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5 Feature Films that Tells Us About Indonesia’s History

Film | 28 August 2020
Still image from the movie Soekarno. Photo courtesy of Netflix/NOW!JAKARTA

Indonesian history is something that has long been overlooked, both by the country's own citizens but also the global community. This should be a surprise for the world's largest archipelago nation, fourth largest population and largest Muslim population! But perhaps, it was simply the way in which the storied past of Indonesia has been told which stifled its wider reception. Like all historic stories, they are best - and most widely - enjoyed through the medium of a movie.

For those who have no time to read the boring history, audiovisual narrative presented in the films can be an alternative way to enjoy historical stories about Indonesia. 

Previously screened in the conventional movie theatre, these feature films, released in different years, can be the platform to extend your horizon of knowledge about Indonesia - especially for the international community who want to get to know more about the annals of this archipelago nation. Best news of all - the five movies below are now all available on Netflix.

Soekarno: Indonesia Merdeka (Indonesia’s Independence)

Directed by Hanung Bramantyo, Soekarno: Indonesia’s Independence is a biographical drama about Indonesia's first president recounts his nationalist crusade to seize independence from Dutch colonial rule, released 11 December 2013. Soekarno is played by renowned actor Ario Bayu and professional acting skills from Indonesian talents including Maudy Koenaedi, Lukman Sardi, Tanta Ginting, and Ferry Salim. The movie is available on Netflix.

Guru Bangsa: Tjokroaminoto

In 1912, Javanese activist Omar Said Tjokroaminoto co-founds the Sarekat Islam party to fight injustices of the Dutch East Indies' colonial regime. Starring Reza Rahadian, Christine Haki, and Didi Petet, the movie adapted the real-life history of important figures, national heroes, to fight for Independence from the perspective of education and faith, it was released in 2015. The movie is available on Netflix.


Kartini is a 2017 Indonesian biographical drama film directed by Hanung Bramantyo and written by Bramantyo and Bagus Bramanti. It features an ensemble cast, with Dian Sastrowardoyo starring in the title role of Indonesian woman emancipation heroine, Kartini. This movie was released on Netflix on 17 September 2020. 


Released in 2005, Gie is a movie inspired by true events and the Indonesian activist Soe Hok Gie who experiences a political awakening during the tumultuous regimes of Suharto and Sukarno. Directed by Riri Riza, Gie is starred by Indonesian prominent actor Nicholas Saputra. The movie is available on Netflix.


This Earth of Mankind

Directed by Hanung Bramantyo, This Earth of Mankind is a movie adapted from a novel written by International bestselling author Pramoedya Ananta Toer. It is the story about a Javanese royal and half-Dutch woman who falls in love as Indonesia rises to independence from colonial rule. The non-fiction story depicts the history between Dutch and Indonesians narrates the fight against the colonial system. The movie is available on Netflix.

Besides the list above, film enthusiasts also can watch other movies including Battle of Surabaya, Soegija, Jenderal Soedirman, and Trilogy of Independence Day on various streaming platforms and video on demand as well as a recent documentary feature titled Islands of Faith (Semesta).