983, a year before Wes Craven’s film. But this does not mean that the Indonesian Freddie appeared before the American – most likely, it is due to the confusion with dates, which affected many Indonesian films of those years.