FOCUS ON GARIN NUGROHO

A Cartographer for Indonesian History and Cinema

F ocusing on Garin Nugroho is perhaps overdue, since his ouvres have left indelible mark in the Indonesian film trajectories. Moreover, several of his contemporary works (such as art installation, dance performance and the like) transgress cinematic boundaries, even entering into, using his term, the ‘post-cinema.’ Many of the active Indonesian directors in the current film scene were Garin’s former assistants or at least involved in his film productions. By involving young filmmakers in his film production, Garin has nurtured the next generation of Indonesian cinema.

When Garin Nugroho’s first feature Love in a Slice of Bread (1991) appeared on the silver screen, it marked a new era in Indonesian cinema. This is because there was no precendence and distict from mainstream films in the market. Influenced by the French New Wave, Garin’s first film echoed the angst of the youth during Soeharto’s repressive New Order regime. This film received Best Film at the Indonesian Film Festival (FFI) in 1991 and later won the Best Young Director in Asia Pacific Film Festival. In 2015, the film received a special award for the Masterpiece category in the Indonesian Film Appreciation (AFI).

The importance of Garin’s films can perhaps be seen as how his films serve as a microcosm of Indonesian history since they are set from colonial to contemporary eras. While he did not make his films sequentially, all his films clearly reflect iconic time periods in Indonesian history. The Javanese Devil (2017), A Woman from Java (2016) and Hijra (2015) were set in the Dutch Colonial period, while Soegija (2012) was set in the interregnum period (Japanese occupation) prior to the Indonesia’s independence declaration in 1945. A dark side of Indonesian history in 1965 is also visible in Garin’s A Poet (2000).

Meanwhile, Chaotic Love Poems (2015) and Love in a Slice of Bread (1991) dwelve into the flourishing pop culture from the 1970s to 1990s, while Leaf on a Pillow (1998) and The Blue Generation (2009) were set in the late 1990s prior to the collapse of New Order regime. Following the rise of religious radicalism and terrorism in a post-9/11 world and the Ameican-led war against terrorism, Garin responded by making Blindfold (2013). His recent film Memories of My Body (2018) is paralleled to the current struggle of sexual minorities in fighting for their rights.

Prior to the 1998 Reformasi, Garin’s films were concerned with aesthetics through the exploration of signs and symbols rooted in Indonesian culture and society. But following Reformasi, Garin’s films have been become increasingly political. His films passionately engaged with the ramifications of tremendous social and political upheavals. This is inseparable from Garin’s involvement in various coalitions of civil society organizations.

Leaf on a Pillow (1998) reflects the conditions under the New Order militaristic regime characterized by rampant corruptions and socio-economic injustice. A Poet (2000) is perhaps the first film dealing with the 1965 mass killings which remains to leave deep imprints on the survivors and an impunity within the perpetrators. In the Blindfold (2013), Garin dealt with growing religious extremism which lead to violent and terrorism acts. Meanwhile, in Memories of My Body (2018), Garin tackles the theme of a body which should not only be understood physically, but rather as a site of power struggle within a heteronormative societal context.

Furthermore, Garin’s films also can be percieved as a cultural map for Indonesia streching from Aceh in the tip of Sumatera Island to the West Papua. In collaboration with three directors (Tonny Trimarsanto, Viva Westi, Lianto Suseno), Garin intimately portrayed five Acehneses in the aftermath of devastated tsunami in Serambi (2005). A Letter to an Angel was shot in Sumba (East Nusa Tenggara), where no Indonesian filmmaker had dares to undertake film shooting beyond the outer island of Java. He even went further in making a film entitled The Bird Man Tale (2002) in a conflict-ridden Papua.

Despite thematic and artistic explorations, Garin’s films clearly show the technological experimentations. He is truly a trailblazer in employing new technologies in Indonesian cinema. In A Poet, Garin shot in a betacam video and then ‘blew up’ (transfrered) into celluoid (35mm). Some young filmmakers later followed Garin’s path in making the shooting process less complicated and more efficient. Garin employed one take and one shot in A Woman from Java while bringing back the traditional performance tradition in Indonesia. Likewise, inspired by F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922), Garin made a black-and-white silent film The Javanese Devil in collaboration with gamelan ensemble and modern orchestra from various countries where the film is shown.

