Usmar Ismail

Last updated

Usmar Ismail
Usmar Ismail, Peran Pemuda dalam Kebangkitan Film Indonesia, p177.jpg
Ismail, c. 1955
Born20 March 1921
Died2 January 1971(1971-01-02) (aged 49)
Jakarta, Indonesia [1]
Nationality Indonesian
Occupation(s) Director, film producer, writer
Years active1950–1970

Usmar Ismail (20 March 1921 – 2 January 1971) was an Indonesian film director, author, journalist and revolutionary of Minangkabau descent. He is widely regarded as the native Indonesian pioneer of the cinema of Indonesia.



Ismail was born in 1921 in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra. His father, Datuk Tumenggung Ismail, taught at the medical school in Padang. His brother Abu Hanifah was also a well-known revolutionary and writer. Ismail attended ASM-A Yogyakarta and later obtained a B.A. in cinematography from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1952.

Ismail initially served in the army during the Dutch colonial rule. He served in the Indonesian army in Yogyakarta. During this time, he was a co-founder of a newspaper called Rakyat, meaning "people" or "populace" in Bahasa Indonesia. He worked as the head of the Indonesian Journalists Association in 1946 and 1947. In 1948, he was arrested while working at national news agency Antara for covering Dutch-Indonesian negotiations.

After his release, Ismail's interest in filmmaking developed more seriously. He became active in a number of film and theater groups, including the Yogyakarta Union of Playwrights, the Indonesian National Academy of Theater, and the National Film Industry Conference Body (Indonesian: Badan Musyawarah Perfilman Nasional). He is well-known as one of the founders of Indonesian National Film Corporation, together with Djamaluddin Malik and others involved in the film industry.

Ismail was also active in politics. He served as the chief of the Indonesian Association of Muslim Artists (Indonesian: Lembaga Seniman Muslimin Indonesia, or Lesbumi). He was also involved with Nahdatul Ulama and served in the People's Consultative Assembly from 1966 to 1969.

Following his dream of becoming a film director, he established "Perfini Studios", Indonesia's first film studios, in the early fifties. One of his early films, Darah dan Doa (English: Blood and Prayer), is considered the first truly Indonesian film.

Many of Ismail's films faced criticism from the government and censorship. His 1962 film Anak Perawan di Sarang Penyamun (English: The Virgen in the Robber's Nest) was boycotted by the Communist Party of Indonesia (Indonesian: Partai Komunis Indonesia, or PKI), as the film was judged take a position too supportive of Malaysia. It remained blacklisted by the New Order government after the 1965-66 Communist purges due to one of the leading actor's links to the PKI.

He was perhaps best known internationally for his 1961 film Fighters for Freedom , which documented Indonesian independence from the Dutch and French. The film was entered into the 2nd Moscow International Film Festival, [2] making it the first Indonesian-directed film to appear in an international film festival.

A concert hall known as the Usmar Ismail Hall, which gives musical, opera and theatrical performances, was established in his name in Jakarta. [3]

He died on 2 January 1971 of a stroke in Jakarta. [4] He is buried in TPU Karet Bivak in Jakarta.


On 20 March 2018, Google celebrated his 97th birthday with a Google Doodle. [5]

Usmar Ismail became one of four individuals awarded by President Joko Widodo as a National Hero of Indonesia in Indonesia's Heroes Day of 2021. [6]


Usmar Ismail on a 1997 stamp Usmar Ismail 1997 Indonesia stamp.jpg
Usmar Ismail on a 1997 stamp

Related Research Articles

<i>Embun</i> 1952 Indonesian film

Embun is a 1952 film directed by D. Djajakusuma for Perfini in his directorial debut.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Misbach Yusa Biran</span> Indonesian film director

Misbach Yusa Biran was an Indonesian writer, director and columnist who pioneered the Indonesian film archives.

