Public Discussion is one of the program series from ARKIPEL Grand Illusion – 3rd Jakarta International Documentary & Experimental Film Festival, 2015. The discussion that took place in the auditorium of the Jakarta Institute of Arts (IKJ) was to talk about the historical events of 1965 in the context of media, in which how the role of the media (cinema) in seeing the 1965 coup, before and after. This discussion was held at 16:00 pm, with two keynote speakers, namely Budi Irawanto and Hilmar Farid.

The public discussion was moderated by Hafiz Rancajale, the Artistic Director of ARKIPEL. About Hafiz, he is an artist, curator and founder of the Forum Lenteng and ruangrupa Jakarta. Completed the fine arts studies at the Jakarta Arts Institute (IKJ) in 1994, he also the editor in chief of, and once became the Artistic Director of OK Video – Jakarta International Video Festival (2003-2011). Currently, Hafiz also served as the Chairman of the Visual Arts Committee, Jakarta Arts Council.

A little introduction from Hafiz Rancajale to opened the discussion, was brought up about a part of Indonesian history, the era of the New Order, which used the media as a key to build public’s perspective on what is communism, how the tragedy of 1965 happened, also as a tool to reach the imperialism goals of the New Order government. Several government programs had been created as an effort to build this perspective, one of them through the phenomenal film titled Treachery of G30S/PKI (Penumpasan Pengkhianatan G30S/PKI) by Arifin C. Noer.

The discussion continued with the presentation from Budi Irawanto, who also serves as the Director of Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival (JAFF). Budi earned his doctorate from the Department of Southeast Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. He is often appointed as a jury in various film festivals, one of which is ChopShots Southeast Asian Documentary Film Festival (2014). His writings have been published in Asian Cinema and anthology of Asian Documentary Today (2012). In ARKIPEL Grand Illusion, Budi is one of the main curators.

In his presentation, Budi tried to explain some main ideas regarding to 1965 history in cinema. In the reformation era, he said, there were many films produced related to violence that occurred in 1965. Quoting Ariel Heryanto (2015), Budi explained that there are three categories of 1965 coup filmmaker. The first category, they are known as political prisoners and their closest circles. The second category is the activists from various non-governmental organizations who have special attention to human rights. The third category is people who treat film as a form of artistic expression rather than raising political issues. Budi took documentary films about the victims of 1965 violence as his main topic. Documentary films often claim to be closest to the truth, but according to Budi, such understanding should be reviewed. Documentary film is just an effort to reconstruct the past using the rules of cinematography while there are many other creative ways to highlight the massacre that occurred in 1965. Or, it could be looking for other possibilities to uncover violence in 1965 through an intimate approach with a more personal viewpoint, without referring directly to the big political discourse.

Then, the discussion followed by Hilmar Farid’s session, a historian. Farid is also an activist and teacher. He finished his undergraduate degree at Department of History of the University of Indonesia in 1993. In 2002 he founded and led the Indonesian Institute of Social History to 2007. Fai, his nickname, has been sitting as the chairman of the Praxis Association since 2012, works in the Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives (ARENA) and in Inter – Asia Cultural Studies Society as an editor.

In his presentation, Farid regretted that why the major event that affects the lives of many (1965 coup-ed) received less attention, both at the level of government or non-government. Of course it is nothing to do with authoritarianism under the New Order, where all the things were fully controlled by the government. In his presentation Farid explained, “There is a mechanism that has an important role and more subtle to silence the truth of this event, one of them is through the G30S PKI propaganda film, which is an effective and massive propaganda machine that has touched the whole level of society.” The problem is much more complex when the propaganda machine that gave birth to a lie told in narrative form has become part of life in society. As a result, the boundary between fiction and reality has become blurred. The way to solve this problem, it is only by revealing the truth, but it is not easy to do. According to Farid, power is something that exists, not to be challenged, but rather to be dismantled. “All of this time, we get caught up in the New Order’s narration, it’s time we move forward to produce a truth (the production of truth),” said Farid.

Farid appreciated ARKIPEL Grand Illusion for hosting the discussion with such interesting and insightful talks. “Creative work has a power that cannot be reached by other forces. Perhaps, because creative work has another language, the language of art,” he said. Farid hoped that someday Forum Lenteng will able to do “the production of truth” to reveal the matters of fact.

After the two speakers gave their presentations, the audience was given the opportunity to ask questions or just to share their views to the speakers. There were five questions in the discussion, one of them was from Kemal (National Multimedia University). “Why is the government so seriously addressing this history issue (the tragedy of 1965) and also why there is just one perspective available?” asked Kemal.

Farid tried to explain a brief chronology of how the New Order government building a narration to became the absolute truth in society. In November (after the coup on September), was formed a team whose task was to write a history of the events that had just occurred and resulted in a book in December. “That is the shortest history book production ever, which is just three months after the incident,” said Farid. By compiling a coherent narration without any foundation, and disseminated such narration to be factual with effective results, was the giant work done by the government. A government’s version of the 30th September movement film arose when the New Order began to prosper. The government addressed this issue seriously because the basis of New Order legitimization is the claim of the past and this has been realized by the government from the first day of the event.

Although time had signaled that discussion must come to an end, a number of participants tried to get a chance to ask by raising their hand. The discussion was attended by 50 people ended at 18:00 pm.