Oleh: Raka Ibrahim
Shelvy Arifin, the director of the State Film Production Company (Perum Produksi Film Negara, PFN), nurtures a far-reaching dream: to revive the state owned company after 10 years of coma.
And so she has planned many things to fulfil this ambition. She has initiated various projects since her inauguration in June 2013, among them the renovating of the PFN building, collaborating with a Chinese production house for film production, producing a number of big screen movies, and forging cooperation with the Beijing Film Academy.
“We want to position ourselves as the coordinator between our friends in the film world and the government,” Shelvy.
Unfortunately, Indonesian movie workers are doubtful. On December 10, 2014, during the Aneka Ria Sinema event, several film people voiced their concerns regarding PFN’s commitment. Among them were Prima Rusdi, Lance Mengong, Lasja Soesatyo, Sari Mochtan, Robby Ertanto, Edwin (Lab Laba-Laba), Meiske Taurisia (Babibuta Film), Adisurya Abdi (Sinematek), and Ifa Ifansyah.
Even film workers from Japan and Thailand had their share of comments. The discussion was targeted towards PFN making an effective and measured contribution.
Their first question on that day had to do with the renovation of the PFN building. They question PFN’s plan to knock down the laboratory and replace it with a new building.
“I think it would be a shame to demolish it entirely, especially noting the enthusiasm of our friends from Lab Laba-Laba to tidy it up,” Lasja said.
This concern is not unusual, because in the 1980s this laboratory had the reputation as being the biggest in South East Asia. It is also the birthplace of many historical movies, such as the ‘Si Unyil’ series and ‘Pengkhianatan G30S/PKI’.
Architecturally, the PFN laboratory is an interesting source of knowledge. “Have a look at how the PFN Laboratory was built and designed. It’s very detailed. It is very well thought of in terms of architecture. It would be such a shame to demolish,” Edwin said in a separate interview.
But Shelvy is adamant in carrying out her plan, because “this building is no longer productive. So we have to demolish it and replace it with a new one,” she said, “Personally, I would love to keep this building. But I must maintain a balance between idealism and PFN’s needs. We are required to look for ways to sustain ourselves.”
PFN’s status compels it to practice business strategies. PFN is a State-owned public company. This means that while its capital comes from the state, it still needs to make a profit based on corporate management principles. It is akin to Pertamina or PT KAI. PFN has to sell products because it acts as a business player.
“We do not receive any share from the State Budget at all. Therefore, we must muster our own funds. We have to think creatively about how to make money,” Shelvy said.
One of the ways PFN wishes to do this is the building renovation. If the design comes thorugh, in 2016 there will be a cinema, a building for meetings, a theater, a sports center, a video shooting studio, and a restaurant, all of them under a rental system. McDonald’s is one of the renters already using PFN’s assets, and one private television station is said to be planning to rent PFN’s studio.
Simply put, this is PFN’s effort to get back on its feet after it stopped operating in 1992. It is also a way to survive financially without abandoning its role in the development of the Indonesian film industry as a provider of production facilities. These efforts, however are not fully satisfactory.
The problem lies in communication. PFN is seemingly unable to grasp the things needed by the film world these days. The laboratory is one matter, and there is also the questionable plan to construct three studios that will consume almost half of PFN’s land.
“Before you build anything, you should find out about what our need of studios in Jakarta is like. Whether it is included in our list of needs. I mean, if we think forward, there will be less need for a studio,” Edwin said.
Lasja added that PFN’s largest potential is in the providing of film production equipment. Therefore it should focus on that rather than massive building renovations. He then suggested PFN to channel its funds and energy into upgrading its production equipment, much of which is outdated. This will allow investors and film producers, and not only filmmakers, to be invloved in the learning process.
“What if we make PFN a lab to identify the technology we need. The technology that is compatible for Indonesia. Spaces like that. I don’t think we can stand sitting in there for long periods. If we can already feel comfortable here, we might be able to be more comfortable without any changes in the physical form, because that will be a waste,” Lasja said.