<i>Lewat Djam Malam</i> 1954 Indonesian film

Lewat Djam Malam is a 1954 Indonesian film directed and produced by Usmar Ismail and written by Asrul Sani. Widely regarded as a classic of Indonesian cinema, the film follows an ex-soldier in his vigilante actions against corruption.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">D. Djajakusuma</span> Indonesian film director and promoter of traditional art forms (1918–1987)

Djadoeg Djajakusuma was an Indonesian film director and promoter of traditional art forms. Born to a nobleman and his wife in Temanggung, Central Java, Djajakusuma became interested in the arts at a young age, choosing to pursue a career in theatre. During the Japanese occupation from 1943 to 1945 he was a translator and actor, and in the four-year national revolution which followed he worked for the military's educational division, several news agencies, and in drama.

Tjitra is a 1949 Indonesian film directed by Usmar Ismail for the Dutch-owned production house South Pacific. Starring Raden Sukarno, Nila Djuwita, and Raden Ismail, it follows a man named Harsono who takes a woman's virginity then flees to the city, where he is caught up in a murder case. Ismail's directorial debut, Tjitra was made while its director was still a member of the Indonesian Army. He later disavowed the film, as he felt he had had too little creative input.

<i>Janur Kuning</i> 1980 film by Alam Surawidjaja

Janur Kuning is a 1980 Indonesian war film directed by Alam Surawidjaja and produced by Abbas Wiranatakusuma. Starring Kaharuddin Syah, Deddy Sutomo, and Dicky Zulkarnaen, it follows the Indonesian revolutionaries six-hour assault on Yogyakarta, under Suharto, in a show of force against the Dutch army. At the time the most expensive domestic production ever, the film's title is meant to symbolise the Indonesian people's struggle. A critical success, Janur Kuning received a nomination and two special awards at the 1980 Indonesian Film Festival. It was screened annually on 1 March between 1980 and 1998, but has since been criticised as an attempt to manipulate history and create a cult with President Suharto in the centre.

<i>Darah dan Doa</i> 1950 Indonesian war film by Usmar Ismail

Darah dan Doa is a 1950 Indonesian war film directed and produced by Usmar Ismail, telling the story of the Siliwangi Division and its leader Captain Sudarto on a march to West Java. Following Ismail's Dutch-produced Tjitra (1949), Darah dan Doa is often cited as the first 'Indonesian' film, and the film's first day of shooting – 30 March – is celebrated in Indonesia as National Film Day.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Max Tera</span>

Max Tera was an Indonesian cinematographer and editor. He was employed by PERFINI in the 1950s and was a frequent collaborator with director Usmar Ismail.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Perfini</span> Indonesian film production company

Perfini was an Indonesian film production company, based in Jakarta. It was most productive in Indonesian cinema in the 1950s. Its most notable directors were Usmar Ismail, who directed its first film Darah dan Doa (1950), and D. Djajakusuma. By 1966 it reportedly had its own studio, a "20-by-30-meter building large enough for construction of a couple of modest sets".

<i>Enam Djam di Jogja</i> 1951 Indonesian film

Enam Djam di Jogja is a 1951 Indonesian film directed by Usmar Ismail. It was the second film to be produced under the PERFINI banner. Detailing the show of force in which the Indonesian republican army retook the capital at Yogyakarta for six hours, the film utilised much of the cast and crew from Ismail's previous work Darah dan Doa (1950). The film was a success in Indonesia and continued to be screened on the state television channel into the 1980s, even after two further films about the event were released.

