Between Huyung and Nawi Ismail: Montage

Imagine you are a detective. You are looking for evidence of a case with minimal information. Suddenly you find simple but significant evidence. Well … the experience of playing a detective, I always do when doing research. I look data holistically, from what can be touch to gossip surround us. Sometimes I was actually driven away by findings that could be present arbitrarily. For example, when I surrendered with Nawi Ismail, I reunited with the work of Huyung, Frieda (1950). From this encounter, the scheme of the aesthetic journey of Nawi Ismail was immediately directed. I feel like finding an enthusiasm to keep digging and searching.

Frieda’s archives and films were presented by Kultursinema in the ARKIPEL festival 2017. Incidentally, I was unable to attend. But now, Fortuna is on my side! Works from Huyung brought to Yogyakarta. Kultursinema exhibition is held on April 3 – 7 2017 at Kedai Kebun Forum. The exhibition that has an aim to seek possibility of expanded cinema is not only showing Huyung films, but also showing film archives from colonial period to the documentation of GANEFO 1963. Posters, magazine reviews, photos of film production, even essays on films juxtaposed with moving images. From the exhibition frame, as an audience we will get a plot of how the culture of movie-going is present in Indonesia.


Frieda’s story revolves around the romance of a woman of Dutch descent and spying work. Frieda and Abidin, an Indonesian, separated for many years. They met again in a new country, when Indonesia became independent. The message is clear. Nationalism can be formed from the voluntary nature of individuals to merge to make Indonesia as their identity. It is shown by Frieda, the spy with the Kemuning 100 code. Frieda choose not to be trapped in a past, when Dutch colonialism was glorious. In the end, Frieda decided to live in Indonesia, not wanting to be in between of heaven and earth.

Frieda’s content is actually quite relevant in seeing art maps on Java today. The settings are Jakarta, Bandung, and Yogyakarta. In addition, we are certainly familiar with the contents of FTV (film produced to be screened only in television), which always presupposes the cities of Bandung and Yogyakarta as a place to refresh, looking for temporary tranquility from the bustle of the city of Jakarta. But Frieda did not show that recreational side. The departure of the characters to Yogyakarta and Bandung is to answer their own inner turmoil. Abidin’s wife, who initially doubted her husband’s activism, once she went to Yogyakarta to join the women’s army directly to help supply food for warfare. While Frieda went to Bandung to experience what it feels like to stand on two legs. She must be a spy because of blood ties. On the other hand, she was intrigued by the voluntary nature of Abidin and Robijn in maintaining independence in their own ways. A trip out of town is intended to make the sense of nationalism in each character is getting stronger.

Before making a film, Dr. Huyung or Hinatsu Eitaro came to Indonesia on duty at Nippon Eiga Sha, Japan’s propaganda institution. Huyung joined Javanese Eiga Kosha, editing film footage of the situation in Indonesia during 1942-1945. After independence Huyung joined the BFI (Berita Film Indonesia or Indonesian News Film) following Soekarno’s hijrah to Yogyakarta. Meanwhile in photography, Indonesia had IPPHOS. We can imagine that BFI and IPPHOS are like a collective that works for the purpose of love, maintaining independence during the revolution. These two groups finally disbanded after Indonesian independence recognized by the international community.

While in Yogyakarta, Huyung made Stiching Hiburan Mataram. Huyung and BFI settled while in refugee camps on Jalan Sembiring No. 5, Yogyakarta. BFI’s frontman, Dr. Huyung not only recorded, but he also established study groups on the principle that drama and film production must be done seriously, even during the war era. The instructors are Dr. Huyung, Andjar Asmara, and Gayus Siagian. The alumni include: D Djajakusuma, Suryo Sumanto, Soemardjono, and Usmar Ismail. If the history of Indonesian films was written by putting aside ethnic identity, Huyung would certainly be an important figure in Indonesian Cinema.


What unites Huyung and Nawi? Montage! In a short biography signed by Nawi Ismail in 1973, it was written that he was working at Nippon Eiga Sha as an assistant editor and script boy. Nawi worked with Huyung! Even if we look for more detailed archives, we can state that Nawi was Huyung’s accomplice. Nawi learned montage directly from Huyung, long before Usmar Ismail the father of Indonesia Film got a short course on filmmaking at Stiching Hiburan Mataram.

Then what is montage? This is the technique of arranging pictures into a sequence. These images can finally express something to the audience. The easiest example is this. The first picture is you, the second picture is your friend, and the third picture is mixed rice. When the three pictures are arranged in sequence, the audience will get the perception that you and your friend are eating mixed rice. The term ‘montage’ was introduced by Sergei Eisenstein, a Russian filmmaker and theorist. Now we can find a variety of montages to popular media such as electronic cinema.

I always state that Nawi is an independent learner. He learned to make films by self-taught. During Dutch colonialism, he studied film environment while working as an assistant and extras in Java Industrial Film and Standard Film during Dutch colonialism. During this time, Nawi gained knowledge about the ecosystem of the film and met people from the performing arts. But when working together with Huyung, Nawi turned out to develop his ability to compile images. Nawi is a director who is quite unique. He is different from Usmar Ismail or Asrul Sani, the director who came from literary and performance scene. Nawi came from film scene, learnt filmmaking directly from Huyung, an alumni of film school.


I don’t know why you say Goodbye, I say Hello…

So actually I have given up. I suppressed my curiosity over the works of Nawi Ismail. I want to move on, change the research subject! But when I saw that the name Nawi Ismail was written in the credit title in Frieda, I am excited. My story and Nawi are like Frieda and Abidin!

Anyway … as I alluded to in the previous articles, Nawi Ismail comedy is measurable. He can make us laugh even if only from the picture. Nawi comedy is different from Nya Abbas Akup, which emphasizes on the intellectual jokes. Nawi comedy is different from Anggy Umbara, which is quite wordy with the scene. Nawi comedy is different from Ernest Prakasa, which is only able to laugh at the lower classes in the film’s story. Nawi could create measurable and systematic comedy because he learnt from Huyung. From Frieda, we can see that the film is quite different from the film of its time. So … Hey … please don’t mess with people who finished montage theory. Once montage is combined with a comedy culture from traditional performing arts, laughs will kill you!

I feel that Nawi and Huyung have similarities in the interweaving speed of the image. Even though the genre is different, the transfer of images is equally smooth, the count is just right. We can compare the measured montage of Nawi and Huyung’s style through the following scene: 1) when Pengki opened the door and fell into a bucket in Benjamin Biang Kerok; 2) A series of pictures when Beni gets bad luck when throwing boots at Benyamin Tukang Ngibul; with a scene in Frieda when the main character was wrong, guessing the knock on the door for him even though it was for the Robijn.

Read another article about Nawi Ismail in: Six Benjamin Films that You Must Watch, Gaze and Comedy in Film Nawi,

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