Retelling In-Docs’ story is like having a reflection back to the story of Indonesia’s democracy itself. The journey is parallel and cannot be separated from one another.
How It Began
It began right after Indonesia entered a new chapter of democracy. The youth wanted to take a part in reformation and seeked better, more advanced mediums to express themselves that could display their spirit of critical thinking, creativity, innovations and a firm political point of view.
It was from that idea that Yayasan Masyarakat Mandiri Film Indonesia (Indonesian Independence Film Society Foundation) was founded. The foundation aimed to cultivate new talents and supported Freedom of Expression through the medium of films. In-Docs was then born as a program in 2002. It became a hub where ideas, skills and dreams were shared and exchanged within film communities to succeed the making of documentary films in Indonesia.
Various people both from film communities and educational institutions joined in the activities to connect, learn, collaborate, and share their works with each other. Among the programs curated in In-Docs were Development Lab, In-Docs Abroad, Junior Camp, Mapping, Screen Docs. Early programs seeked to plant the seed in the young generation and built infrastructure for the film communities to grow. Junior Camp for example, invited high school students to a camp where they stayed for one week on an island to learn how to create documentary films. The team also went to collect documentary films in many different universities across the country to be screened at the festival, sent Indonesian filmmakers abroad to learn more about filmmaking, invited foreign filmmakers to share their knowledge to Indonesian people, and many more.
There were of course a lot of challenges, especially in teaching filmmaking techniques to the local communities. Camera was seen as a luxury item in that period, owned only by those who had the privileges, therefore it was quite a challenge to make it available. But nothing beat the enthusiasm to learn. More and more folks were interested in joining In-Docs programs, and slowly, the programs expanded. In-Docs started to extend collaborations with various parties, including National TV stations. In 2005, In-Docs and Metro TV hosted Eagle Awards, a script-writing competition of documentary film. Five winners of this competition were funded to finish their documentary films and the films were screened on Metro TV. This program received enormous appreciation, not only from the participants and film communities, but also from the public.
The Four Pillars
A lot more innovations were pitched and executed during the year 2004-2011. Among them were to create collaborations between researchers and filmmakers. While the process of democratization began to mature, globalization started to accelerate which later allowed global collaboration. However, it was not until 2012 when In-Docs gained this momentum to grow and reached wider audiences to promote its mission.
It started with the collaboration with Doc-Net that In-Docs went further to reach film communities in Asia. In our signature program Dare to Dream Asia, organized in 2015 In-Docs gathered 9 documentary film projects from countries all across Asia which tell about the voices and dreams of young Asians and brought their projects to various international film festivals, such as IDFA and DOK Leipzig. This program led to another successful program which is Docs By The Sea, a collaboration with Indonesia’s Creative Economy Agency. Here, we provide platforms and allow filmmakers to pitch their ideas in front of international film industries to get fundings and support for their projects. We also collaborated with other international film organizations such as Doc Society to curate other programs such as Good Pitch Indonesia as a part of International Good Pitch Network, and IF/Then Southeast Asia with Tribeca Film Institute.
We realized that a solid structure was needed for further development. After long deliberation and reviewing our past programs, we learnt that our works were constructed based on certain principles, and we decided to strengthen those into four pillars.
The pillar Cultivate lets In-Docs create innovative and engaging documentary projects from diverse talents and voices in Indonesia and beyond. The pillar Connect allows best documentary projects to connect with parties that provide support such as funding, distribution, as well as potential partners that can expand the reach and impact of the documentaries. The pillar Share provides access for audiences to watch and discuss films that build social, political, and ecological awareness necessary to build a responsible member of society. While the pillar Learn proves the desire to actively learn and improve, and encourage audiences to embrace the learning process as something important and empowering.
What is now?
Along the way, we have glorified and celebrated the making of documentary films so it can receive the highest recognition from respected international film festivals. Globalization has made it possible, but of course it does not come without expense. As democracy began to mature, new challenges started to appear. Technology becomes so advanced, and in the meantime, the space to create, disseminate, and discuss critical expressions that allow the society to imagine a better future is slowly shrinking.
As In-Docs becomes a full operation since 2019, we have come to another point of reflection. Have we achieved what we have wanted in the first place? And how far are we now from our initial mission?
Documentary films have found its place in society. It finally receives an equal appreciation to its counterpart, the fiction films. Films — especially documentaries, capture the essences in our day-to-day lives that may escape our attention, and like many other canonized products, it explicitly and implicitly reveals the complicated systems that drive the engines of our economic, political and social lives; the magical power of our past heritage that animate our lives, and the force of nature that we may not realize exist because of its mundane nature. Films should become the window to get a deeper understanding of how others live and feel. Through films, not only we see new stories, but also learn cognitive knowledge of how lives work for others.
Documentary films should present not merely as an entertainment, but also a form of dialogue. It should introduce an idea about what kind of impacts the society aims to achieve. And as a form of intertwined dialogue, it too should encourage the audiences to question things and think critically, and create social connections. Through films, we bring together various communities, spark conversations about difficult topics, creating the culture of openness.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a significant change to our way of living, including on how we exercise our rights. Across the world, democracy has faced challenges as governments restricted civic rights to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus. With lack of spaces to gather, it is the time to introduce new approaches to reach our goals.
In 2021 forwards, In-Docs team will be active in reaching out to communities and schools to share ideas that are captured by filmmakers in their works. We hope to create more digital spaces to encourage more discussions about ideas and dreams. It has been our aim to invite wider audiences to utilize documentary films as the tool to exercise our part in democracy. And there is no perfect time to do it than now.