What do you call an excuse for filling buildings with people in outrageously elaborate costumes, booths selling whimsical knick-knacks and toys, screens showing dozens of quirky short films, and thousands of cartoon maniacs?
And this year’s local “pop culture festival” on Saturday at Balai Kartini in Jakarta was bigger than ever.
The event caused congestion near the building’s entrance, and in the afternoon visitors had to be forced to use the escalators in batches due to the huge crowds inside the venue. The air conditioning was barely cooling as people jostled their way from one attraction to the other.
According to founder Wahyu Aditya, this year’s Hellofest, termed “HelloFest 8 Anima Expo”, drew at least 20,000 visitors in one day — over twice the expected number.
As many as 304 movies were submitted for the event’s short film competition and over 200 booths selling crafts, toys and vintage collections were installed in the bazaar area.
One thousand and seventy-five cosplayers (costume players) registered for Hellofest’s cosplay contest, Kostumasa.
Wahyu said the event’s scale exceeded his expectations when he first held Hellofest as a small gathering in Tebet, South Jakarta, eight years ago to channel the creativity of aspiring moviemakers.
Tebet is also home to Hellomotion, the moviemaking and animation school he founded in the
“I felt that I needed a new stage to showcase my works; the existing festivals were too serious for me and it revolved around a certain community only, I wanted something that was more fun,” Wahyu said.
A short film competition is still one of the main agendas at Hellofest, although the theme had been broadened to “pop culture” to accommodate various other attractions.
The short films competing this year included animated and non-animated movies with themes ranging from everyday comedy to politics and the environment. Over 20 were chosen as finalists and were screened to visitors during the event.
Several, such as Altitude Alto by Aditya Prabaswara and Sutasoma by Tony Wartono, relied quite heavily on computer graphics and aesthetics while others, such as Kucari Sweat by Viki Dedi Irawan and Life Recorder, focused more on story and emotion.
The Black Journey by Astu Prasidya told the heartrending story of a baby bird still in its shell being swept away by a flood through landscapes of environmental destruction, while Suroboyo Kere Tapi Mbois by Gathotkaca Studios featured simple graphics spiced with witty political jokes in Javanese referring to current issues.
Visitors lined up at least one hour before the doors to the screening room were opened and again had to enter in batches. However, there was still almost an hour of waiting in the room before the screening actually began. The movies were also played on a giant screen on the first floor.
Overall, viewers were entertained by the films, although some eventually left during the final screenings at around 9 p.m. Sounds of laughter, horror and disgusted shouts accompanied certain scenes and most of the films were given loud applause, although several of the featured gags, such as ones featuring lady-boys, might be seen as outdated or cliché.
The winner of Best Favorite Movie was Kids CreaSong by Dita Novianti. Her film featured elementary school children talking about the songs they like.
The discovery that most of the students liked songs actually aimed at the adult market led to them singing a parody of a popular love song with the lyrics altered to be about cleaning the classroom.
“I was inspired by today’s situation [on the lack of songs for children], I tried to make [the movie] creative and not judgmental,” Dita said.
Another most prominent attraction at Hellofest was the cosplay contest.
Laila, a high school student, said she came to Hellofest 8 mainly to see the cosplayers and take pictures with them. “[The cosplayers] are fans [of anime] and they show it. They look cool,” she said.
The cosplayers had their turn to use the theater room as a stage to showcase their costumes before the movie screening began.
But, they also used all the areas available in the building as their stage. Here and there they would pose, reenact scenes in anime, or be asked to pose with visitors for a picture.
Three boys from the Opera Pan Japan cosplay group, for example, were dressed as the less-than-clever villains dressed in tight black suits from the Kamen Rider series. However, they improvised by carrying around what appeared to be a pink portable stereo.
“We are adapting to the recent trend. Apparently young people now like to shuffle, so we are shuffling,” one of the cosplayers who called himself Dida said before the three immediately did a shuffle dance accompanied by the humming of the popular “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO.
According to Dida, cosplaying gives him the freedom to be someone else and be more extroverted, as opposed to his usually shy nature.
“The cosplay hobby is already beyond common sense. For example, someone would spend up to Rp 15 million [US$1,675] for a costume to wear at Hellofest, while the prize [for best cosplay] is only
Rp 1 million. They are not after [the prize], they are after a stage,” Wahyu said.
The participants at the cosplay event hailed from various parts of the archipelago, including Malang, East Java, Kalimantan, and even Timika, Papua, he added.
Hellofest has apparently drawn the government’s attention as part of the growing interest in “creative economy”.
Ukus Kuswara, the director general for cultural value, art and film at the newly formed Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry, said in his speech before the movie screening that Indonesia has great potential in the creative economy and around 75 percent of its consumers could be from the local market.
Despite attendees’ differing interests in the event, most of the visitors agreed that it should be held at a bigger venue next year.
“The last [Hellofest] was definitely not this crowded,” Azis, who was waiting in line for the movie screening, said. While standing in line, a woman near him had to sit down a few times, apparently because she felt faint.
A visitor to the Hellofest 8 website said the organizing team provided different information to cosplay contest participants, causing confusion.
Wahyu said that next Hellofest is likely to be held at the Jakarta Convention Center in Senayan, and will be two days long to accommodate a potentially larger crowd.
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