Indonesia has a rich cultural heritage, including an array of literary works that have been adapted into the film industry. These films provide an opportunity for viewers to explore the literature and culture of Indonesia, while offering a fresh perspective to a wider audience. Here are five Hollywood films that have been adapted from Indonesian literary works.
1. The Raid: Redemption (2011)
The Raid: Redemption is a popular Indonesian martial arts action film that is directed by Gareth Evans. The film is based on a story by Gareth Evans himself and is inspired by the classical Javanese keris story. The Raid: Redemption is noted for its intense action scenes and choreographed fight sequences. It was one of the most successful Indonesian films of the year and spurred a Hollywood remake and sequels.
2. Laskar Pelangi (2008)
Laskar Pelangi is a film adaptation of the bestselling novel written by Andrea Hirata. The film follows a group of poor students who attend a school on an Indonesian island, and their quest to learn and succeed despite the obstacles they face. The film emphasizes the importance of education and the struggle of the underprivileged in accessing it. Laskar Pelangi became a popular blockbuster hit in Indonesia, and its value-driven message earned it critical acclaim on an international level.
3. Arisan! (2003)
Arisan! (meaning ‘the gathering’) is a film that tells the story of a group of friends in Jakarta who are dealing with their own personal crises. The film, directed by Nia Dinata, is based on the book by the same name by Rasyid Ridha. Arisan! was a groundbreaking film that broke taboos towards same-sex love, marking a new era in Indonesian cinema. The film won several awards and paved the way for other filmmakers to explore these issues that are present, but kept hidden, in Indonesian society.
4. The Dancer (2003)
The Dancer is an Indonesian musical biopic that tells the story of a young girl from a small village in West Sumatra, who dreams of becoming a famous traditional dancer. The film is based on the life of famous dancer and choreographer Didik Nini Thowok, who also plays himself in the film. The film is noted for its incorporation of traditional music and dance styles, which are integrated into the story. The Dancer was the first Indonesian film to be released globally and was screened at the Cannes Film Festival.
5. This Earth of Mankind (2019)
This Earth of Mankind is a film based on the novel by the same name by Pramoedya Ananta Toer. The film is set in the late 1800s and tells the story of Minke, a young Javanese man, who is trying to navigate through a colonial society. The film delves into the themes of colonialism, power, and love in a captivating and provocative way. This Earth of Mankind was premiered at Busan International Film Festival and has been hailed as one of the most successful Indonesian films of the year.
These Hollywood films offer international audiences the chance to explore Indonesia’s rich literary history through adaptations of well-known stories. Each film captures unique themes and concepts, from traditional fighting styles to taboo-breaking explorations of societal issues. The adaptations effectively bring Indonesian narratives to the global stage, showcasing the depth and diversity of Indonesia’s cultural heritage.