Given the experimental elements and avant-garde spirit, some Indonesian film critics lament that Garin’s films are too symbolic or poetic and their narratives are seemingly incomprehensible for general Indonesian audience. Cynical critics accuse his films only serve jury members in the circuit of international film festivals rather than audiences in his home country. However, other critics with more positive tones viewed that Garin’s films are ahead of his time. In fact, Garin’s films are always in tune with the local as well as global development and embracing the new technolgy in film production. Unsurprisingly, a renowned film critic Tony Rayn called Garin as a “21st Century Cineaste” since he combined different creative muses from many sources. Perhaps Garin’s short film Railway Coaches 1,2,3 (1989) has foretold his relentless artististic and cultural sojourn.

Sang Juru Peta Sejarah dan Sinema Indonesia

M enghelat program yang berfokus pada Garin Nugroho bisa terkesan terlambat.  Ini karena Garin meninggalkan tapak penting dalam perjalanan sinema Indonesia. Bahkan, karya mutakhirnya  (seperti seni instalasi, pertunjukan tari dan seterusnya) melampaui batas-batas dalam sinema atau memasuki, meminjam istilahnya,  ‘post-cinema’ (pasca-sinema). Sejumlah sutradara yang kini aktif membikin film di Indonesia  setidaknya pernah bekerja atau menjadi asistennya dalam menyutradarai. Karenanya, Garin telah ikut menyemai bagi kelahiran generasi baru dalam  sinema Indonesia.

Tatkala film pertama Garin bertajuk Cinta Dalam Sepotong Roti (1991) munculdi layar perak sinema Indonesia memasuki era baru. Ini karena belum pernah ada preseden sebelumnya dan amat berbeda dengan film yang umumnya tengah beredar. Dipengaruhi gaya New Wave Perancis, film ini menyuarakan kegelisahan kaum muda di era rezim  Orde Baru yang represif. Film pertama Garin  ini menyabet Piala Citra sebagai Film Terbaik dalam ajang Festival Film Indonesia 1991 dan lantas  diganjar penghargaan sebagai Sutradara  Muda Terbaik dalam Asia Pacific Film Festival. Pada 2015,  film Garin ini kembali memperoleh Penghargaan Inspiratif Adi-Karya dalam Apresiasi Film Indonesia.

Film-film  karya Garin sejatinya bisa dibaca sebagai mikrokosmos perjalanan sejarah Indonesia karena mengambil latar  mulai era penjajahan Belanda hingga kontemporer. Kendati tidak diproduksi dalam urutan waktu historis, semua film Garin merefleksikan sejumlah momen penting dalam sejarah Indonesia. Setan Jawa, Nyai (2016) dan Guru Bangsa: Tjokroaminoto (2015) mengambil latar periode penjajahan  Belanda; sedangkan Soegija (2012) memilih latar era peralihan (pendudukan Jepang) sebelum Proklamasi Kemerdekaan Indonesia. Peristiwa pembunuhan massal 1965 bisa disimak dalam film Puisi Yang Tak Terkuburkan (2000).

Sementara itu, film Achh..Aku Jatuh Cinta (2015) dan Cinta Dalam Sepotong Roti (1991) mengangkat corak budaya pop pada era 1970-an hingga 1990-an, sementara Daun Di Atas Bantal (1998)  dan Generasi Biru (2009) memilih latar akhir 1990-an atau menjelang kebangkrutan rezim Orde Baru.  Di tengah pasangnya radikalisme agama dan perang melawan terorisme yang dihela Amerika pasca peristiwa 11 September 2001, Garin membesut Mata Tertutup (2013). Film terbarunya  bertajuk Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku (2018) memiliki paralelisme dengan gerakan kaum minoritas seksual yang memperjuangkan hak-hak sipilnya.

Sebelum Reformasi 1998, film-film Garin cenderung berkutat dengan persoalan estetis dengan mengeksplorasi tanda dan simbol yang berakar dalam kultur dan masyarakat Indonesia. Akan tetapi, pasca Reformasi film-film Garin kian bercorak  politis. Film-filmnya secara aktif terlibat dengan kemelut sosial politik serta akibatnya yang pelik. Ini barangkali tidak bisa dipisahkan dari keterlibatan Garin dalam koalisi organisasi masyarakat sipil (LSM).

Film Daun di Atas Bantal (1998),  umpamanya, merepresentasikkan kondisi di bawah rezim militer Orde Baru yang ditandai oleh mengguritanya korupsi dan ketidakadilan sosial maupun ekonomi.  Film Puisi Yang Tak Terkuburkan (2000) barangkali film pertama yang dengan berani  mengungkap  sejarah kelam bangsa  Indoenesia yakni pembunuhan massal pada 1965.  Dalam film Mata Tertutup (2013), Garin mengulik persoalan ekstremisme agama yang  memicu tidak kekerasan dan aksi terorisme. Sedangkan dalam Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku (2018), mengangkat tema tubuh yang mesti dipahami lebih dari sekadar perkara fisik, namun juga arena bagi  pertarungan kuasa dalam konteks masyarakat yang kental diwarnai heteronormativitas.

