The Unconscious is Structured like an Archive: “Epic” Politics and Postmodernity in Indonesian Cinema
Looking beyond an understanding of the modern world as mainly determined by the development of European and American capitalism, this article closely reads the popular 1970 Indonesian film Bernafas dalam Lumpur (Breathing in Mud, Tourino Djunaidy). The film is taken as an archival document of the absorption of global, and especially local stylistic and narrative modes into Indonesian cinema at a key historical moment: the period following the mass violence of 1965-66 during the rise of dictator Suharto. I argue that Bernafas and other contemporary Indonesian films anticipate the “postmodern” engagement with past events and dramatic forms that Fredric Jameson and other critics see inflecting American and European cinema, particularly after the mid 1970s. In the context of its production and reception post-1965, Bernafas’s “epic” sense of time and form has an uncanny, archival function, confronting audiences with spectres of the disturbing, senselessly violent events that had been sealed from public discussion or memorialization by the censorious policies of the emergent Suharto state.
Sinematek Indonesia: Formidable Achievements in Film Collection and Research – But a Collection Under Threat
Sinematek Indonesia, the archive for feature films in Indonesia, was the first film archive established in South East Asia. The article outlines the circumstances of its establishment in 1975, as a result of negotiations between a progressive governor of Jakarta and filmmakers and educators, but shows how this, and subsequent funding frameworks outside of central government funding, has led to its current situation. The history of the Sinematek is discussed in the context of changing eras of Indonesian history. While highlighting the achievements of Sinematek Indonesia in film collection and research, it emphasizes that its remarkable collection of films on celluoid is under threat because there is no regular budget for film restoration or even for proper preservation. Also outlined is recent cooperation between Sinematek and the newly established ‘Indonesian Film Center’ in the digitization of its collection. The article is as much a memoir, as an academic article, for much of the information here is based on Hanan’s regular engagement with the archive since 1981, which has included providing subtitles for film classics in its collection, and organizing occasional film preservation projects for educational purposes.
Cambodia’s cinema history is strange and surprising. Popular films from France and the United States circulated through the Kingdom during the French colonial period. The 1950s and 60s saw extensive local production with the enthusiastic support of King Norodom Sihanouk, himself a passionate film-maker, but the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979) destroyed most of the existing material, including hundreds of feature films, raw footage and countless other ephemeral documents. In 2006, after representations by film-maker Rithy Panh and others, the Bophana Audio-Visual Research Centre was established in Phnom Penh to comb the world for every fragment of film and audio material relating to Cambodia’s history in order to reproduce it in an accessible digitized form. The archival preservation and duplication has continued apace. However the ethical use of these materials presents challenges. Contemporary documentary makers and digital enthusiasts frequently use fragmentary footage to support their political or historical interpretations without attribution or context. This paper discusses a propaganda film featuring the former King Norodom Sihanouk and his wife Monique shot in1973 in collaboration with the Communist Chinese, the North Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge. Short scenes and extracts from this film circulate online and appear in many documentaries. The “archive effect” of this footage raises questions about the source and circulation of archival images with significant historical and political consequences.