Indonesia Expat

Local Film Crew Spreads Environmental Awareness

Some of us might wonder if documentaries can actually change the world. I recently came across the film production unit Indonesia Nature Film Society, which shows how local video crews can tackle environmental issues.

Apart from those that shallowly showcase celebrities making money by providing little substance to society, some documentaries actually do attempt to foster social change.

In Indonesia, the co-founders and members of the Indonesia Nature Film Society (INFIS) are looking to do just that. The film production unit is probably best known for being the first Indonesian organization to win an international award in nature and wildlife filmmaking back in 2008, when the team took home the award for Best Cultural Message at the International Wildlife Film Festival in the US.

The group’s journey began back in 2013, when it was built under the Rekam Jejak Alam Nusantara Foundation. It started as an initiative seeking to build a better environment in Indonesia through improving its natural resources management. Not surprisingly, the organization is run by activists, researchers and media experts who wish to take local documentaries to the next level.

INFIS crew members working on a project | Photo by INFIS
INFIS crew members working on a project | Photo by INFIS

Over time, Indonesian documentaries have reached a wider audience due to increased internet access in the country, which provides more opportunities for organizations like INFIS to disseminate their messages. The Bogor-based organization believes that documentaries are a great way to encourage locals to contribute.

“Indonesian people love to watch

its interest [to locals] is greater than reading. So documentary films can be an inspiring way to change the behaviour and mindsets of Indonesian people,” says INFIS member Leoni Rahmawati.

In this regard, INFIS capitalizes on its ability to inspire change by addressing issues that require more attention like conservation, climate change, ocean preservation and indigenous people. To bring problems to light, INFIS collaborates with local and international institutions that share concerns on environmental issues. These organizations include environmental organization Greenpeace Indonesia, The National Commission on Human Rights Indonesia, and London-based independent production company Handcrafted Films UK. These partnerships have allowed INFIS to run a bunch of different kinds of projects and campaigns in the archipelago.

INFIS asks them to participate in projects, such as field research and local media engagement.

In its first year, the organization worked with environmental conservation organization WWF Indonesia in a research project on the shark fin trade in Jakarta, Makassar, Surabaya, Aceh and Lamakera. The project followed the organization’s campaign that same year and sought to stop restaurants, hotels and retailers from buying or selling shark fin soup.

In recent years, INFIS worked with Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago and Handcrafted Films in the global campaign ‘If Not Us, Then Who’. The campaign – which delivers personal stories of indigenous people battling to protect their lives, culture and forest – launched in New York Climate Week 2014 and in Indonesia the year after, following a roadshow that took place in Jakarta, Papua, Toraja and Bogor.

This year, the organization is back with another project.

In September, it launched the short documentary King of Krakatoa, which tells the story of a botany professor from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, who spent more than half of his life researching the volcanic island of Krakatoa.

Rahmawati says the idea behind this documentary is to promote acclaimed researchers who’ve been kept under the radar. “They need to be recognized by Indonesia’s people and government, especially the younger generation,” she adds.

To document the researcher’s work, the organization gathered eight crew members to follow his journey for five days on Krakatoa. The documentary was made to show that there are more places out there in Indonesia that should be turned into natural research sites.

INFIS says there is more that goes into making documentaries than meets the eye. Their role goes beyond delivering non-fiction stories, as the filmmakers are also carrying the responsibility of bringing “real and important” issues to our attention.

The organization also hopes its documentaries can stimulate the nation’s creative economy. For the Indonesian documentary scene to develop in the long run, more young filmmakers need to get involved, says INFIS. “Go out and start documenting Indonesia’s nature and culture, then spread it to the world. Do this so everyone knows the importance of keeping them preserved […] for our future generations,” adds Rahmawati.

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