The Rise of Indonesian VOD Films and Their Impact on the World

The Rise of Indonesian VOD Films and Their Impact on the World
David Condrey/Pixabay

Few anticipated an immediate success when Netflix announced the exclusive production of seven Indonesian movies and TV shows in September 2022. But by the end of the year, Timo Tjahjanto's The Big Four, the first movie in the series, had surpassed all other movies not in English in terms of popularity.

Dina, a strict investigator, is the subject of Tjahjanto's first action comedy, which has received more than 16 million viewing hours. She finds herself on a distant tropical island searching for clues to her father's unsolved death, battling for her life alongside the same squad of down-and-out secret assassins her father had trained.

The Big Four, which is bloody and features the outrageous action sequences for which Tjahjanto is known, reached the top 10 on Netflix in 53 nations, including Argentina, Mexico, Finland, and Spain. It debuted on December 15 in the United States, a notoriously difficult-to-break market, and on December 20 it was rated fifth.

As the movie gained more and more acclaim in December, Tjahjanto told Variety, "It is amazing to observe how the story can reverberate and span the world." The Night Comes for Us (2018), his previous gritty action picture, was the first Indonesian Netflix Original.

Since 2016, the business has made investments in other Indonesian movies such Wregas Bhanuteja's murder thriller Photocopier and Lucky Kuswandi's coming-of-age drama Ali & Ratu Ratu Queens, which was nearly entirely filmed in New York. The popularity of Indonesian movies has increased due to Netflix's global distribution network.

Expert on Indonesian cinema Dag Yngvesson, a lecturer in Film and TV studies at Nottingham University Malaysia, close to Kuala Lumpur, recalls that popular Indonesian films, which frequently combined action, horror, mysticism, comedy, and melodrama, have been marketed as "cult" movies abroad since the late 1970s.

In the 2010s, the Raid trilogy by Welsh director Gareth Evans, who was then based in Jakarta, played a key role in popularizing the Indonesian martial art pencak silat. The trilogy helped establish "an international reputation for Indonesian films that closely followed action/martial arts conventions, often taking them to new extremes," according to Yngvesson.

He thinks that finance and increased distribution via video on demand have allowed regional filmmakers like Tjahjanto a chance to expand on the name and aesthetic that Evans helped popularize.

Evan's films are more uniformly classified as "action films" than the film laga (action films) of the New Order era, which blended action with various genres and won over admirers all around the world with their orchestrated, visceral, and real combat sequences.

The Big Four, according to Yngvesson, represent a return to a more conventionally blended, "Indonesian" strategy that overseas audiences are starting to understand and like.

Since Seperti Dendam Rindu Harus Dibayar Tuntas (Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash) (2021), the most recent film by Citra Award–winning Jakarta–based director Edwin, won the coveted Golden Leopard at Switzerland's Locarno Film Festival in August 2021, Indonesian cinema has gained much-desired international respect.

Edwin's picture, which is an adaptation of the titular book by Eka Kurniawan, combines kung-fu epics with a road movie and pays respect to the aesthetic and coloring of classic cult films.



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