Accepted Paper:

Colonial Cinema and the Construction of Modern Indonesia Visual Culture  
Harifa Siregar (Georgia State University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on how colonial cinema works as precursor of postcolonial visual imagination in modern Indonesia using the visualization of the British and Dutch colonial films and Suharto’s policy in building Taman Mini Indonesia Indah's Imax cinema, Keong Emas.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the impacts of the colonial ethnographic film and travelogue to the construction of Indonesia's visual culture and its reconstruction in contemporary scenes. How colonial cinema works as precursor of postcolonial visual imagination. One of the first films ever shot in the archipelago is the 1907 A Trip through British North Borneo. Cinema, which expands Eurocentric/modernism views intended for industrialization, has placed the postcolonial subject in an oblique state of consciousness. Tendencies to see natives as natural resources linger on after the end of colonialization. In 1975, the Suharto regime built a monumental recreational park, Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, to promote Indonesia's "beautiful" cultural diversities and extend their cultural policies. One of its main attractions is the Imax cinema of Keong Emas, where the films screened focus on the ideas of western gaze: children smiling, beautiful landscape, white beaches, exotic animals, or scenes of cultural ceremonies with traditional dancing and singing. These kinds of "tourist" films present the "beautiful Indonesia" pertinent to the colonial cinema's images. The images, which today can be found easily in cinema and web-based or social-digital media video, problematized the questions of identity and representation of postcolonial subjects that are generally accepted as part of contemporary Indonesia. Understanding this complexity is an important step to open dialogue concerning Indonesia's position as one of the richest biodiversity landscapes and most populated countries in the world as film has served as part of collective experience in modern Indonesia.

Panel P27c
Colonial Film Archives: Interrogations and Intervention
  Session 1