In Indonesia and Thailand Watching Films is a Social Event

Text: Aino Penttilä, Päivi Suihkonen 
Photo: Aino Penttilä 
Translation: Anna Keränen

Riva Sandiajaya and Porntip Chaibamrung
Riva Sandiajaya and Porntip Chaibamrung who live in Tampere look back to their cinema memories.


A film screen is spread out of doors, and the whole neighbourhood comes together to watch films. A small boy finds an excellent viewpoint and climbs onto the roof of his friend's house. All of a sudden the film is stopped and the following announcement is made: a mother is looking for her son.

Riva Sandiajaya tells enthusiastically about her film experience from the childhood, near Jakarta in Indonesia. Watching films was a social event, and people did surely not hesitate to interrupt the film because of missing relatives or friends. 

Also Porntip Chaibamrung has experience of these open air shows. Every now and then the medicine companies organised free shows for the villagers in the countryside. The tickets were free, but during intervals one had to buy some herbs.

Nowadays Sandiajaya and Chaibamrung watch films mainly in the numerous halls of the cinema Plevna in Tampere. They both have lived in Finland for over two years now. They are colleagues in an international work community in a company that offers mobile services.

A recently seen film, Lost in Translation, makes both of them laugh heartily. In the film, the American main characters meet very extraordinary Japanese people in Tokio. Sandiajaya and Chaibamrung thought the Japanese were quite funny. 

Robin Hood With Rats

In Thailand as well as in Indonesia, the cinemas are popular places for dating. However, the quality standard of the theaters varies to a great extent. Sandiajaya remembers one Robin Hood -film that was interrupted by someone being starled at a rat scuttling on the floor of the hall.

There are theaters also for more exacting cinemagoers. The comedy films are specially popular in Indonesia, and they please also Sandiajaya. In Indonesia and in Thailand, the American films are preferred, although there is also some national film production in both countries.

The Asians, who have got used to a strict censorship, are attracted by liberal films. "Sexuality has traditionally been a taboo in Thailand. However, recently the films have became more daring due to westernizing", Chaibamrung says. One issue is a taboo after all: one is not allowed to judge the royal family.

For this reason, an American film called Anna and the King was banned a few years ago. The film dealt with the royal house of Thailand in the mid 19th century. Sandiajaya and Chaibamrung have became familiar with the Tampere Film Festival. This year they are particularly interested in Thai films.

Sandiajaya and Chaibamrung do not know many Finnish films, but they have watched the popular Finnish TV-series Salatut elämät. One can easily follow soap opera without knowing the language. In Thailand, drama is a very common form of art and the soap operas are particularly popular.

"A poor country needs Cinderella stories", Chaibamrung explains.