<i>Anak Perawan di Sarang Penjamun</i> 1962 film

Anak Perawan di Sarang Penjamun is a 1962 Indonesian film directed and produced by Usmar Ismail for PERFINI. Starring Bambang Hermanto and Nurbani Yusuf, it follows a young woman who is kidnapped by a group of bandits, only to fall in love with their leader. The film, adapted from the 1940 novel of the same name by Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana, was repeatedly blacklisted by the Indonesian government and only saw release several years after production ended.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nani Widjaja</span> Indonesian actress (1944–2023)

Nani Widjaja was an Indonesian actress and model who won two Citra Awards for Best Supporting Actress. She was best known for her role in television Bajaj Bajuri. She was the part of Classical Indonesian Cinema.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chitra Dewi</span> Indonesian actress and director (1930–2008)

Rara Patma Dewi Tjitrohadiseikusumo, best known under her stage name Chitra Dewi, was an Indonesian actress and director. She was noted for her roles in Usmar Ismail's films of the 1950s, appearing in films such as Tamu Agung, Tiga Dara, and Pedjuang, although she remained active in cinema until 1993 and won a Citra Award for Best Supporting Actress at the 1979 Indonesian Film Festival for Gara-gara Isteri Muda. Dewi also had a brief stint film directing in 1971, making her one of only six Indonesian women to direct a film before 1998.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Basuki Resobowo</span> Indonesian painter (1916–1999)

Basoeki Resobowo was an Indonesian painter. Born to a transmigrant father in Sumatra, from a young age he showed interest in the visual arts but was taught to be a teacher. After a short time at a Taman Siswa school in Batavia, he studied design and worked as a surveyor while producing sketches and book covers. He only acted in a single film, Kedok Ketawa, but remained close to the acting community, first as a set designer during the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies then for Perfini in the early 1950s.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Boes Boestami</span> Indonesian journalist and film actor

Boes Boestami was an Indonesian journalist and film actor. He was mostly known for his comedic roles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rendra Karno</span> Indonesian actor

Raden Soekarno, better known as Rendra Karno, was an Indonesian actor. Born in Kutoarjo, Central Java, Soekarno entered the film industry in 1941, making his debut appearance in Union Films' Soeara Berbisa. Over the next forty years he appeared in more than fifty films. He was also involved in the theatre during the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies and the Indonesian National Revolution. For his role in 1962's Bajangan di Waktu Fadjar, he was named best supporting actor at the 1963 Asian Film Festival in Tokyo.

<i>Tiga Dara</i> 1956 film by Usmar Ismail

Tiga Dara is a 1957 Indonesian musical drama film starring Chitra Dewi, Mieke Wijaya, and Indriati Iskak. Directed by Usmar Ismail for Perfini, the film follows three sisters who live with their father and grandmother. When the eldest sister, Nunung, shows no interest in marrying, her family tries unsuccessfully to find a husband for her. Nunung initially rejects the advances of a young man named Toto, who instead dates her younger sister. However, when he becomes jealous and travels from Jakarta to Bandung to profess his love, she agrees to marry him.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nurbani Yusuf</span> Indonesian lawyer, actress, model, and politician (1939–2015)

Nurbani Yusuf Kusumanagara was an Indonesian actress and model, lawyer and politician. She debuted in the Indonesian film industry in 1958 in Asrama Dara and reached popularity with Usmar Ismail's film Anak Perawan di Sarang Penjamun(The Virgin in the Robbers' Nest).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Delma Juzar</span> Indonesian actor, soldier and lawyer (1928–1988)

Delma Juzar, also known as Del Yuzar, was an Indonesian actor and soldier turned lawyer. Juzar made his film debut in Darah dan Doa (1950) and starred in several films before going to the Faculty of Law at Universitas Indonesia in 1951.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aedy Moward</span> Indonesian actor and custome employees (1929–1980)

Edy Muwardi Abdul Aziz bin Abbid, better known by the stage name Aedy Moward, was an Indonesian actor and customs employee. He was known for being typecast as a father and unfaithful husband.


  1. "Usmar Ismail", IMDb
  2. "2nd Moscow International Film Festival (1961)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 9 November 2012.
  3. The First Integrated Cinema & Concert Hall. Usmar Ismail Hall. Retrieved on 24 August 2014.
  4. "Usmar Ismail Becomes a National Hero Who Struggled Without Bloodshed".
  5. "Usmar Ismail's 97th Birthday". Google. 20 March 2018.
  6. "Jokowi posthumously names four national heroes".