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Film Festival Report: 1st Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival (JAFF)

By Tuck Cheong Wong Sep 4, 2006, 11:16 GMT

The first Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival (JAFF) was held in the historical Indonesian city of Jogjakarta from 7 - 12 August 2006. Because this year the city also marks its 250th anniversary , the film festival was organized as part of the offical celebrations.

JAFF is the first of a series of Asian film festivals to be organized under the banner of the Network for the Promotion of Asian cinema (NETPAC). NETPAC members are industry professionals, academics, journalists and others with an interest in furthering development of Asian cinema

Subsequent NETPAC film festival events are planned to be held in Cebu City in the Philippines and in Madrid, Spain.

The holding of the inaugural NETPAC festival in Jogjakarta was of great strategic and cultural significance. It was very much in character with the city's reputation as a centre of art and culture. Moreover, Jogjakarta experienced great loss in the May 27, 2006 earthquake which destroyed property and public facilities and claimed over 6,000 lives.

Organizers chose "Cinema in the Midst of Crisis" as the festival theme to revitalize people's spirits to reconstruct, and provide hope, courage and solidarity to counter the sorrow and trauma of damage and loss. Significantly, too, JAFF is the first major international event for the city after the quake.

A total of 23 Asian films were screened, with 11 of them nominated for the NETPAC, Golden and Silver Hanoman, and Geber Awards.

The nominees were:

‘Taking Father Home’ (China; Ying Liang)
‘Perpetual Motion’ (China; Ning Ying)
‘Men at Work’ (Iran; Mani Haghighi)
‘Todo Todo Teros’ (Philippines; John Torres)
‘Portrait of a Lady far Away’ (Iran; Ali Mosasaffa)
‘Kiss Me Not on the Eyes’ (Lebanon; Jocelyne Saab)
‘Koper’ (The Lost Suitcase (Indonesia; Richard Ho)
‘Aries’ (Indonesia; Faozan Rizal)
‘Betina’ (Indonesia; Lola Amaria)
‘Ahlaam’ (Iraq; Mohamed Al-Daradji)
‘Being Cyrus’ (India; Homi Adajania)
‘Blue Cha-Cha’ (Taiwan; Cheng Wen-tang)

Award winners:

NETPAC Award – ‘Betina’
Golden Hanoman – ‘Men at Work’
Silver Hanoman – ‘Being Cyrus’
Jury Special Mention – T’odo Todo Teros’
Geber Award – ‘Ahlaam’
Favorite Short Film (Indonesian) – ‘Harap Tenang,’ ‘Ada Ujian!!’ (Ifa Isfansyah)

The Jury consisted of PM Laksono (Indonesia); Seno Gumira Ajidarma (Indonesia) and Wong Tuck Cheong (Malaysia).

The NETPAC Award was given to ‘Betina’ "for the director’s courage in tackling the film’s subject matter with a clear technique and a unique style, resulting in a clever and creative piece of work".

JAFF was also an occasion to celebrate Indonesian film. Jogja is home to young talented filmmakers, and it is also acclaimed Indonesian director Garin Nugroho's hometown. It was therefore appropriate for the festival to include works by Jogja filmmakers and for Garin's ravishing new film Opera Jawa, based on the legend of Rama & Sita, to open the festival (to packed houses).

It was disheartening to learn that young people in Jogja tend to head for Jakarta to seek their fortune. Lest it be thought that this would create a cultural vacuum, it was a relief to note that Jogja has become a strong centre of independent filmmaking outside Jakarta, a development facilitated by digital technology and a greater freedom of expression following the transition from authoritarian to democratic politics.

According to Garin, there are at least 50 film communities there involved in genres like documentary, shorts, narrative and animation, etc, running festivals, exhibitions, workshops, seminars and publications.

Notable among them is Ifa Isfansyah, a JAFF coordinator, whose 12-minute short Harap Tenang, Ada Ujian!! (‘Be Quiet, Exam is in Progress!!’) won the award for Favorite Short Film, and who has vowed never to leave Jogja for the big city.

Film culture also spreads to the masses. There's a unique form of open-air cinema known as "Layar Tancap" (literally "screens stuck on the ground") that screens (usually popular genre) films in areas without theatres. For JAFF, a program of 4 such films was shown at the Benteng Vredeburg, the festival centre.

JAFF was both a touching and humbling experience. That so much enthusiasm and activism was present in the face of adversity provides an object lesson for others far better endowed, in what can be achieved with minimal means and scarce resources.

Amazingly, too, the festival was put together in a mere 3 months - testament to the energy and drive of the prime movers of the event: Garin Nugroho (Festival President), Budi Irawanto (Festival Director) and Philip Cheah (Festival Curator based in Singapore).

For more information on the Festival, visit the official site at www.jaff2006.jogja.com



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