It was just officially announced if Impetigore or Perempuan Tanah Jahanam is the official submission for Indonesian entry in the 93rd Academy Awards, which won’t happen until April 2021 – the longest awarding season in history. Aside from being the film with the most Citra Award nomination in the history of Festival Film Indonesia (FFI), the film is now to compete in the international film feature category for which over 90 countries have submitted their films.
South Korea’s Parasite won the 2020 trophy, Mexico’s Roma won in 2019, and Chile's A Fantastic Woman won in 2018 – will next year belong to Indonesia’s Impetigore?
To answer that question, a film submission has to be shortlisted first before it can be nominated by the members of the Academy of Motion Pictures of Arts and Sciences, or more commonly known as the Academy. Usually, the films shortlisted have previously been screened in the international film festivals. Among hundreds of film festivals, only aq few are considered to be predictors of the preference shared by the Academy members. They are Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Telluride Film Festival, Venice International Film Festival, Canes, and Sundance Film Festival. This year’s double nominee Honeyland – just like Impetigore – was a Sundance’s sensation.
Impetigore is a powerful narrative of women on-screen and off-screen. The protagonist, Maya (Tara Basro), and her friend Dini (Marissa Anita) go to Maya's hometown to seek information about Maya’s true family only to discover that the village is cursed. It also portrays a power structure and how Nyi Misni (Christine Hakim) can never actually lead her vision without the patriarchal figure from her son that she controlled (Ario Bayu).
Off-screen, the film was written and directed by Joko Anwar, the man who, for some reasons, always features pregnant women in all of his movies. It is also co-produced by Shanty Harmayn, the woman behind amazing films, like The Dancer or Sang Penari (2011), which was also Indonesia's 2012 official submission to the Academy Awards. Shanty has pretty much experienced the Oscar race, albeit in almost one decade apart.
Social media and word of mouth did not use to travel as fast as now. But with Ivanhoe Pictures behind Impetigore, it is interesting to see how they will prepare the campaign for another 4-5 months before the shortlist announcement.
This will be the third time Indonesia submits a film that champions women and inclusion after Marlina and the Murderer in Four Acts (2017) and Memories of My Body (2018). While Indonesia has never been considered in the shortlist of the international feature films (let alone be nominated), the curatorial committee has consistently selected the film that has the most chance as seen from several aspects, two of which are the quality of the film and the festival buzz that can affect Oscar voters.
While Mouly’s Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts competed in Cannes, Garin Nugroho’s Memories of My Body was screened in Venice. Impetigore was screened in Sundance, the festival that created a buzz to movies like Call Me by Your Name, so it is safe to say that the Indonesian committee made a strategic move.
Also read: Joko Anwar: For the Love of Movies
Having selected the film, the committee led by Christine Hakim is now no longer in charge of the Oscar campaign strategy which also plays a major part to ensure thousands of academy voters will watch and vote Impetigore to be nominated in the category. The studio behind the film should now come up with a powerful narrative and create the right campaign. Normally, it would have been enough to conduct numerous screening and massive media coverage, the way Marlina did in The Hollywood Reporter. Yet, the trend has shifted during the pandemic.
Case in point: Netflix used to push their art-house films to festivals, but now only rely upon critics’ reviews. Films like Mank and Ma Rainey Black Bottom are usually screened in Toronto, Venice, or Telluride Festivals to gain more recognition before their releases. Yet, having those films accessed from your home and having great reviews are now good enough strategies as most people are at home during the lockdown.
Having Impetigore on Shudder and the fact that it was screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020 are great starts, but if we want to be the center of the conversation, the film needs to be acquired in the bigger and more mainstream platform such as Netflix, with a distinct strategy to promote it.
Marriage Story (2019) had the narrative of being screened in all three fall major festivals that predict Oscar for the best picture. Another example of Netflix’s strategy is getting Yalitza Apparicio and Marina de Tavira to land the acting nominations, despite Roma (2018) being a foreign language film., due to the powerful indigenous representations narrative they pushed out. While the publicist and the producers of the studios behind Impetigore should come-up with a more strategic campaign, it does not mean that we cannot create an organic campaign, like #MarlinaGoesToOscar.
The Oscar race is not just about the quality of a film; it’s also about marketing battle. The Palme d’Or for Parasite may be the strongest marketing factor, but half of the campaign the film created was through words of mouth. A hashtag, like, #ImpetigoreForOscar is the most effective method that we could utilize to seize the momentum. If the film is accessible on Shudder, social media conversation and organic reviews would help to make the critic's circle award to to create the right buzz for the academy.
Our gadget-obsessed generation has the advantage to proliferate this hashtag and create an organic buzz. So, let us campaign for Impetigore and maximize our chance to help our film land a nomination.