A Kaleidoscope of Stories? Marketing an Indonesian Film Festival in Melbourne

Dr Meghan Downes1

1Monash University Australia, Melbourne, Australia

The Indonesian Film Festival in Melbourne is an annual event run by a committee of young Indonesian student volunteers. The program brings together a highly eclectic mix of different genres, including action, horror, romance, comedy, inspiration, arthouse and indie films. Now in its fifteenth year, the festival has shown remarkable success, especially given the non-professional background of its organising committee, most of whom have no prior experience in either festival management or in the film industry. Yet while audience numbers are high, the organisers are still struggling to attract a wider local audience, beyond the Indonesian diaspora and the Indonesian studies community. Based on three years of ethnographic research with the organising committee, this paper examines some of the challenges the young Indonesian student volunteers face in marketing the festival in Australia. One major hurdle is audience preconceptions, and also local media expectations, about what an Indonesian film ‘should’ be like. I will explore this in detail, analysing the different and sometimes competing perspectives of Australian and Indonesian audiences and marketing teams, as well as overlaps between them. In doing so, I will also discuss broader implications for understanding and analysing contemporary Asia-Australia media flows.


Dr Meghan Downes teaches in the Indonesian Studies program at Monash University. Her research areas include environmental humanities, urban youth, film, literature, and the politics of media and popular culture. She completed her PhD at the Australian National University, has been a postdoctoral research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Asia Research Institute, and is the recipient of two Australian government Endeavour Awards for her research on contemporary Indonesia.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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