Publicness and the public in contemporary Indonesian documentary film cultures

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis investigates the academically neglected topic of documentary film culture in Indonesia since the political change of 1998. It asks: what kind of documentary film cultures have been established since the 1998 political change? As the infrastructure and channels for documentary film distribution have been barely exist, how do they circulate among their public and what type of institutional arrangements involved to make documentary films able to get circulated in Indonesia? Furthermore this asks: how this documentary culture is related to publicness and the discussion of the public in Indonesia? 
This thesis approaches publicness through the tension between local and global settings, and the aesthetic and the institutional. Grounding the discussion on the transition from authoritarian regime into a more open political situation that occurred since 1998 in Indonesia, the thesis examines constrain and support for documentary films to reach their publics and getting the subject matter contributing into the discussion about the public. 
Using close observation, semi-structured interviews and archival holdings, three key documentary organisations in Indonesia have been examined: In-Docs, Festival Film Dokumenter Yogyakarta, and Watchdoc Documentary Maker. 
In-Docs has been the pioneer of documentary film culture in post 1998 Indonesia. The thesis finds that their establishment of a network linking the film community to civil society organisations also establishes the idea of publicness as an alternative to government narratives. Festival Film Dokumenter Yogyakarta is the first and the biggest documentary film festival in Indonesia. Taking place in Yogyakarta, 450 kilometers from the capital city, the thesis argues the festival demonstrates the tension and interplay between local, national and global publicness in Indonesian documentary film culture. In Watchdoc, a private documentary film production house, the thesis finds that the organisation posits documentary film as part of social movements to generate further discussion on public policy and instigates an idea of social justice as part of the public debate.
Date of Award1 Dec 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorChris Berry (Supervisor)

Cite this