The Jakarta Post

December 11, 2003  

Bali has lots of natural beauty for film sets
Rita A. Widiadana , The Jakarta Post, Denpasar, Bali

Films shot in remote or little-known locations can be the catalyst for a boom in tourism, as they showcase the beauty of their settings. Just as fans confuse movie stars with their on-screen characters, film locations are attributed with the fantastical elements of the film and its story.

With the premier of Return of the Kings, the third film in Peter Jackson's Lord of The Rings trilogy in Wellington, thousands of fans were drawn to New Zealand's capital city to catch a glimpse of the stars. Fans of the trilogy also toured this southernmost country in search of memorable locations from the film.

Earlier, the ancient temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia became a hot tourist destination following the popularity of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie.

Indonesia is eager to emulate the success of Thailand, which scored US$35million in revenue in 2002 from the production of films such as The Beach. Thailand couldn't have come up with a better image than the beautiful Leonardo di Caprio swimming in clear turquoise waters (reviving his celebrity status and the tourism industry there).

New Zealand , enjoyed a 50 percent increase in visitors after the release of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, not to mention the thousands of local jobs provided for technical crew, actors and support services.

Deborah Gabinetti, a consultant with the newly established Bali Film Commission (BFC), told The Jakarta Post that one of the film commission's primary goals is to promote Bali (and other destinations in Indonesia) to foreign filmmakers as possible locations.

" Bali has a wonderful culture and natural potential, any film director could use the island as a setting for their feature film. Other areas adjacent to Bali, as well as remote and untouchable regions across Indonesia stand ready to be explored," Gabbinetti enthused.

The film commission is working hard in cooperation with the Bali Tourism Authority to attract renowned producers and directors to Bali.

Since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Oct. 12 Bali bombings and the SARS epidemic, Bali (and the country in general) has suffered a 50 percent decline in business (mainly tourism).

" Indonesia has a long history of filmmaking but it is now lagging behind neighboring countries like Thailand in obtaining international attention and coverage," she noted.

The loss of television, film and entertainment productions to neighboring countries can be directly attributed to the lack of Indonesian presence at international film festivals and industry events.

In the 1980's Indonesia produced over 125 films a year. Since then, the film industry has grown steadily but Gabinetti believes that it has not yet reached its potential.

"With the rich diversity of locations and ethnic groups throughout the country, we believe Indonesia will come to be considered as one of the most beautiful and well-liked production destinations in the world," she said.

While Bali has often been the subject of international documentaries, a feature film shot in Bali, with top Asian or Hollywood movie stars, "could certainly play an important role in boosting the image of Bali and Indonesia in general," Gabinetti added.

Since its establishment, the film commission has successfully attracted a number of filmmakers to work in Bali.

The Bollywood spectacular Kiss Kiss Ko, directed by Sharad Sharma and starring pop singers Band of Boys was recently filmed in Bali on a $450,000 budget. Kiss Kiss Ko was co-produced by Indonesian production house Multivision Plus and shot almost entirely on Bali, with up to 600 extras.

A Jasper-Drake Production feature film, Walter Spies of Bali, will be filmed in 2005.

The film commission is currently negotiating with John Huncke, CEO of the Cousteau Society over a possible documentary film about Indonesia's coral reefs.

Last November, the commission met with Peter Greenberg, a noted travel writer and NBC Today Show travel correspondent.

Greenberg has made several visits to the country, mostly to Bali. During his most recent trip he interviewed commission staff for a live Los Angeles radio show. The commission has pitched the royal households of Indonesia (Yogyakarta & Surakarta) as possible subjects for his show The Royal Tours.

At present, the film commission is working with British film producer Rooftop Productions on a television documentary series called Rooted. The series looks at children from different ethnic groups living in Britain and explores their cultural roots.

"The company wants to film a Balinese family whose child has grown up in Britain. We are still looking for a Balinese child living in England as a subject for this documentary," she explained.

The commission is also excited about working on a film based on a Joseph Conrad novel with the Asian Consortium and LeBrocquy-Fraser Productions. The feature film, Almayer's Folly, set in 1850's Borneo will apparently offer all the allure of adventure, drama, romance, conflict and suspense.

The film will star award-winning American actor Harvey Keitel (The Piano. Pulp Fiction, Red Dragon) and has been adapted for the big screen by U-Wei Bin Haji Saari. It will also star top Indonesian actors Christine Hakim and El Manik.

"We are so excited about this project since it involves Indonesian stars. Besides, the producer is now searching for Balinese talent to cast as Hakim and Keitel's daughter in the film," she explained.

This week, the commission is working with private Korean television station Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) and LeeKim Productions to produce tele-drama, Occurence in Bali at locations on Bali and in Jakarta. Filming will start on Dec.4 through Dec.14.

In Bali, locations include Kuta Beach, Uluwatu Temple area, Besakih Grand Temple in Karangasem, East Bali and Denpasar.

According to information made available to the Post by the Korean Embassy in Jakarta, the love-story drama will be aired by the SBS from January 2004 to March 2004. In Indonesia, it will be aired on K-TV, a Korean cable TV channel in Jakarta.

The ambassador of the Republic of Korea, Yun Hai-Jung, expects that the film will encourage Korean tourists to visit Indonesia.

According to the film commission, the production of foreign films in Bali has contributed over $500,000 to the local economy in the form of professional crew and cast hire, equipment rental, hotels and restaurants, film processing, location fees, office and stage leasing, entertainment, souvenirs and the like.

This figure does not include the contribution to Indonesia's local commercial, animation and post-production industries. An average film production budget of $3million contributes approximately $450,000 to the local economy