Indonesia's House of Representatives passed a film bill on Sept. 8. This came as a surprise to many in the film industry, since the Film Law was drafted without any prior consultation with active producers, directors and other relevant parties.
The film bill will do the same for movies that the Pornography Law has done for culture in general: delegitimize diversity and liberalism and give legal ammunition to moral conservatives. Unspecified restrictions will be placed on the depiction of drug use, sexual content and other controversial topics.
The use of a media influence model, which treats the audience as cultural dupes in need of protection from unsavory images, remains the central paradigm of this new bill. It seeks to control film making so as to limit its scope of creative
inquiry and representation. It is patronizing to both filmmakers and audiences and assumes they have no moral responsibility in what they make or watch.
This law gives greater legal authority to those who find content objectionable. It seeks to
circumscribe the limits of what can and cannot be filmed in order to preempt potential protest and thus avoid situations in which the state would have to deliberate. Instead of protecting film and the dialogue it can open, it seeks to limit what a
filmmaker can imagine on screen.
The draft contains some progressive articles on film censorship (that the Censorship Board will no longer cut films but provide recommendations to filmmakers to cut the film themselves and the implementation of a
film classification system) but the regulations governing the film business read as they did under the New Order. A dangerous re-bureaucratization of film making is proposed, stipulating prior approval for films titles and scripts, permission for
importing and exporting film, and the compulsory registration of all film making activities. Compulsory written contracts will formalize the relationship between the film industry and the Ministry.
Import quotas and minimum screen time allocation
for local productions (50%; Article 32) seem good on paper, but the lesson of this flawed policy should have been learnt long ago. Local productions have achieved a 55% market share without the help of a screen time obligation. Any system of quotas,
either on imports or screen time, will adversely affect audiences, who will have less choice at the cinema and will logically turn to other sources of entertainment.
The most glaring absence from this law is the lack of state support for the film
industry. Provisions are provided for compulsory archiving of material, and the government would continue to promote Indonesian films overseas. But there is no concrete institutional support that would strengthen or even sustain the film industry, either
in terms of reaching audiences who do not have access to Indonesian films, subsidizing film production, establishing facilities that would help the industry or promoting film literacy. The only institution that is strengthened is the censorship board.
The government cannot have it both ways. It cannot hope that film will become a vital and productive cultural domain while at the time treating it as a cultural threat and thus subjecting it to a disproportionate amount of control. If this law is
pushed through it will be a victory for reactionary politics and a severe defeat to a film industry that has worked so hard to recover from financial and cultural restraints.
There are claims the latest law governing filmmaking in Indonesia is stricter than its predecessor dating back almost 30 years.
Director Riri Riza and producer Mira Lesmana say producers and directors had been hoping for more self regulation in
the revised regulation.
But Lesmana told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program that the new law hands all power to the government: It puts the government in total control of all the activities of making a film, from permits, from what to say
and what not to say, all the way up to penaltie s. Which for us is just going totally backwards to what we wanted.
She says even self-funded projects have to follow the regulations: We don't have a classification board. What we have
is a censor board and there is no film whatsoever that can be shown in the cinema if you don't have censor cards saying that it is suitable.
Riza says one aspect of the new law is that 60% of screen time has to be reserved for Indonesian
productions, regardless of quality: That is something that you call government intervention in the industry . It's trying to regulate whatever aims in the film industry, which is dangerous.
He says he wants to remind the Indonesian
government that Article 28 in our constitution that protects the freedom of saying whatever you want to say and freedom to access information .
Indonesia's film censors (Lembaga Sensor Film LSF) have been pontificating about censoring movies via Netflix.
There is currently no legal framework that covers the censorship of Video on Demand in the country. However the Communications and
Information Ministry and the Culture and Education Ministry will soon issue new laws on internet-based movie providers.
LSF chairman Ahmad Yani Basuki said that adding streaming-movies to the LSF's duties would create a new problem for the agency,
as it lacked human resources.
The LSF consists of 17 commissioners and 45 censors. It takes a day for the agency to censor one movie and another one or two days for the administration process.
If we are assigned to censor Netflix'
contents, we probably will have to add more resources, Yani said.