SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of South East Asia

Indonesia on Screen

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2, Year 3 of 3 or Year 4
Taught in:
Term 1



Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of a course, a student should be able to demonstrate a broad knowledge of key developments in Indonesian cinema since 1945. The student will have developed the ability to consider these films critically in terms of the historical and cultural context in which they have been created. Students will have learned how to analyse the films both visually and culturally.

In terms of generic skills, students will have had the opportunity to strengthen their skills in essay writing and will have learned how to extract and process information from cinematic and secondary sources, and to combine the two. As a result of the emphasis on group discussion of the cinematic texts explored in this course, they will learn how to contribute constructively to debates, how to accommodate the views of others in the learning group and how to present their own views orally.


This course is taught over 11 weeks with 2 hours classroom contact per week and a 2-3 hour film screening.

Scope and syllabus

The course will examine some of the key films from each of the three periods of post-Independence Indonesia, 1949-65, 1965-98, post 1998. In addition to examining the main developments in the history of Indonesian film production since 1945, each film will be contextualised by the cultural, political, economic and historical context in which it was produced. In particular, works by the following directors (among other) will be discussed: Usmar Ismail, Teguh Karya, Eros Djarot, Roedi Soedjarwo, Nia Dinata, Riri Riza,. By examining films from the main genres of historical films, comedies, horror films, melodrama, teenage movie, romance, such key themes as nationalism, censorship, gender, the rural urban divide, modernisation, social class and religion will be discussed. All films studies watched in class will be subtitled and so there is no language requirement for this course. Students with sufficient levels of Indonesian will however be encouraged to also consult secondary sources only available in Indonesian, and to watch other films which have not been subtitled. The proposed lectures and accompanying films are planned as follows (subject to alteration and development):

Week 1:   Indonesian cinema - The Early Years
Tamu Agung (‘Exalted Guest, dir. Usmar Ismail, 1955)

Week 2:  Cinema during the New Order
Secangkir kopi pahit (Bitter Coffee, dir. Teguh Karya, 1985)

Week 3:  Historical Films of the New Order period – Representing the Coloniser
Nopember 1828 (November 1928, dir. Teguh Karya, 1979)

Week 4:  Historical Films of the New Order period – Challenging Female Stereotypes Tjoet Nja’ Dhien (dir. Eros Djarot, 1988)

Week 5: Indonesian cinema post 1998 – A New Generation of Film Makers
Eliana, Eliana (dir. Riri Riza, 2001)

Week 6: Indonesian cinema post 1998 – Women’s Films
Berbagi suami (Love for share, dir. Nia Dinata, 2006)

Week 7: Indonesian cinema post 1998 – Exploring Masculinity
9 naga (9 dragons, dir. Roedi Soedjarwo, 2006)

Week 8: Indonesian cinema post 1998 – Teenage Romances
Ada apa dengan Cinta? (What’s up with Love? dir. Roedi Soedjarwo, 2001)

Week 9:  Indonesian cinema post 1998 – Comedy
Nagabonar jadi 2 (Nagabonar becomes 2, dir. Deddy Mizwar, 2007)

Week 10:  Indonesian cinema post 1998 – Horror Films
Tiren – Mati kemaren (Tiren, Died yesterday, dir. Emil G. Hampp, 2008)

Week 11:  Revision and Overview

Method of assessment

One 3,500 word essay to be submitted on day 5, week 1 of the term after the course is taught (60%); 5 reaction papaers of 500 - 800 words each to be handed in to the class tutor throughout the term (40%).

Suggested reading

Key texts:

  • Heider, K. 1991. Indonesian cinema: national culture on the screen. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
  • Sen, K. 1994. Indonesian cinema: framing the New Order. London: Zed Books.
  • Said, S. 1991. Shadows on the silver screen: a social history of the Indonesian film, Jakarta: Lontar Foundation, 1991.

General history of Indonesia:

  • Ricklefs, M.C. 2001 A history of modern Indonesia since c.1200. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
  • Vickers, A. 2005. A history of modern Indonesia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Taylor, J. G. 2003. Indonesia : peoples and histories. New Haven: Yale University press.  

Articles and Book chapters in English.

  • Anderson, B.R. O’G. 1973. Notes on contemporary Indonesian political communication. Indonesia. October 1973.
  • Anwar, R. 1988. The Indonesian film industry. Media Indonesia 15, 3.
  • Aripurnami, S. 1996. A feminist comment on the sinétron presentation of Indonesian women. In L.J. Sears, ed. Fantasizing the feminine in Indonesia. London: Duke Univ. Press.
  • Cheah, P. 1996. Garin Nugroho: no son on his own soil. Cinemaya 34: 20-23.
  • Drake, C. 1989. National integration in Indonesia: patterns and policies. Honolulu: Univ. of Hawai’i Press.
  • Foulcher, K. 1986. Social commitment in literature and the arts: the Indonesian “Institute of People’s Culture” 1950-1965. Clayton: Monash Univ.
  • Foulcher, K. 1990. The construction of an Indonesian national culture: patterns of hegemony and resistance. In State and civil society in Indonesia. ed. A. Budiman, Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, Monash University.
  • Frederick, W.H. 1982. Rhoma Irama and the Dangdut style: aspects of contemporary Indonesian popular culture. Indonesia 34: 102-130.
  • Frederick, W.H. 1989. Visions and heat: the making of the Indonesian revolution. Athens: Ohio Univ. Press.
    Harding, Claire. 2008. The Influence of the 'Decadent West':Discourses of the Mass Media on Youth Sexuality in Indonesia. Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific, 18.
  • Hanan, D. 1988. Film and cultural difference: November 1828. In Histories and stories: cinema in New Order Indonesia ed. K. Sen, Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, Monash University.
  • Hanan, D. 1990. Gotot Prakosa and independent Indonesian cinema Cantrills filmnotes, 63/64.
  • Hanan, D. 1992. The Ronggeng daner: another paradigm for erotic spectacle in the cinema. East-West film journal 6, 1.
  • Hanan, D. 1995. Indonesian cinema. In A history of the cinema, 1895-1995 Oxford: Univ. Press, ed.: Geoffrey Nowell-Smith).
  • Hanan, David. 2008. Changing social formations in Indonesian and Thai teen movies. In Ariel Heryanto (ed.) Popular


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules