SOAS University of London

South East Asia Section, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

Indonesia on Screen(PG)

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Term 1

The module 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 in the cultural, political, economic and historical context in which it was produced. By examining films from the main genres of historical films, comedies, horror films, melodrama, teenage films and religious films, key themes including nationalism, censorship, gender, sexuality, the rural/urban divide, modernisation, social class and Islam will be discussed. The module will also pay attention to the circulation of film texts in Indonesia, and related issues of film festivals, independent cinema, censorship and government regulation. In adddition to lectures and classes devoted to the discussion of the films, a specific class will be devoted to the critical discussion of key readings on Indonesian cinema and cultural studies. All films watched in class will be subtitled and so there is no language requirement for this module. Students with sufficient levels of Indonesian will however be encouraged to consult secondary sources only available in Indonesian, and to watch other films which have not been subtitled.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a good knoweldge of key developments in Indonesian cinema since 1945
  2. Discuss a number of key films and genres with reference to the cultural and historical contexts in which they were produced
  3. Assess critically the growing body of literature on Indonesian cinema.
  4. Recognise and engage with some of the key debates in Indonesian cultural studies
  5. Develop their understanding of the production of meaning both as personal insight and as a form of historical engagement and ideological positioning


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours contact per week comprising of 1hour lecture and 1 hour seminar.

Scope and syllabus

The proposed topics and accompanying films are planned as follows (subject to alteration and development):

  1. Studying Indonesian cinema -  Nagabonar jadi 2 (Nagabonar becomes 2, dir. Deddy Mizwar, 2007)
  2. Indonesian cinema - The Early Years: Tamu Agung (‘Exalted Guest, dir. Usmar Ismail, 1955)
  3. Cinema during the New Order - Secangkir kopi pahit (Bitter Coffee, dir. Teguh Karya, 1985) 
  4. Historical Films of the New Order period – Challenging Female Stereotypes:  Tjoet Nja’ Dhien (dir. Eros Djarot, 1988)
  5. Religion and film under the New Order - Titian serambut dibelah tujuh (The invisible bridge, - Chaerul Umam, 1982)
  6. Indonesian cinema post 1998 – A New Generation of Film Makers - Eliana, Eliana (dir. Riri Riza, 2001)
  7. Indonesian cinema post 1998 – Teenage Romances - Ada apa dengan Cinta? (What’s up with Love? dir. Roedi Soedjarwo, 2001)
  8. Indonesian cinema post 1998 – Women’s Films - Berbagi suami (Love for share, dir. Nia Dinata, 2006)
  9. Indonesian cinema post 1998 - film religi - Ayat-ayat cinta (Verses of love, dir. Hanung Bramantyo, 2008)
  10. Indonesian cinema post 1998 – Horror Films - Tiren – Mati kemaren (Tiren, Died yesterday, dir. Emil G. Hampp, 2008)

Method of assessment

An essay of 2500 words to be submitted on day 1, week 1, term 3 (70%); 2 reaction papers, each of 600 words to be submitted directly to the course teacher in weeks throughout the term of teaching (30%).

Suggested reading

  • Baumgärtel, T. (ed.) 2002. Southeast Asian Independent Cinema, Singapore: NUS Press.
  • Heeren, K. van. 2012. Contemporary Indonesian film: spirits of reform and ghosts from the past. Leiden: KITLV
  • Heider, K. 1991. Indonesian cinema: national culture on the screen. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
  • Heryanto, A. 2014. Identity and pleasure: the politics of Indonesian screen culture. Singapore: NUS Press.
  • Ingawanij, M. and McKay, B. (eds) Glimpses of Freedom: independent cinema in Southeast Asia, Ithaca, NY: Southeast Asia Program Publications, Cornell University.
  • Michalik, Y. (ed.) 2013. Indonesian women filmmakers. Berlin: regiospectra.
  • Michalik, Y. and Coppens, L. 2009. Asian hot shots: Indonesian cinema. Marburg: Schuren.
  • Murtagh, B. 2013. Genders and sexualities in Indonesian Cinema: constructing gay, lesbi and waria identities on screen. London: Routledge.
  • Sen, K. 1994.    Indonesian cinema: framing the New Order. London: Zed Books.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules