Tuesday 15 May 2018

Vale Pierre Rissient - Scholar David Hanan recalls Pierre's support for Indonesian cinema

Pierre Rissient, Paris, 2010 (Ph: David Hanan)
Pierre Rissient is well known for his work in bringing the films of Lino Brocka to world attention. What is less well known is his other work in South East Asia, particularly his work in Indonesia.  
It was Pierre who brought to Cannes the sophisticated Indonesian historical epic, Tjoet Nja Dhien(1988), about anti-colonial resistance to Dutch colonialism in Aceh in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The film starred Christine Hakim as Tjoet Nja’ Dhien (1848-1908), the leader of a guerilla band in the mountains and forests of Aceh, after her husband had been assassinated by the Dutch in 1899. The film was written and directed by Eros Djarot, brother of director (and actor) Slamet Rahardjo, Eros being, initially, a musician, and later a leading anti-Suharto-regime journalist and politician. Tjoet Nja’ Dhienwas the first Indonesian film ever to be invited to the Cannes Film Festival.

Eros Djarot
In fact, it was through Christine Hakim that I first met Pierre. In January 1985 Pierre was in Jakarta to preview a large number of recent Indonesian films (and some earlier classics), and he was being hosted by Christine. However, Christine also had a lead role in Sjuman Djaya’s film Kerikil-Kerikil Tajam(‘Sharp Gravel’) and her shooting schedule, as it emerged, now clashed with Pierre’s visit. Christine—whom I had met a year or so earlier in the course of my research—asked me if I would ‘look after’ Pierre and take him to previews that she had organized. In the evenings we would all dine together, usually with Eros Djarot, and the conversations were very lively and full of interesting information. 
Christine Hakim
Pierre had also introduced Christine and Eros to Bertrand Tavernier, so the Indonesians now had good contacts (and friendships) in Paris, which have continued until today. 

In my case, as so often occurred with Pierre, this encounter with him in Jakarta in 1985 led to a life-long association. After Pierre became a consultant for the AFC, if he came to Melbourne he would contact me, and we would have a meal, usually with Tait Brady and others from the Melbourne Int’l Film Festival, and he would question me about developments in the Indonesian Film World. On one occasion I met him at the Singapore Int’l Film Festival. 

I last saw Pierre in December 2010, in Paris, where I was curating an Indonesian film weekend. I had a meeting with him at a cafe near his apartment, not far from the Canal Saint-Martin. A few days later I met up with him at the Cinémathèque Française, and he and I dined, together with an American film critic friend of his, at a Tibetan Restaurant. Even over the last year, Pierre continued his association with the Indonesians, according to reports helping to promote Christine’s latest feature film, The Mortician, about death rites in the Toraja region of Central Sulawesi. In my case, although I last saw Pierre in 2010, we communicated by email on occasions, and in November 2014 I found myself invited at short notice to fly to Jakarta from my home in Bali to participate in a television documentary on Indonesian cinema being made by Hubert Niogret, a friend of Pierre, eventually screened under the title Indonesian Cinema: Between Censorship and Hope. Apparently Pierre had told Hubert to be sure he involved me in the project. Indeed, I found on its completion that parts of my interview had been used to provide the main outline of the history of Indonesian cinema for Hubert’s documentary. 

The zealous, gregarious and convivial Pierre Rissient never missed an opportunity to promote something he believed in, and the full story of his activities has yet to be told. 

Pierre Rissient, Paris 2010 (Ph: David Hanan)

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