Photo for Behind the Scenes with the

Before the last event of the Los Angeles Indonesian Film Festival 2020, UCLA CSEAS spent some time with the team to learn more about their shift to virtual programming and dreams for the future.

By Kitty Hu (UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies)

Every year, the Los Angeles Indonesian Film Festival (LAIFF) brings together audiences and filmmakers to explore Indonesian stories on and off the screen. Supported by the UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) for the past four years, the festival showcases a repertoire of shorts and feature-length films alongside other programming.

In the midst of a global pandemic, the team forges on, hosting live panel discussions that directly speak to filmmaking in “the new normal” and how the industry is changing. The first LAIFF panel in August focused on how film production in Indonesia is proceeding amidst new safety protocols in place for movie sets. In September, the second LAIFF panel discussed the future of film marketing in Indonesia and explored the possibilities for experimentation in digital platforms.

The team is currently organizing its final event of the year which will be a viewing of Crazy Awesome Teachers on Netflix and live virtual Q&A with actors and producers on December 2, 2021.

CSEAS sat down with the team behind the Los Angeles Indonesian Film Festival on Zoom to talk more about their transition to virtual programming, history and visions for the future.

CSEAS: Endah, can you introduce everyone?

Endah Redjeki, Co-founder: I never call them my team. I always call them my partners. I’m coordinating, but I give them the freedom to take on different roles. Every year, I tell Stanley this is going to be my last LAIFF.

Stanley Chandra, Program Director in Jakarta: It’s never going to happen knowing her (laughs).

CSEAS: Tell us about the shift to online programming. Was there hesitation to go virtual?

Nadi Khairi, Program Director in Los Angeles: We had the conversations before lockdown was even announced. Not knowing how the lockdown would play out, it was hard to commit and decide how to continue with the festival. CSEAS actually helped green light the whole idea in terms of solidifying a virtual festival.

CSEAS: Our center reached out in Spring 2020 to say that we would still support the festival regardless of what form it takes on. Your team had about two months to prepare everything. What was that like?

Nadi: It was kind of intimidating in the beginning. We are a young organization since this is only our seventh year doing the festival.

Dennaya Nadhifa, Program Director in Los Angeles: There is an emerging trend of online discussions about filmmaking in Indonesia. Many filmmakers are on Zoom calls with their followers, talking about how they’re adapting to the new normal.

We brought in a live streaming partner to help with the technical logistics though it can be difficult because of the unstable internet connection.

Nadi: We’ve been learning as we go. Our first program was like a panel, whereas we modified the second one to be more discussion-oriented.

At the end of our first session, we also heard the prayer calls broadcasted in the background of one of our panelist in Indonesia, so we adjusted our timing to avoid that in the second. It’s hard working with two completely different time zones!

Endah: Then I contacted several A-list filmmakers in Indonesia and they all said yes. I was so surprised! We are the first and only Indonesian film festival to do virtual programming. Our panelists have shared that they are also learning from each other.

Andhika Satria, Program Director in Jakarta: Other big festivals in Indonesia postponed because they didn’t know how to transition. We knew it’d be a challenge, but we still accepted.

CSEAS: From watching the sessions, there was a really positive response. You could feel the energy that the panelists and audiences brought.

Yafi Fayruz, Program Director in Los Angeles: You can only watch so many Netflix shows and be on social media for so long. Having this space is a breath of fresh air. It goes to show people’s appreciation for Indonesian stories and sense of community.

Sizigia Pikhansa, Promotion Coordinator: Many of our friends and colleagues attended, which is likely why they were so active. It was great to see the support.

CSEAS: It sounds like you have strong teamwork and you know who should take on which roles.

Endah: I hope so!

Argusriady Saputra, Design Coordinator: I just don’t sleep and wait for Endah’s instructions every night.

Stanley: (Laughing) Her asking you to do a task is a formality.

CSEAS: How did this festival first begin?

Endah: LAIFF was founded in 2014. I brought together Andhika, Nadi, Yafi, and a few others. We had all worked together during the Congress of Indonesian Diaspora in 2012.

I'm not a filmmaker. I don’t know anything about how to make a film, but we have a great team. We love Indonesian movies and we just want to make sure that Indonesian films are being watched in LA. We hope to continue collaborating with other organizations and include more non-Indonesians in our audiences.

CSEAS: What do you imagine the future of LAIFF will be like?

Stanley: Our team this year has been very honest about what we want to improve. We are very open to critique and have taken notes from the comments section to strengthen our next sessions. We hope to be a cultural bridge between filmmakers in the United States and Indonesia, while building visibility for Indonesian stories.

Dennaya: It’d be great to see filmmakers in Indonesia and the United States work together. At LAIFF, we can grow not only in terms of magnitude, but also in terms of impact and what we bring to Indonesian filmmakers.

Ashram Sharivar, Program Director in Jakarta: We hope to connect with guilds and larger U.S. production companies to establish and expand a network for our Indonesian filmmakers and films to connect and collaborate with American filmmakers and creatives.

Andhika: Even though we’ve had a few bumps in the past, the passion, commitment and spirit of the team keeps the festival going every year. With COVID-19, the film industry is changing as well, so we’re excited for the future.

Nadi: Our organization relies heavily on the movie industry in Indonesia. You can tell by the number of Indonesian movies that have made it to the Netflix catalogue and Disney’s new animation set in Southeast Asia that stories about Indonesia are becoming more popular. It opens another window to explore.

Yafi: With podcasting and online interviews, we found a medium where these virtual events can be used as a buildup to the main event. People are hungry to get back to as much normality as we can get. People miss the interactions. As unpredictable as it’s going to be, the festival is going to keep growing and people will keep wanting to come out as much as possible. So we’ll just need to be prepared!



Published Icon

Published: Friday, November 6, 2020