Not so long ago, the only Indonesians you could see kissing in the movies were teens in the back row of the theater. Now it's all up there on the screen. When a determined gay client locks lips with his architect in the recent film Arisan!, a satirical exploration of Jakarta's nouveaux riches, audiences can't get enough. "Very little is taboo anymore," says Titi Kamal, an up-and-coming actress who appeared in the biggest hit of last year, Eiffel ... I'm in Love, a teen romance set in Jakarta and Paris. Since its November release Eiffel has drawn more than 2.2 million viewers eager to see teen idols dealing with sexuality, peer pressure and other coming-of-age themeslittle of which were allowed in the world's most populous Muslim nation's film industry until the fall of prudish President Suharto in 1998.
More lenient censorship has helped spark a Renaissance in local filmmaking: last year, 22 movies were released, more than double the number in 2002 and three times more than in 2001. 30 Days to Look for Love portrays three girls who bet they can get a boyfriend within a month. It isn't just romances that have fans queuing up. Tusuk Jelangkung (The Undead), a Sixth Sense-style psychological thriller, drew an estimated 1.4 million moviegoers, triple the turnout for a typical Hollywood offering. "Finally we're seeing films that Indonesians can relate to," says Aida Nurmala, who plays a wife confronting infidelity in Arisan!. That means excitement for hot-blooded filmgoers in all rows of the movie house.