Events for makers and lovers of film are cultural fixtures the world over. Chief among them are film festivals. There’s the Berlinale, ZagrebDox, Tokyo Filmex and the Zimbabwe International Film Festival, to name just a few.
So too do film academies promote cinema in many countries. The Berlin Talent Campus is one of the most prominent examples, but Asia has its own assortment of these creative summits, such as the Busan Asian Film Academy, the Tokyo Talent Campus and Fukuoka Focus.
Now Indonesian filmmakers have a summit to call their own: the SEAscreen Academy. The intensive five-day film school will take place in Makassar, South Sulawesi, from Sept. 1-5.
Initiated and organized by local art center Rumata’ Artspace Makassar and supported by the city government and the Japan Foundation, the school aims to take a lesson from Fukuoka, a Japanese city recovering from last year’s devastating tsunami, about how to use culture to promote the economy.
Riri Riza and Mira Lesmana are two of the main organizers. The well-known filmmakers have often collaborated, perhaps most notably on the 2002 hit movie “Ada Apa Dengan Cinta?” (“What’s Up With Cinta?”). More recently, Riri and Mira have focused on presenting Indonesia’s diversity. “Laskar Pelangi,” directed by Riri and produced by Mira, was set in Belitung, off the east coast of Sumatra. “Atambua 39C” takes place in Timor.
Riri, who is Makassar-born, is a co-founder of Rumata’ with Melbourne-based writer Lily Yulianti Farid. It provides a gallery, a theater and a residence house for artists in a 900-square-meter facility.
“Makassar has a good structure to support art,” Riri said. “The city has museums, libraries and Fort Rotterdam as a landmark, where ‘I La Galigo’ was performed.”
SEAscreen Academy will invite prominent filmmakers from Indonesia and elsewhere to speak at seminars and work with students to create a short film together.
More than 50 enthusiasts aged 17 to 30 have applied through the academy’s website and only a select 20 will get to participate in the event. The applicants come from all over the country, including Sulawesi, Lombok, Sumbawa and Papua. Riri and Mira are selecting participants based not only on their talent but also on their community involvement.
Over the course of five days, students will attend seminars, watch films, go on field trips around Makassar to gather story ideas and work closely with their teachers to produce a short film.
Besides Mira, SEAscreen Academy has also recruited Indonesian directors Mouly Surya and Lola Amaria as teachers. Mouly won Best Director at the Jakarta International Film Festival in 2008 for her feature debut, “Fiksi” (“Fiction”), while Lola, also popular as an actress, directed “Minggu Pagi di Victoria Park” (“Sunday Morning at Victoria Park”) and a recent LGBT-themed project titled “Sanubari Jakarta.”
Other teachers include Philip Cheah, the founder and former director of Singapore’s International Film Festival; the initiator of the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC), Bangkok-based film producer Aditya Assarat; quirky experimental filmmaker John Torres from Manila; independent director Kan Lume from Singapore; and Malaysian director Tan Chui Mui.
The academy kicks off with a two-day International Conference on Asia in Cinema, which is open to the public. The conference will discuss city-based initiatives to promote Asian cinema and culture by taking examples from Fukuoka. These panels will be followed by a workshop about the film festival and filmmaking on its second day.
“By being supportive film crew, students will be able to make intensive observation of what filmmakers do,” Riri said.
The academy is a pilot project of what it is hoped will be an annual event. Students will not be limited to directing, screenwriting or producing. Rather, they will be encouraged to embrace filmmaking from conception to end product.
“Every filmmaker has their own way of producing and directing,” Mira said.
To allow the result to be viewed widely, Riri said the SEAscreen Academy was working on a website to host the film online.
Makassar is a culturally rich city that has always been fond of film, Riri said. Every March, local film communities create movies to celebrate National Film Day, which falls on March 30. Although Riri mainly works in Jakarta, he has been busy building facilities for Rumata’ in Makassar for the past two years and says he has discovered many interesting stories from his homeland in the process.
“And by having an international airport, it’s the gate to enter the east of Indonesia as well,” Riri said.
Mouly, one of the teachers, hopes students take full advantage of the academy.
“I was a participant in a similar event in Tokyo and it left a very good impression with me, and not only for the experience, but also the networking is good,” she said.