Indonesian films in peril

Important archive could be lost.

by Jennie Kermode

Indonesia stands out on the world stage as one of the first countries to have developed a strong film industry of its own. From state-controlled propaganda products to independent melodramas and grindhouse classics, it flourished independently of Hollywood and European output. But now Indonesia's cinematic history is in danger, with conditions at Sinematek where its films are stored so bad that many are decaying.

According to the Jakarta Post, the bulk of the collection is still stored in a moldy basement, with many films in rusty cans. Inadequate staffing means the films cannot be cleaned as often as they should be. The high heat and humidity in the Indonesian capital are themselves bad for the celluloid and can even encourage fungus to grow on it.

Although the film archive belons to the Indonesian public, there are disputes over exactly who is responsible for maintaining it and the building where it is housed. Sinematek staff are petitioning the government for support before this valuable part of the country's cultural heritage is lost forever.

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