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Jakarta Post

Preserving Indonesia's film heritage through love

Wed, March 18, 2020   /   10:37 am
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    All-time greats: A collage of posters and stills of classic Indonesian films adorns a wall at Sinematek Indonesia, the first film archive in Southeast Asia. JP/Xena Olivia

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    Manual loading: Archival staffer Firdaus prepares to mount a film reel in a projector. The film must then be threaded manually through the roller and film gate on the equipment. JP/Xena Olivia

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    Celluloid run: Preservation technician Firdaus cleans a movie reel using 95 percent ethanol. JP/Xena Olivia

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    Quality control: Preservation technician Budi watches a cleaned movie reel looking for defects. JP/Xena Olivia

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    Analog technology: Celluloid film is threaded through an editing machine. JP/Xena Olivia

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    Watchful dedication: Firdaus (left) watches as Budi uses both hands to extract a reel case from an upper shelf of the film archive, which is located in the basement of Sinematek Indonesia. The two film preservation technicians are paid less than the minimum wage to maintain Indonesia's film heritage. JP/Xena Olivia

Xena Olivia

Sinematek Indonesia (SI), located at the H. Usmar Ismail Film Center in Rasuna Said, South Jakarta, is the first film archive in Southeast Asia.

Film enthusiasts and other stakeholders initiated the idea of developing a national archive of Indonesian films in 1970, and the SI was established five years later in 1975. The archive’s collection now contains more than 2,000 film reels, including classics such as Tjoet Nja Dhien.

The collection is stored on the basement floor of the institute, where two film preservation technicians — 40-year-old Firdaus and 38-year-old Budi — clean the lengths of celluloid every day using 95 percent ethanol. The nearly pure form of alcohol kills any fungi and other pathogens that could damage the delicate material.

If Firdaus and Budi find any broken lengths of film, they fix it by using a special tape and a special tool called a splicer.

Firdaus and Budi are paid less than the regional minimum wage for Jakarta, which points to the pair’s dedication to preserving Indonesia’s film heritage — not just for the country, but for the world.