Online film library leverages ReelOzInd! festival to push the study of Indonesian language and culture

Three women and one man with balloons and smiling for the camera

The ReelOzInd! Australia Indonesia Short Film Competition and Festival has brought joy to fans of cinema and now it is poised to contribute to the study of Indonesian language and culture as well.


Since 2016 the festival has brought the two nations closer together through the medium of cinema.

The festival has been running successfully since its inception under the Australia-Indonesia Centre (AIC) including through the global pandemic and associated lockdowns.

Now a curated selection of films from the festival has been archived in an online ‘library’ that will support the study of Indonesian language and culture in Australian classrooms. The films can be combined with existing learning resources.

The library, which went ‘live’ in late October last year, neatly classifies the short films into genre, theme and age group appropriateness with notes added as study guides.

ROI founding director Jemma Purdey said the library idea dated back to the festival’s earliest days.

“When we designed ReelOzInd!, one of the things that we were mindful of was the hope of one day using the films for educational purposes,” Dr Purdey said.

“A few years into the festival, we thought the time was right to create such a resource.

“Teachers have asked us ‘can I get a copy of that’ and talked about the need for more resources to keep their lessons dynamic and interesting for students.”

Recognising the significance of the library as a learning tool, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through the Australia-Indonesia Institute awarded a grant of $20,000 in 2021 towards the project.

The library offering also fits some of the objectives within the curricula of various Australian states, for example in Victoria where the government seeks to emphasise Australia’s position in Asia as a pillar of its curriculum.

View the ROI library

Deryn Mansell is a teacher of Indonesian at a primary school in regional Victoria and has helped shortlist films for ROI.

Ms Mansell said the library filled an important niche.

“Because the films are all relatively short, you can get a lot of useful learning material out of each short film,” she said.

“Whereas if you show a feature length film to your students, they can be great but you are using several lessons, so with this you get a lot more ‘bang for your buck’.”

The library also provides an insight into contemporary Indonesian culture.

“The [ROI library] shows contemporary Indonesia and the films are in many cases made by young Indonesians so they really work to show kids here in Australia what it is like in Indonesia and what Indonesians care about which serves for some interesting discussions,” Ms Mansell said.

Additional benefits of the films are that many are set in Indonesian schools, making them relatable, they are bilingual and the production quality is high.

“I used a ten-minute text for a whole term of work with my grade fives and sixes and we had the kids rearrange the plot, prepare some posters and then decide upon the next scene in the film.

“So one film can be a unit of work or you can have a couple of different films.”

A child's drawing of fish and sea creatures with writing in Indonesian language
Art prepared by school children after viewing an ROI! film.

The view of film makers

Indonesian filmmaker Andra Febrianto directed the 2022 short animation Splish Splash, an insight into the Bajo, Lamalera, and Ternate maritime communities.

Andra said the library could add depth to people’s understanding of Indonesia.

“We are honoured to be featured in the ROI Library. One of our goals is to introduce Indonesian culture to the world, which has more than 18,000 islands with its own traditions,” he said.

“We believe that the plethora of knowledge available in the ROI Library is beneficial for everyone to explore the diversity of the world.”

Australian filmmaker Tim Barretto has directed two films for ROI, Posko Palu and Mukhtar’s Story. Both are in the ROI library.

Mr Barretto, who has spent time in Indonesia, said he was “privileged” to have their film included “in this wonderful resource”.

“This will offer educators another tool for a more personal understanding of Indonesian culture and history,” he said.

“Making a film like this provides students a window into another culture and can encourage and perpetuate the sharing of more stories.”

Feature image, Jemma Purdey (second from right). Image: AIC


Digital Communications Coordinator,
the Australia-Indonesia Centre

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