What a year.
More than anything else, we will remember 2011 as the year we almost lost cinema.
No thanks to the temporary halt of film import that went on for 5 months (how did we even survive, I wonder?), we almost lost the joy or even the idea of cinema-going experience itself.
Suddenly the term filmgoing experience itself finally acknowledged the idea of going to pirated DVDs shops, something we have been exposed to all along, but not until this year public acknowledgment of such could be said without shame.
The overview of the situation has been written in The Jakarta Globe as part of its kaleidoscope series, by yours truly.
What’s written here is a recollection of how a common filmgoer like me spent his time in movies this year.
I was simply trying to make do of what was left in cinemas, and guess what?
There were unexpected joys to find, thanks to those who still believed in the power of cinema and its audiences, bringing films from different parts of the world, unlikely programming that amused my thirst of quality cinema, and occasionally bad films that, nevertheless, made me smile.
Here they are, my choices for filmgoing experiences of 2011:
Little did I know that I’d spend quite a number of time watching films in Kineforum, more than what I had done in previous years. The venue remained consistent in bringing unique programming, despite its obvious struggle to not being repetitive.
Still, the venue excels in what other similar venues couldn’t offer: intimacy.
Thus, the first-hand account of Jajang C. Noer in making Djakarta 66 and having the family that has been the subject of all Leonard Retel Helmrich’s trilogy present gave a very intimate cinemagoing experience, unlikely found in big cinema chain.
Film and filmgoing became personal again.
Kicking off the year with a jovial mood seemed to promise that all filmgoing experiences of 2011 could have been like this. Unfortunately …
By the time me and my friends went to this screening, we had heard on the possibility of no imported films from major studios in Hollywood due to back taxes issue. Yet, we didn’t expect that this screening would be the last time we had big films screened in local cinema, albeit temporarily.
Of course, when we watched the film, we had no premonition of such.
We were thrilled by the film’s marvelous depiction of human survival (cue: his arm!), and that made me strangely glad how we went to hiatus with a high note.
Not for long though.
A filmgoer finds his way to watch film, including revisiting …
4. Kejarlah Daku Kau Kutangkap
Date: March 29, 2011
Big confession: I had never watched the best Indonesian comedy ever on big screen.
When the film was released in 1986, somehow my parents never dragged me to watch this. Instead, we opted for Warkop DKI films. So we saw this film on video, on TV (“Film Cerita Akhir Pekan” on TVRI!), but only 25 years later I saw this on big screen.
And what a relief to find the film holds up very well against the test of time.
I laughed so hard, because the jokes are timeless. Oh, Ramadhan, Markum, and Ramona, you really made my year!
At least until I saw …
You have to save the best for the last, don’t you?
As the halt dragged on, finally I gave in to what my friends had done earlier: took a movie-marathon trip to neighboring countries. Obviously I chose Singapore for the benefit of familiarity, but what’s funny was just I was about to go boarding, I began receiving information that importing process would resume to normal soon. It’d start with the release of … Harry Potter!
But hey, how can you beat watching it on big IMAX screen, and on 3D?
When (spoiler!) Voldemort finally falls to pieces, you wish to grab what remains of him as the pieces fly beautifully in front of you.
Beauty is an understatement to describe the experience of watching the film, I guess.
After all, it’s the finale of ultimate filmgoing experience in a decade.
For years now, blitzmegaplex has been consistent in ushering its audiences to South East and East Asian cinemas, particularly those from Thailand and South Korea.
Their make-belief storytelling is downright convincing, and this year, it culminates in Hello Ghost.
What began as a smooth shift between horror and comedy, already a rare feat on its own, suddenly turns into heart-tugging melodrama towards the end.
For filmmakers and those into filmmaking, the film teaches us the importance of plot twist and preserving that carefully, because you care about it.
For filmgoers, the film gave a good-hearted cry, a satisfying experience that was also relieving to realize it’s still good to give and leave our heart in cinema.
In other words, it’s good to surrender our senses in cinema, just like what I did with …
Preliminary warning about the film had been heard, and much as I had anticipated what to expect from a Terrence Malick film, I did not expect the overwhelmed feeling I got after the screening.
Watching the majestic visual glory on big screen is a rejuvenating experience, close to make me a born-again human.
The pondering question of “what defines us as a human” asked by Malick in his wandering visual beauty may not be an easy digest for some.
In fact, as I have written in my blog entry of purely awe-gaping, I don’t understand the film.
Yet, the film kept me glued on my seat throughout, and to date, each image remains planted in my memory vividly.
In short, it was an otherwordly cinematic experience of the year.
I missed Kylie Minogue’s concert earlier this year in Sentul, so upon hearing her concert documentary film would be shown for limited engagement, I promised myself I had to watch it.
After all, we don’t get to see many music documentary films in regular release in cinema.
And what a jaw-dropping experience! Known for her over-the-top stage antic, gorgeous sets and display of breathtaking costume, the 3D film really pulled off the excitement of watching the make-believe concert.
Had I been in the cinema alone, I would surely jump on my seat and danced along.
It was quiet cinema, though, which is a pity considering the magic evoked in her dazzling stage.
Yet, for a much more communal experience …
Hats off to Dede (Meiske), Pearl Jam fanbase in Jakarta, Papang, and the whole team who brought the film for its one-nite only screening!
Three-week preparation that culminated in a filmgoing experience a la watching a rock concert: majority dressed in black t-shirts, spotted a few in checkered flanel, and yes, the spirit of 90s alternative!
Surely it wasn’t a perfect film, too indulgent for some.
Yet, you cannot beat seeing the entire audience in the film and in cinema humming along “Just Breathe” at the penultimate scene.
Venue: Blitz GI
Date: October 7, 2011
I came with expectation of usual sports drama, with characters having to sacrifice their personal traits to triumph.
Yet, after roaring applause and cheers from audiences, and occasional weeps, what I got is a delicate and memorable drama that makes the film one of my very best this year.
Brotherhood, fatherhood and father-and-sons stories intertwined to give emotional notes for gripping and brutal action scenes that follow.
The film grew after repeated viewings, and yes, the loud applause and cheers made watching the film the most exhilarating yet, until …
I am saving the best for last, indeed!
It was the most wanted invitation in town, particularly after news broke out that the film would be released some time in March or April next year, together with its release in the US. Reviews of foreign publications have been overwhelming, ranging from terrific to extremely good.
Oh, they’re understatement, because the film rocks!
Gareth Evans’ sophomore feature kicks and thrills audiences to the core, so much so we can’t help being in awe, scream, applaud and yell of excitement throughout the film.
Watching it with director, crews and actors in attendance, who eventually rose to thunderous standing applause make it, as Sly , the festival director, said, “this feels like Cannes!”
If anything, this made the best INAFFF yet, the coolest film festival in town.
And for us, filmgoers, watching a history in the making of the Indonesian film that will put us in the map of blockbuster breath, is simply the top filmgoing experience of the year.
Guess miracle does happen, eh?!
Until next year!