Indonesian exploitation films emerged from a particular political economy of the New Order and its film industry. From Primitif (1979) to Without Mercy (Outraged Fugitive) (1995), about 50 of these exploitation films were produced. Seen within the dominant paradigm of the time, these films were exploitative and contributed nothing to national development or national culture. However, the producers and filmmakers behind these films pioneered new transnational connections as they tried to tap into global film markets and networks. This article explores the historical and structural background to the Indonesian exploitation films, and the aspirations behind their production. By tapping into global film markets, and following genre trends, Indonesian producers hoped to emulate the success of exploitation films globally. By the mid-1990, just as the domestic film market collapsed and the arrival of television, Indonesian film producers had put Indonesia on the map of global cinema. Today Indonesian films of the period have begun to take on cult status as fans and others rediscover this colorful cinematic past.
This paper intends to examine the portrayal of the Dutch colonialism in Indonesian b-movies , which mostly occupied Indonesian screens in 1970s to 1980s. The portrayal is full of stereotype, in which the Dutch officials, as the colonial authority, are portrayed as “immoral” Westerners who are unjust and having insatiable appetite towards financial accumulation. This portrayal is always coupled with depiction of the films’ arch-protagonists as heroes who fight colonialism, and are equipped with religious justification and self-righteousness, which enable them to acquire superhuman strength.
The stereotyping of the Dutch in these films should be seen as a further strategy in a different context, in relation to two main reasons. First, this modern day stereotype should be seen in post-colonial discourse as the effort to situate Indonesian national identity in popular cognizance. Secondly, it is not a coincidence that the portrayal of Indonesian heroism in the colonial resistance movements is done in conjunction with national and religious (particularly Islamic) identity since there has been an overlap between national and Islamic identity in development of post-colonial discourse in Indonesia. In the light of examination of popular narrative in Indonesian b-movies, especially on “colonial actions film genre”, this paper will provide insights into formation of national identity, religious tension and post-colonial situation.
The Earth is Getting Hotter: Urban Inferno and Outsider Women’s Collectives in Bumi Makin Panas
Ali Shahab’s controversial 1973 film Bumi Makin Panas (The Earth is Getting Hotter) paints a scalding portrait of rapid urbanization and capitalization during Indonesia’s early New Order years. Jakarta, the capital city, if not quite hell, is closer to a Marxian state of truth in which ideology – for Marx a pervasive, camera obscura-like “inversion” of the actual state of affairs under capitalism – appears to have suddenly capsized; set in a seething urban reality of open hypocrisy, exploitation, and violence, the film functions as material nightmare to the vapid moralist-humanist dreams produced and sold by the state and its agents. Yet while Marx sought to ground his critique in “real, active men, and on the basis of their real life-process” (1947: 47), Shahab, who also wrote Bumi Makin Panas, perceived a different locus of truth: the brothel and its female laborers. As a magnet for those perhaps most thoroughly (and quickly) dispossessed by Indonesia’s rapid shift to the right following the rise of Suharto seven years earlier – poor, formally uneducated women – Shahab sees in the brothel a central node of the morally bankrupt urban economy. Yet therein lies its ostensibly utopian potential as a collective space in which women simultaneously cater to, and learn to understand, exploit and shield themselves from, the unbridled “male” desire (pervading both men and women in positions of power) that is burning through city and nation.