Indonesian Culture Minister Nadiem Makarim Launches $13 Million Annual Film Grant, Reveals BiFan, Udine Agreements (EXCLUSIVE)

Nadiem Makarim, Indonesia’s minister of education, culture, research and technology, is set to launch an annual $13 million film grant at the Cannes Film Festival.

This is the first government-funded film grant from Indonesia. It is sourced from the country’s National Cultural Endowment Fund. The 1:1 matching grant scheme from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology is designed to promote international cooperations between filmmakers and is open for international co-production projects with Indonesia and for story development and research, production, post-production or internal promotion and distribution incentives.

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“We expect this endowment fund to keep hopefully doubling every year, so we’ve allocated around close to $13 million. The interest from that [endowment fund] on an annual basis is about $13 million. So we plan to exponentially increase this over time. And it’s basically designed for grants in the cultural space,” Makarim told Variety.

“And within this amount, we have decided to focus really on creating co-production, opportunities for Indonesian filmmakers, script writers and production teams. We have this hypothesis that if we can encourage co-production with international teams, it will exponentially accelerate the skill building aspect of the film industry in Indonesia. And that’s really what we need,” Makarim added. “Right now we are laser focused on increasing competencies and capabilities and exposure to world class cinema for our Indonesian filmmakers and producers and script writers. That’s really the goal. And why we decided to launch this matching fund was to really let the world know that Indonesia is now open to these productions, and the government is proactively accelerating that with a matching fund. That’s really the the rationale behind it.”

There is no cap on the grant and the amounts will be decided on a case-to-case basis, Makarim said. Indonesia is currently in the process of improving all of the regulatory and incentive structures for the grant, together with other ministries, like the Ministry of Tourism, as a matter of priority.

“We do realize that there have been challenges in the past, but we are working to improve that. We want to be, we should theoretically be the destination in Southeast Asia for film productions, because we have probably the largest variety of locations and sets,” Makarim said.

Makarim, an MBA from Harvard, is a technocrat. Prior to joining the Indonesian government, he founded Gojek, the on-demand multi-service platform and digital payment technology group currently valued at some $10 billion.

Indonesia has an education endowment fund of $8 billion and a chunk of this is used to provide scholarships for degree and non degree programs in the film space around the world, and also to enhance the film education infrastructure locally.

“We’re really focusing on the human resource and skill building part. This we believe that’s the crux. This is part of our cultural diplomacy campaign. We are one of the most culturally rich, diverse countries in the world and yet so few people in the world know about us. We would really like to export some of our culture and we think film is one of the fastest and best ways of achieving that,” Makarim said.

At Cannes, South Korea’s Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BiFan) is signing a memorandum of understanding with Jakarta Film Week designed to support the participation of Indonesian filmmakers in BiFan’s Asian Talent Exchange program. In addition, the Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy, is signing an agreement with Indonesian producers’ association APROFI to support selected Indonesian projects in the Focus Asia project market.

Indonesian films now routinely win awards at A-list festivals, including at Venice, Locarno and Busan and the minister is ensuring that these films get both domestic and international distribution. Makarim said that he is personally talking to the culture ministers of several countries to develop treaties and agreements on how to increase the number of co-funding projects and to secure and facilitate distribution rights globally.

“Part of me coming to Cannes is actually to announce to the world that we are now open for business and we are ready to really internationalize our film industry,” Makarim said.

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