Promoting Indonesia to the Danes

Lucky for Indonesia, his deep interest in the country has prompted him to organize activities that promote Indonesian culture to the Danish or help Indonesia conserve its cultural artifacts.

The 47-year-old, who had a short musical career in Denmark and works in the film industry, has brought a 28-piece Balinese gamelan ensemble from Singaraja, Bali, to perform in front of 20,000 people, including the Danish royal family, in 2004. In 2008, he started an art conservation workshop in Bali together with art conservator from the National Museum of Denmark, Martin Bernsted.

His interest in Indonesian culture does not end in its traditional art. For 2010 he is preparing a near-month-long Indonesian film festival to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in October.  

Hvas was in Jakarta last week meeting filmmakers and officials from the Culture and Tourism Ministry on the festival. Sitting in a lounge in a Central Jakarta hotel, Hvas talked about the festival and his passion for Indonesian culture.

Hvas, who has repeatedly visited Indonesia since 2003, said he wanted to show the Danish people the modern and contemporary culture of Indonesia through the film festival.

“I’ve been coming to Indonesia for quite a while, and what people know of Indonesia is always Bali, Bali, Bali. There is nothing wrong with that, but then I started to visit Jakarta, and discovered there are many young, talented people within the creative scene such as in music, film and modern visual arts,” he said.

He said many people outside Indonesia know only about the gamelan and the beach. “The younger generation have so much more to give but modern culture is not promoted as much,” he said.

So Hvas said that he thought to make an event “that combined other sides of Indonesia…Where you can experience modern culture, and also show Indonesia as an important country in Southeast Asia,” he said.

He said that films could portray a country and the artists quite well.

Hvas said he first raised the idea in the Indonesian Embassy in Copenhagen three years ago. He said when he met with the Indonesian Ambassador, Abdul Rahman Saleh, after Christmas, Abdul said to him “OK, lets make a plan”.

In Jakarta, he met with directors Joko Anwar, Nia Dinata, and actor Slamet Rahardjo. He said some six to seven films from different genres would be screened at the festival.

The blockbuster Laskar Pelangi (Rainbow Warriors) film, an adaptation of the same novel on the struggle for education of 10 children on rural island Belitung, will be one of the main films featured.

“Of course, you cannot make a film festival without a film from Nia Dinata; either a film that she directed or produced,” he said.

The festival will feature different genres, Hvas said, such as the thriller, horror and comedy. He said that Joko Anwar’s Pintu Terlarang (Forbidden Door) and the comedy, Quickie Express, might be shown at the festival.

Hvas said he wanted the festival to draw as many Danish people as possible. He welcomes the Indonesian and the expat community in Denmark to attend the event. But, his main targets were the Danish.

Like any country, he said there were some people in Denmark who he thought were silly. “They have a way of thinking that everything that’s not Danish is bad, or people of other cultures and ethnic background are there to steal our money, our jobs, our women,” he said with a laugh. “It’s childish and foolish,” he said.

Hvas said the festival would also provide information about places visit in Indonesia. “We want to show people what they can do, give people direction to places,” he said.

For the festival he said that he was working with Danish radio to publish a series on Indonesian films. He also wants to take acclaimed Danish people to watch the movies and make introductions at the festival.

He said the Indonesian Embassy contributed to fund the festival that is predicted to cost US$30,000.
He did not disclose the amount that the embassy had provided for the festival.

“We received a financial support from the embassy. And I just found out that in Indonesia there’s a little more than 12 million registered taxpayers. Not so many. So I feel a responsibility to use the money wisely.

Hvas said that did not even dream to become an event organizer. He tried his hand at being a musician, but did not do well, he said. “I was [a musician] for a very short time. I wasn’t that good.” 

He founded a company called Art Freak, which organizes special concerts. Hvas has also worked in film festivals in Denmark and does script writing for film.

Hvas said that he hoped that by organizing the film festival he could inspire others. “If we do this well, it might be inspiration for people to take this project to other places,” he said.


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