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Teguh Karya: a film auteur working within a collective

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posted on 01.03.2017, 23:58 by Soehadi, Gaston
This thesis examines the thirteen feature films written and directed by Teguh Karya, one of the most popular and innovative Indonesian film directors working during the 1970s and 1980s. Teguh helped rebuild and refine the local Indonesian film industry through his collaborations with his theatre collective, Teater Populer, where he trained young people in aspects of filmmaking such as acting and cinematography. This educational collective developed and provided opportunities for talents such as Slamet Rahardjo and Christine Hakim, who themselves became significant figures in the local film industry. In order to examine Teguh Karya’s films, the thesis uses authorship approaches that place the film director as an artist and his films as his personal reflections. It combines auteur-structuralism, which seeks to uncover the underlying structure of a film, and a pragmatic authorship approach that looks at the relationship between the filmmaker (Teguh Karya) and the local film industry. This combination of approaches is important since Teguh worked closely with his theatre collective, Teater Populer, within the commercial film industry. Applying these approaches to Teguh’s films, the thesis argues that his films are better explored in terms of their variety, change and development, and their interest in engaging with different issues of his society and its history. Teguh’s films developed in a number of phases, responding to pressures from the film industry and his own growing ability to resist these pressures when determining the kinds of films that he wanted to make. An examination of his films using a combination of authorship approaches in each phase reveals that Teguh Karya was extremely knowledgeable on the nature of filmmaking, both personally and as part of industrial-collaborative labour. This eventually led to the creation of films that signified he was an auteur. The first phase in Teguh’s filmmaking, during which he made his first film with his theatre collective, shows his transition from theatre to filmmaking. His first film was commercially unsuccessful, and this failure made Teguh aware that he needed to demonstrate his capability and flexibility and work within a highly commercial Indonesian film industry. The second phase reflects the period when Teguh made films based on successful commercial formulas. The third phase is the mature period in his filmmaking career. In this phase, Teguh made historical and mature realist films focused on social topics such as the experience and problems faced by the lower class and people living in poverty. The thesis makes a significant contribution to a growing field of knowledge on Indonesian cinema for it is the first authorship study of Teguh Karya’s films, providing insight into his development as a filmmaker from the beginning of his career to the end. The thesis provides a comprehensive study of the work of this unique and important filmmaker and explores his struggles to make films with limited resources while working within a rapidly changing film environment in Indonesia.


Principal supervisor

Olivia Khoo

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Media, Film and Journalism


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts

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