The Jakart Post Opinion and Editorial – February 23, 2008
Veronica Kusuma, Jakarta

A distinctive feature of modern power is its disciplinary control, its concern with what people have and have not done.This concern illustrates the primary function of modern disciplinary systems: to correct deviant behavior.

The goal is to reform, and means coming to live by society’s standards or norms. Discipline through imposing precise norms (“normalization” ) is what Michel Foucault calls “the deployment of force and the establishment of truth”.

Indonesia, under the New Order system was the perfect example of what Foucault stated. The New Order created mechanisms of ordered politics (Krishna Sen, 1992). And in this term, film occupies a significant position.

During New Order’s power, film had become a propaganda apparatus or a control device which, through its organization of content and production-distribu tion-exhibition process, attempted to create an obedient public.

The New Order era was signified by an extensive surveillance apparatus watchful for any subversive movement. Government regulations over film also structured production of norms based on normality.

Government-sponsore d film organization, censorship, and film festivals functioned not only as a symbol of power but more like mirror for the viewing subjects to reflect his/her own subjectivity.

The year 1998 signified the overturn in Indonesian politic when the fall of Soeharto ended the authoritarian rule that survived for almost 32 years.

The reform movement, which was greatly owed to the student and civil society movement, hardly had any visible impact on the film industry. But indirectly, the reform movement made a strong impact on how democracy is understood.

Media is one of the important keys to change. After 1998, private television numbers rose drastically. Numbers of newspaper and printed media also expanded significantly. Local film production started to grow.

The release of Kuldesak (1997), an omnibus by four young directors (Nan T. Achnas, Riri Riza, Mira Lesmana, and Rizal Mantovani) marked the dawn of was a so-called Indonesian new wave.

The generation of Kuldesak and the following, showed a rupture, and their presence marked an historical resistance to previous film history. Kuldesak is bold statement by young Indonesian filmmakers to break their historical ties with their predecessors.

After 2000, this phenomenon was followed by the emergence of film communities as a core base of filmmaking and film exhibitions. Short films became a form of expression and in some sense, an experiment. Festival films are becoming currency in intellectual discourse, while technological revolution provides the facilities to make and appreciate films.

Since there is only one film school in the country, many filmmakers who work at the community level are self-taught. The rise of pirated DVDs is one of the important phenomenon because it enables many people to access movies – a privilege that in the past was only available for those with money.

Globalization that promotes free markets, freedom of choice (and expression) and deregulation in the labor market and in economic activities, is greatly accepted but at the same time in areas of family, marriage, morality and sexuality, firm controls and state regulations were reinforced.

Censorship is one of the key national regulations that deals with, but is not limited, to those issues. Indonesian censorship system originally was established by Dutch Colonialism. In the New Order era, censorship was a major and important policy to control filmmakers. Filmmakers were forced to comply with censors to avoid the expense of her/his own safety as well as delays in the film’s release.

During the transition period, much has changed, including the landscape of media. But paradoxically, the government maintains film censorship despite the new wave of change and protest from filmmakers.

Most of the members of LSF come from an intelligence agency, the military and police, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Religion, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, religious leaders, and a very limited portion from the film community.

Despite Indonesia’s former president, Abdurahman Wahid dissolved the Ministry of Information (under which the Censorship Board was coordinated) , filmmakers still should follow all the censorship procedures (stipulated in Film Acts, No. 8/1992, Government Regulation No. 7/1994).

That regulation stipulates that all motion pictures, television programs, television commercials and other related promotional materials shall be subject to prior review by the board of censorship before they are exported, imported, copied, distributed, sold, leased, exhibited in theatres or broadcast on television.

The Censorship Board shall delete scenes and disapprove films which are immoral, indecent, contrary to the law or the state’s ideology and good customs, those which are damaging to the prestige of government or its institution or its duly constituted authority, or those which have a dangerous tendency to encourage the commission of a crime, violence or of a wrong.

Regarding pornographic material and violence, films and material shall be reviewed by utmost consideration and evaluation, applying Indonesian moral and cultural values as the standard.

After 1998, many films including fiction as well as documentaries have been cut or banned by censorship bodies or by local or state authorities. The Army Forced Them to be Violent (2001) is documentary film, shot during the 1998 student movement. The title of this film was rejected.

The Censorship Board renamed its title into: Student Movement in Indonesia. The Board viewed that some scenes depicting the violence perpetrated by Indonesian police and army officers could damage the army’s image.

Another case includes Buruan Cium Gue (Kiss Me Quick, 2004). The film passed censorship, but was protested against by prominent Muslim cleric Abdullah Gymnastiar and Din Syamsudin from Indonesian Ulemas Council.

The production house then withdrew its distribution and changed its title. A film by producer-director Nia Dinata, Perempuan Punya Cerita (Chants of Lotus, 2007) was cut by the Censorship Board (more than 190 feet from a total of 4,000 feet) and left the film severely damaged.

As a democratic society, Indonesian film censorship is the only state mechanism that has not yet changed since the 1998 reform movement. The government’s stance on continuing the outdated method of censorship is regrettable.

Censorship violates Article 28C paragraph (1) and Article 28F of the 1945 Constitution (4th Amendment). Censorship is also against another regulation, such as Human Rights Act No. 22/1999 and Copy Rights Act No.19/2002.

Censorship is offensive to the public’s right to information and to the foundation of a democratic society. Therefore, the government should urgently review its Censorship Board to guarantee freedom of expression.