City and Desire in Indonesian Cinema (Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 2011)

Inter-Asia Cultural Studies

Volume 12, Issue 4, 2011

Special Issue: Runaway City/Leftover Spaces


City and Desire in Indonesian Cinema

Intan Paramaditha


This article examines the ways in which desire in/for the city is projected in contemporary Indonesian cinema in comparison with the authoritarian New Order period (1965–1998). Despite the government’s visual investment to project the image of a unified, stable, and modern nation, filmmakers of the New Order period sought ways to capture ‘national reality’ that was incongruous to the official version of national ideals by portraying the urban space, particularly Jakarta, as a site of social/economic disjuncture and moral contradiction produced by Suharto’s developmentalist paradigm. The post-New Order era is characterized by the emergence of a new generation of filmmakers whose cinematic imaginations were shaped by the promises of political reform, the global flows of images and capital, and the dissolving image of a coherent nation. Whereas the previous generation treated subjects who pursue their desire in the city with suspicion, contemporary Indonesian filmmakers embrace the city and the production of various forms of desire: sexual desire, desire for consumption, and desire to reclaim the space. This article further discusses ‘coming out within the closet’ as a spatial strategy that reveals the agency of new urban subjects on the one hand, and, on the other, the defining limits in which such agency could be fully articulated.

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*image courtesy of Miles Films.

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