Rizki Lazuardi “Embodying Myth” (Nov 5, 2016)

Rizki Lazuardi “Embodying Myth”

November 5, 2016@ New Chitose Airport Terminal Building 4F Oasis Park

This article is based on the transcription of live presentation held at New Chitose Airport Terminal Building as a part of New Chitose Airport International Animation Festival 2016 on Nov 5, 2016.

Good afternoon. Thank you for coming. Despite other good programs, you still managed to come here to see this small presentation. But firstly, I would like to thank this festival, especially Nobuaki for having me here.

In this presentation I would like to briefly discuss about my initiative with my fellow friend in Indonesia about contemporary animation, video infographics and moving sequential arts in the historical animation in Indonesia. Before I show the first excerpt, I would like to talk shortly about the Indonesian animation in general.

So, in a nutshell, Indonesian animation is, first, uncompetitive in quality and quantity. Of course it is debatable, but I’m open if someone wants to ask more about this. But it is according to the number of the films submitted in the festival, and how the Indonesian films are reviewed in many channels, and not to mention the release of the animation film in the home video or like internet channel.

And second, Indonesian animation is heavily industry oriented, like media industry, but unsuccessful, like a lot of animators want to go into television, but rarely make it. And very rare of this animation on the contemporary channel, like festival biennale, or like underground distribution, they are rarely on this kind of channels.

I have got this still from the Indonesian visual artist named Tromarama. They are very successful, though they don’t claim themselves as animators or in the scene of animation.

So, first I would like to show the first excerpts. It was excerpts from the film called It’s like This.  It’s basically a documentary film about sculpture artists who was commissioned by the Indonesian first president to build monuments in many places. That’s related to Indonesian Independence War.  That film is one of the many Indonesian animations that related to historical topics.

But what is so special about the historical animation?  There are many already, I mean, if we go to like a home video store, or a book store, there are many historical animation in DVD. But the films I am about to discuss now mostly talk about the obscure histories.

What are obscure histories?  The obscure histories, in this sense, are histories rarely talked in formal level. Most of these histories are either forbidden to talk, people avoid to talk, or are completely unknown. So, some of these subjects are like communism, or similar subjects related to Indonesia in 1965, where there were many Indonesians captured and massacred.

For instance, like the film you have just seen, it’s a story about a statue, monument or a sculpture in the city. Most of the Indonesians actually don’t know the story behind it, because the sculptor artist was accused as a communist partisan, and our first president, who commissioned this artist, was actually to give stage or plays to the Communist Party. So, before we go more about the visual or animation, I would like to shortly talk about power and the history that is integrated in Indonesia.

Indonesia was occupied by the Dutch until 1942, and then until 1945 was occupied by Japan. In 1945, it was the independence of Indonesia. In 1965, there was a big coup d’etat or a coup, and our first president was taken down and replaced by military dictatorship. This military dictatorship was in place until 1998 and up until now, it is of course a democracy but pretty much it’s filled by oligarchy and the society became more conservative.

During the occupation of Dutch and Japan, Dutch built the State Film Production Company that was heavily used by the Dutch and Japan to make propaganda film. And after the independence our First President built National Television Company, not merely for the sake of information, but more to impress the west countries, or the west blocks, just to show that Indonesia was a well-developed country.

And after 1965, the military heavily used the television and the State Film Company to fabricate the history, to shape the history according to their agenda. After 1998, Indonesia has been through like decades of censorship, and the information filters. After 1998, basically the government no longer do same kind control but the society became already ignorant about the information.

Now, let’s talk about the visual archive replaced by this animation.  After reformation in 1998, for instance, the policy for library and museum is least prioritized, so our library and museum is underdeveloped. This is the research from UNESCO, the rank of people visiting the library and museum is in the number of 124 from a 187.

So, what about the film archive?  Pretty much, it is abandoned. The State Film Company, that was built by the Dutch and used by Japan and even the new order, simply abandoned after 2000 and most of the collection, 70%, was seriously damaged by Vinegar Syndrome.