How did Shelvy respond?
“This is not the final design. It is still changing. We are still looking for the best combination, the best spatial planning to accomodate all needs. If you think this is very commercialised, well, it is. We have to earn our own living. On the matter of historical building, that is a dilemma on whether it should be demolished or not,” she said.
On the matter of the renovation fund, she emphasized that PFN must apply for a loan because the government does not provide special funding for PFN. Thus, PFN’s efforts to accomodate all needs related to film production facilities are challenging. It has to face a multitude of problems such as policy problems, financial planning problems, and so on.
“This is a challenge for me,” Shelvy said.
The discussion shifted to a more essential topic: PFN’s role in developing Indonesia’s film scene. The trigger had been a question from Fujioka Asako, from the Documentary Dream Center. Asako questioned PFN’s prefered position in developing the quality of Indoensian movies.
“What sort of Indonesian movie will you support?” Asako asked Shelvy in English that day.
Shelvy had already explained her vision for the Indonesian film scene at the beginning of her presentation that day. She wants Indonesian films to be the nation’s cultural abassadors. Shelvy dubs it the “civilisation investnment”. Through movies, she wishes to imbue the future generation with Indonesia-ness.
She wants PFN to have a role in the forming of new leaders with character and intellectual capacity. Therefore, PFN produces movies that feature Indonesia’s cultural values in their stories.
One finished product is Biji Kopi Indonesia, also known as Aroma of Heaven. The fruit of the collaboration between PFN and Budfilm, Traffic Production, and GoodNews Film , was released in 2014.
“We have done several screenings of this movie in several locations in Jakarta and Bali. It became one of the finalists in the Yogyakarta documentary film festival. It was also screened in Beijing and it was in the Luang Prabang Film Festival,” Shelvy said.
According to freemagz.com, one of Jakarta’s online media outletsfor youth, the 65-minute movie tells of the backgrounds of the various coffees to be found in Indonesia. It depicts a number of coffee-producing regions in Indonesia, along with local culture. The movie features experts, researchers and locals, talking about coffee and the philosophy behind it. There was even the history of how cofee became an inseparable part of Indonesia. Unfortunately, the large number of stories render the whole flow to lack focus and to become a bit anticlimactic. Nevertheless, freemagz.com appreciates PFN’s move to revive itself through the production of big screen films.
“Not bad for a comeback effort,” they wrote.
PFN is said to plan to produce more big screen movies in the future. During her presentation, Shelvy mentioned the title Legend of Javaand a film to commemorate 200 years of the Borobudur temple. PFN is also planning to produce a new version of the animation Si Unyil.These plans better reflect Shelvy’s great ambition to revive PFN’s status as a State-owned Enterprise with a strong historical background in movie production. However, this time, she does not want to do it alone. She invites Indonesia’s film workers to participate in the discussion to choose the story concepts deemed fit to be produced.
“These are PFN’s movies. We are the one with the funds. However, maybe we can have story ideas and partnerships from you. You are in charge of the curation,” Shelvy said.
Through this move, Shelvy offers the opportunity for film industry workers to develop the concept of local wisdom through movies, thus expanding the definition of culture beyond high-quality traditional culture to including everyday living culture arising from the many cultural encounters in society. She appears to be quite democratic in this particular matter.
Furthermore, Shelvy said that she wishes to make Indonesian movies kings in their own land. PFN aims to support Indonesian movies in that sense, by giving them space.
This is a good hope for a state-owned enterprise to have, but, indeed, good intentions are never enough. There needs to be monitoring from film workers to prevent the good intentions from slipping into mere rethoric.
Meiske’s statement at the end of the discussion hit the nail on the head.
“Our homework is to communicate constantly with Ibu Shelvy. This is the homework of BPI, APROFI, and so on. This will ensure that what is planned is in line with what we will work hard on in the future. After this, we can really discuss the priorities and the mutually beneficial symbiosis,” Meiske said.