6 Usmar Ismail's Films to Watch

Usmar Ismail

Usmar Ismail is imprinted in Indonesian history as well-known writer, journalist and director who has contributed immensely to the development of the country’s film industry.

Commemorating 100 Years of Usmar Ismail which coincided with the Indonesia’s 71st National Film Day, the Ministry of Education and Culture held a virtual event on 19 March 2021 called Retrospective: 100 Years of Usmar Ismail.

On 30 March 1950, for the first time an Indonesian film was made, produced and directed by Indonesians hence marked as the National Film Day. The auspicious day 71 years ago was the first day of the filming of Darah & Doa or Long March of Siliwangi, directed by H. Usmar Ismail.

Born in 1921 and passed in 1971, Usmar was best known internationally for his 1961 film, Pedjuang or Warriors of Freedom which documented Indonesian independence from the Dutch and French. The film was part of the second Moscow International Film Festival.

Usmar Ismail is known as a renaissance whom and whose movies were way ahead of his time. We explore five of his highly acclaimed movies.

1. Darah dan Doa (1950)

This movie was written by Usmar Ismail and Sitor Situmorang. The story follows the journey of the Siliwangi division soldiers from Yogyakarta to West Java after Yogyakarta was attacked and occupied by the Dutch royal troops.

Darah dan Doa

2. Enam Djam di Djogja (1951)

The director adapted real events from the history of the Indonesian revolution in this movie. The story is about the people's efforts in Yogyakarta to prove the legitimate sovereignty of the Indonesian people in the eyes of the international community. This film is set in the Dutch colonial era in 1948.

3. Lewat Djam Malam (1954)

One of Usmar Ismail's historical films, the film centred around Indonesia after declaring its independence from the Dutch. At that time, the army was still trying to control the situation and held a curfew in the city of Bandung.

Djam Malam was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012. The film was also restored under the cooperation of the National Museum of Singapore (NMS), Yayasan Konfiden, Yayasan Sinematek, Jakarta Arts Council kineforum, and WCF (World Cinema Foundation), a foundation owned by director Martin Scorsese.

Lewat Djam Malam

4. Tamu Agung (1955)

There are many of Usmar’s movies that contains criticism and observation of social and current issues and this is one of it. This comedy-packed film tells the story of chaos that occurs in a remote village in a corner of East Java when it is about to prepare for the presence of a character in the village. Reportedly, the story of this film is a sideswipe of the government at that time.

A scene from Tamu Agung

5. Tiga Dara (1956)

A pioneer in its time, apart from its comedic song and dance, this entire movie has a lingering feminist elements. Tiga Dara is about a family's attempt at matchmaking their oldest daughter and the conflicts that follow. Like Djam Malam, this film was also part of the restoration initiative.

6. Pedjuang (1961)

Devoted to the heroes who fought for their homeland's freedom in the 1947 Indonesian war of independence. Around 1947, a platoon led by Lieutenant Amin was tasked with defending a very strategic bridge. The troops shelters a number of refugees, including Irma, a middle-class young woman who is cynical about the freedom fighters. Romance and tragedy follows.


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Shaza Dzulkifly
A Malaysian who now calls Indonesia her home. Shaza's career has taken her across multiple communications channels such as radio, TV, print, digital and social as well as PR and advertising.