So this is not a commercial film or an art house film, but this is like documentary film that we usually saw on television, so it’s basically something about information, not for the sake of entertainment. This collection, or this archive, 70% is almost gone. And with the feature film itself, up until now there were only three masterpieces that were restored, and two of them are inaccessible by Indonesians.

Because the first film, the restoration was funded by a foreign funding, so now the film belongs to the museum in Singapore. And the second film was funded by the tax, but there was a mismanagement, so that even the laboratory who restored the film, could not show it to the public because under certain law, we are not allowed to commercially distribute something that is funded by the tax, it’s so complicated.

Now, I want to show you the second excerpts. It was a film called Asia Raya. This film is quite interesting because it tells a story about a Japanese occupation in Indonesia from 1942 to 1945. The point of view of this film is very different from mostly what was foretold or taught in school in Indonesia. In Indonesia, we have been taught to believe that any kind of occupation is related to what the other nation or country need to Indonesian natural resources.

And we were taught to believe that Japan came to Indonesia to take our national resource.  But, in fact, it is different. Only little or almost no information was taught in the school that related to constellation of Axis country or Japan and Germany during the World War II, so this type of history is something that we rarely find in the history books in Indonesia.

So, let’s get back to the animation and sequential arts information in Indonesia. In 1955, 10 years after the independence, our First President sent illustration artists to Walt Disney Studio. In 1956, our first President Sukarno went to Disneyland to check the progress of the artists we sent.  The artist named Dukut Hendronoto was commissioned by our first President to study and later he was asked to make animation to promote or give information through animation to Indonesian society.

And from 1964 to 1965, there was one record illustration artist, who was suddenly asked by the President to be the Governor of the capital city of Indonesia, of Jakarta. He didn’t have any background of political or governance. President said that we wanted to come to the new era where governance with information, especially visual information.  And this Governor was also the artist, who made the monuments or sculptures in Jakarta. After ’65, he and the sculptor artisans in Walt Disney were captured by the military followed by our first President was taken down by military.

After ’65, our military government also realized that information is important to shape the history, but they didn’t really go well with animation. Our military government was going to make animation but they didn’t know how exactly, and in the middle of the progress they changed the direction into puppet animation. But this project is stopped in the middle of progress, and all the film collection now is gone and we found this footage, the reel abandoned in the film archive.

Now, with the new wave of historical animation in Indonesia, the practice is a little bit different from the other animation movement before, or at least before 2010 or 2011, most of the animators or animation artists in Indonesia worked by themselves. So, maybe this is why some of the work or most of the work are not well developed. As an artist they made the story themselves, and then they produced the film themselves. This is not something bad, but for Indonesian system, it just doesn’t go well.

And with this new obscure historical animation, the artists work in different ways. They are aware of the story that’s around them, that was hidden, that was obscure, that was forbidden, and they are willing to find. So, they embrace the third parties called the NGO, it could be like archive center or a researcher. And surprisingly, they also embrace the filmmaking workflow, so they start to work with like film producers, a screenwriter, and even like line producers, something that previously wasn’t really practiced in Indonesian animation production.

The problem with our previous animation was lack of story, or a lack of storytelling, but this new animation, they have interesting story that are already there, or this new story is always interesting for people to know, that’s why this movement of animation became more interesting.

I’ve shown you a documentary film with animation element and animation film. Now I will show you the other approach. This is a project done by Lab Laba-Laba during Biennale in Jakarta, so there are visual artists, and they gathered forbidden archive or scattered archive of the puppet animation, and this is the cel animation that was thrown away by the State Film Production Company and the artists found it even in the garbage bin.

There is a funny story about this animation project. It was called Kancil and made in the early 80s, where the state film company tried to make cell animation film and commission illustration artists. For this project they got a lot of production money. Instead of make a new animation, they bought Walter Foster Animation Guidebook, and gave it to the illustrators and asked them to replace the head of the example in the Walter Foster book with the Indonesian animal. They got a lot of money but they never finished this project, but some of the illustrators said that most of the money went to the State Film Production Company, to their own pocket.

