Usmar Ismail: Pioneer of Indonesian Cinema

OV Digital Desk

Image Courtesy: Google Doodle

Usmar Ismail (20 March 1921 – 2 January 1971) was an Indonesian film director, author, journalist and revolutionary of Minangkabau descent. He was widely regarded as the native Indonesian pioneer of the cinema of Indonesia.

Life and Career

Ismail was born on 20 March 1921 in Serang, Banten, Indonesia. He began his career as a journalist, working for various newspapers and magazines in Jakarta. In the late 1940s, he became interested in film and started to work as a scriptwriter for several production companies.

In 1950, Ismail founded his own production company, Perfini (Persari Film Negara), which went on to produce some of the most important and influential films in the history of Indonesian cinema. Ismail himself directed several films for Perfini, including “Tiga Dara” (1956), which is considered a classic of Indonesian cinema.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Ismail was a major force in the Indonesian film industry, producing and directing films that reflected the social and political concerns of the time. His films dealt with issues such as poverty, corruption, and the struggle for independence, and were often characterized by their realism and social commentary.

In addition to his work in film, Ismail was also a prominent cultural figure in Indonesia, serving as a member of the Indonesian Arts Council and the National Film Committee. He was an advocate for the development of a national film industry in Indonesia and played a key role in promoting Indonesian cinema both at home and abroad.

Ismail died on 2 January 1971 in Jakarta, at the age of 49. His contributions to Indonesian cinema are still celebrated today, and he is remembered as one of the most important and influential figures in the history of Indonesian film.

Award and Legacy

Usmar Ismail’s legacy in Indonesian cinema has been profound and long-lasting. Here are some of the major awards and honors he has received, as well as his lasting legacy:

  • Ismail’s film “Tiga Dara” (1956) was awarded the Citra Award for Best Film at the inaugural Indonesian Film Festival in 1955. The film has since become a classic of Indonesian cinema and is widely regarded as one of the greatest films in the country’s history.
  • In 1963, Ismail was awarded the Bintang Mahaputera medal, one of Indonesia’s highest civilian honors, for his contributions to the arts.
  • The Usmar Ismail Hall, a cinema and cultural center in Jakarta, was named in honor of Ismail’s contributions to Indonesian film and culture. The center hosts film screenings, festivals, and other cultural events.
  • Ismail’s films have inspired generations of Indonesian filmmakers and artists, and have had a profound impact on the development of Indonesian cinema. His commitment to social realism and social commentary has helped to shape the direction of Indonesian film, and his legacy continues to be felt in contemporary Indonesian cinema.
  • Ismail’s advocacy for the development of a national film industry in Indonesia helped to create a thriving and vibrant film culture in the country, and his influence can be seen in the work of many of Indonesia’s most prominent filmmakers today.
  • Ismail’s commitment to social justice and his use of film as a tool for social change have inspired generations of activists and artists in Indonesia and beyond. His legacy continues to be felt in the work of those who seek to use film and other forms of art to bring about positive social and political change.

Usmar Ismail became one of four individuals awarded by President Joko Widodo as a National Hero of Indonesia in Indonesia’s Heroes Day of 2021. On 20 March 2018, Google celebrated Usmar Ismail’s 97th Birthday with a doodle.