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Messages from Program Director

Alexander Matius

Program Director

I started this writing by reflecting on what JAFF should have strived for following the successful 17th edition which was warmly embraced by all participants. Whether JAFF, as a festival, can continue to garner positive appreciation from all movie enthusiasts? Will it be able to sustain its great momentum in the following editions? What novelty should be presented  so that every edition feels fresh?

I organized JAFF programs in a challenging situation this year. The constant pressure had led me to contemplate life. Changes can bring excitement but they can also hit us. Similarly, the same old situation is relieving but can be boring. Gradually, I realized that change doesn’t always have to be forced for something better as being in the same situation is not necessarily wrong. Both should harmonize each other, not dominate each other.

Program-wise, this year’s JAFF still maintains what JAFF has been building for a long time. Programs such as the Main Competition, Light of Asia, Asian Perspectives, Indonesia Screen Awards, Panorama, Classic, Community Screen, Inclusive Screening, and Indonesia Film Showcase continue to be presented. The Emerging program which was launched last year to provide an opportunity for filmmakers whose works have not been featured in JAFF before, is also presented again. Collaboration with Layar Indonesiana is being held in this edition. Moreover, various activities will take place at LPP, right next to the main venue: Empire XXI.

New things have organically unfolded within JAFF. This year, we introduce Nocturnal. a new program which focuses exclusively on genre films. The late-night screening has been absent from our lives since the pandemic hit, so it will be delightful to host such screenings and welcome the audience back. The compilation of student films has also expanded. We are collaborating with two countries, Qatar and Hong Kong. As a part of the 2023 Qatar Year of Culture Program, a compilation of short films from Qatar and two feature films from outside the country, supported by the Doha Film Institute will be screened. The Hong Kong Film Gala Presentation will showcase a mix of classic and contemporary feature films. Moreover, we are also partnering with MyLab and Netflix for two sharing sessions. 

This year, we are also presenting the Layar Anak program for the younger audience and the Jogja Showcase which will exclusively screen short films from filmmakers of Yogyakarta. Additionally, we are hosting a retrospective for Tonny Trimarsanto, a documentary activist whose films transcend humanity and are among the most prominent figures in documentary filmmaking. Alongside Tonny Trimarsanto, we are inviting the audience to look back at the journey of the legendary actress Christine Hakim. She is in the golden age of her career in Indonesia, and has even gained international recognition. Special programs within the Special Screening are prepared to welcome the audience. We will also feature a music video and a performance by Efek Rumah Kaca in the theaters, making this year’s JAFF truly a cross-artistic cultural event, with film remaining as the connecting medium.

In relation to chage, we implemented a paid system for participants this year, aiming to enhance the initial screening process and also contribute to the festival’s funding. We received a total of 653 applications from 30 countries, indicating a sustained enthusiasm among participants. The program team had rigorous discussions while curating the program and selecting films, resulting in the showcasing of 184 films from 25 countries at Empire XXI out of the initial 200 selected. Notably, the high quality of the submitted short films led us to increase the number of short films featured in JAFF 18. Inadvertently, we selected nine debut feature films for the Main Competition, four of which originated from Southeast Asia and the rest are multi-country co-productions. It can be perceived as the potential strengthening of the Southeast Asia cinema moving forward, especially through cross-country collaborations.

In the end, novelty arises naturally without being forced. Creative energy supported by many parties brings forth new ideas organically, which feels more enjoyable rather than imposing novelty by neglecting good practices consistently upheld by JAFF over the years. JAFF has become a gathering event in the name of film, bringing together individuals who cherish films in any form, regardless of their profession, background, or militancy. We hope that JAFF 18 can radiate the light of the Asia Pacific cinema for film enthusiasts to participate by enjoying and appreciating all the programs (screenings, conversations, activities) presented. Because with that, JAFF, filmmakers, and its audience will healthily grow together.