SOAS University of London

SOAS scholar discusses latest book at Asia's largest gay and lesbian film festival

15 October 2014

Dr Ben Murtagh, Senior Lecturer in Indonesian and Malay at SOAS, University of London recently spoke at Q! Film Festival in Jakarta about his latest book Genders and Sexualities in Indonesian Cinema.

The Q! Film Festival in Jakarta was founded in 2002 by freelance journalists and focuses on sexuality, gender, human rights and HIV/AIDS themes in Indonesia.

Dr Murtagh’s book, Genders and Sexualities in Indonesian Cinema, examines how representations of gay, lesbian and transgender individuals and communities have developed in Indonesian cinema during this period.

Using original interview research and focus groups with gay, lesbi and waria (male to female transgender) Indonesians, alongside the films themselves and a wealth of archival sources, the book contrasts the ways in which transgendered lives are actually lived with their representations on screen.

Dr Murtagh said: “In 2003 the release of 'Nia Dinata’s Arisan!', a film which apparently included Indonesia’s first cinematic gay kiss, became an international news story. I then began looking into the history of constructions of homosexuality in Indonesian cinema.

“This task was facilitated by a privileged access to what I discovered to be a remarkable collection of Indonesian films held by the SOAS Library. That project culminates in the publication of this book.”

The theme of Indonesian film continues at SOAS’ annual Indonesia Kontemporer 2014 on 18 October. The festival offers a creative event mixing exhibitions, performances, workshops, crafts, film screenings, as well as food and handicrafts stalls.

Screenings include ‘Untuk Rena', a film about a girl who lives in an orphanage and ‘Tales of Waria’ a documentary about the transgender community in Indonesia, and musical performances from Jagat Gamelan who will play Semar Pegulingan Balinese gamelan, with guest stars Margaret Coldiron (dancer) and Gita Gutawa (singer).