Selain itu, film-film Garin bisa dianggap sebagai peta budaya Indonesia yang membentang dari Aceh di ujung Sumatera hingga Papua. Berkolaborasi dengan tiga  sutradara (Tonny Trimarsanto, Viva Westi, dan Lianto Suseno), Garin memotret secara dekat kehidupan lima warga Aceh setelah bencana dahsyat tsunami dalam film bertajuk Serambi (2005). Film Surat Untuk Bidadari disyut di Sumba (Nusa Tenggara Timur)—sebuah tempat yang belum banyak sutradara film cerita berani melakukan syuting. Ia bahkan membuat film  bertajuk  Aku Ingin Menciumu Sekali Saja (2002) di daerah yang sarat konflik di Papua.

Di luar eksplorasi artistik dan tematik, film Garin menunjukkan dengan gamblang eksperimentasi teknologis. Ia sejatinya seorang perintis dalam menggunakan teknologi dalam produksi film di Indonesia.  Dalam Puisi Yang Tak Terkuburkan (2000),  Garin melakukan pengambilan gambar dengan mengunakan kamera video Betacam yang hasilnya lantas  ditransfer ke dalam pita seluloid (35 mm). Sejumlah  sutradara muda mengikuti jejak Garin ini  karena proses syuting menjadi efisien atau tak lagi berbelit.  Garin menggunakan pengambilan gambar sekali dan tak terputus dalam  film Nyai (2016) sembari  mengembalikan gaya dramaturgi seni pertunjukan tradisional.  Begitu pula, diinspirasi oleh film klasik Nosferatu (1922) karya F.W. Murnau dan Metropolis (1927) karya Fritz Lang, Garin membesut Setan Jawa (2018)  yang berkolaborasi dengan kelompok gamelan dan orkestra tempat film ini dipertontonkan,

Mengingat adanya anasir ekperimentasi dan spirit avant-garde, sejumlah kritikus mengeluhkan film-film Garin terlampau simbolik dan puitik serta narasinya sulit dimengerti oleh kebanyakan penonton Indonesia. Kritikus yang sinis mendakwa film Garin hanya memuaskan para juri di kancah festival internasional  namun mengabaikan penontonnya di tanah air. Akan tetapi, kritikus yang bernada positif menyatakan film Garin senantiasa mendahului masanya. Kenyataannya, film Garin senantiasa senafas dengan perkembangan global dan lokal serta seturut dengan perkembangan teknologi film. Tak aneh jika kritikus terkemuka Tony Rayn menyebut Garin sebagai ‘Sineas Abad ke-21.’ Barangkali film pendek Garin bertajuk Gerbong 1, 2, 3 (1989) telah menujumkan perjalanan artistik maupun kulturalnya yang  tak pernah mengenal kata henti. 

Budi Irawanto

Festival President

FEATURES

Cinta Dalam Sepotong Roti

Garin Nugroho/97 minutes /1990/Indonesia/Fiction

Surat Untuk Bidadari (A Letter for an Angel)

Garin Nugroho/118 minutes /1994/Indonesia/Fiction

Puisi Tak Terkuburkan (A Poet: Unconcealed Poetry)

Garin Nugroho/86 minutes /1999/Indonesia/Fiction

Aku Ingin Menciummu Sekali Saja (Bird-man Tale)

Garin Nugroho/93 minutes /2002/Indonesia/Fiction

Opera Jawa

Garin Nugroho/125 minutes /2006/Indonesia/Fiction

Mata Tertutup (The Blindfold)

Garin Nugroho/102 minutes /2011/Indonesia/Fiction

Guru Bangsa: Tjokroaminoto

Garin Nugroho/161 minutes /2015/Indonesia/Fiction

Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku (Memories of My Body)

Garin Nugroho/105 minutes /2018/Indonesia/Fiction

SHORTS

Gerbong 1,2,… (Railway Coaches 1,2,…)

Garin Nugroho/ 13 minutes /1985/Indonesia/Fiction

Aikon: Sebuah Peta Budaya (Icon: A Cultural Map)

Garin Nugroho/55 minutes /1995/Indonesia/Documentary

Dongeng Kancil Untuk Kemerdekaan

Garin Nugroho/55 minutes /1995/Indonesia/Documentary

My Family. My Film. My Nation

Garin Nugroho/35 minutes /1998/Indonesia/Documentary