So, I will show you another thing that is also important: This an artwork about the Kancil animation. The artists (Rudy Hatumena from Lab Laba-Laba) found in the garbage bin. Even for this kind of exhibition, they involved a line producer and a film producer. So, basically the artists, who found this animation cells in the disposal bin, recreated the new animation with the remaining cells and behind the cells is the picture of the current situation of the State Film Company now. It’s completely abandoned.

So now with the visual approach of the new historical animation, before, you know, only from television or, yeah, some in the pitching session of animation fair, they heavily used 3D technique.

Most of the animators used 3D techniques or the conventional 2-dimensional. But with this new movement, they tried the new approach with the visual technique. You’ve seen the installation and they also employ extensive 3D technique but mostly dominated by motion comic.  And the last one, and quite popular nowadays is infographics.  Basically, it’s like a graphic with data and with numbers but they translate it into visual.

So now, we will show you the other documentary film with a sequence comic. So, that is another documentary film with comic, it’s not really a moving comic. The director embraced the illustrator, who was actually the survivor of the massacre. The massacre of the Communist Party starting in ’65 up until now, never really admitted by our government, and all the record documents or the record archive for documentary about that is never admitted, never exists.

And there were numbers of art workers or artists, who were also captured and massacred during ’65, and some of them really have like photographic memory, and the artists, or the documentary filmmakers tried to ask them to make a sketch out of it. So, basically, this new animation artists, or filmmaker who use, or who work with this kind of such important issue, they try so hard to get their visual archive that basically didn’t exist before, or are very rare to find.  So, let’s see the film itself.

With this new movement, we found something new that we didn’t find with the previous Indonesian animation. First, this is the first time we found that animation is not only targeted for the children. Before this, animation was always seen as the product for children. And then secondly, it’s the challenging market. I could not find up until now, where actually they aimed for with this film. Because like previously most of the filmmakers or animation artists tried to go to television, but with these new films, they became more fluid to the famous kind of channels, but surprisingly some of the films are directly released in the internet for free after the production is done.

Before the historical animation was more like the extension of the history that previously taught or foretold, but now with this new historical animation, they became the sole official source for these subjects, like I could not find any visual archive related to the history of the sculptures or monuments in Jakarta, beside the first film that I showed you.

Or any visual records about the involvement of Japanese during the Indonesian independence, besides all this occupation in the name of natural resources. So, these new animations become more than just a film. I mean, it could become a new reference, a source of information.

Q.Would you please tell me more about the film with the animal with Walter Foster’s head? What is it about?

Well, the story of this animation is quite mysterious. This is the finding by the artist collective called Lab Laba-Laba. I’m also a part of it. We occupied the abandoned laboratory of the film production company and we found many abandoned film prints, negatives, all scattered on the floor, and in the last disposal bin we found the cells.  Then we tried to trace who the animator was.

Q. Are the films dealing with historical topics only non-fiction or documentary? Are there any fiction films?

Most of the films of these new historical animations are non-fiction.  Either documentary or a biography or like, the film about Japanese soldier, basically like the short stories, in one of the historical journal of Indonesia, so the Japanese soldiers lived in Indonesia, and married to Indonesians, and the story was foretold by the son or the grandson of the Japanese soldier, but it’s really to find them in the mainstream channel, this kind of story.

Q.How did they collect the funding for making these animations?

These artists now embrace the third party. Before, most of the animators tried so hard to get money from the commercial side, but these new artists now know how to get fund. This is something that Indonesian artists rarely knew before. Now they work with NGO, they work with like a private archive center, so they know how to get the fund. I mean, like since they got this fund, they could not commercialize their production.  And the two documentary films, they actually were not made by the animators, they were produced by the NGOs that concerned with history, so they had money for their agenda about education and history and they embraced the animator artist or illustration artist.