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The publicity machine you could never afford

I wrote this for all the reasons of freedom of expression, my belief in cinematic liberty, my fondness for independent film, and all that sort of thing, and my motives are genuine. That I get to post some lovely pics of Miyabi is a bonus.

By the way, Miss Ozawa, if you do come to Jakarta, may I be among the first to ask for an interview?

Miyabi, the country needs you!
Patrick Guntensperger

I have – to reverse a metaphor — a soft spot for Miyabi. For those who have been living in a cave, or have been preoccupied with matters of actual significance, Miyabi is the affectionate appellation of Japanese pornographic actress, Maria Ozawa.

First of all, being half French Canadian, we have some link, however tenuous. That genetic mixture also apparently contributes to her profoundly photogenic Eurasian looks. Secondly, as legend has it, she chose to go into the Japanese adult video (AV) business, because, as a teenager, she found the films exciting and not the least distasteful; she wanted to participate. When she was old enough, she auditioned and, with her profound enthusiasm, universally exotic face, and unquestionably alluring physical attributes she was a natural for the erotic film industry.

She claims at first to have been aroused during her initial performances, but, being a well brought up Japanese girl, so shy that she tended to keep her eyes closed when in close physical contact with her acting partners; a habit of which her directors quickly cured her.

When she first brought home copies of her earliest efforts to show her parents, they were, to understate the situation somewhat, taken aback. But her obvious enthusiasm, talent, and growing celebrity within a very competitive profession soon had the rather liberal mixed couple approving and supporting her career. And that career is, thanks largely to Indonesian Muslim hardliners, becoming world class.

Only 25 years old and having risen to the top of the very popular Japanese AV business in a few short years, she achieved a sufficiently large international following that Indonesian producer, Ody Mulya Hidayat decided to make a non-pornographic comedy called Menculik Miyabi, which is apparently to be a film about a fan so obsessed with the actress that he kidnaps her. The film, according to the producer will not have scenes in which Miyabi performs any erotic acts, and is intended to be a comedy, perhaps a crossover film, through which Myabi, the pornstar, will become Maria Ozawa, the mainstream screen star.

Although from some perspectives, that would be a genuine tragedy, it does raise some interesting points here in Indonesia where our self appointed watchdogs of morality have chosen to weigh in on this teacup tempest with protests and implied death threats.

Leaving aside the obvious question of just how hardline defenders of Islamic morality became so expertly familiar with Miyabi’s work, it is worth noting that they have chosen not just to demand that it be banned here (erotic representation already is illegal under a half-dozen legal statutes), but that the 25 year old young woman herself not be allowed to enter this and sully the soil of this profoundly moral country.

Can Indonesia survive this threat?

While the country is reeling from the effects of yet another natural disaster, this one a Sumatran earthquake that took countless lives and for which some religious groups, NGOs, and government and international agencies are raising funds, volunteers, and material goods to help the living victims and find those who have not yet been found, the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) was engaged in more important activities. In front of film producer Maxima Productions’ production house in Mangga Dua they were busy staging a demonstration.

Dozens of men, claiming to be of FPI, after Friday prayer, clad in their imitation of middle east burnooses and head coverings, raised posters and shouted demands that their personal wishes be granted; going so far as to suggest that should they not get their way, lives would be lost. Their posters read “TOLAK MIYABI” (“Reject Miyabi”, something they could do simply by not watching her films), and were accompanied by hysterical shouting.

The leader of West Jakata’s FPI was even quoted as saying, “If she comes here, we are ready to die fighting to cancel her visit!” Avoiding the temptation to retort that he may just have voiced the best possible argument for her visit to be soon, high profile, and extended, media watchers have to ask whether the FPI has a vested interest in Miyabi’s career.

Hits on Miyabi’s Facebook fan page have multiplied exponentially since the furor erupted. Downloads of extracts of her videos and sales of her disks have enriched her, her production company, and are well on the way to making Miyabi, or Maria Ozawa, a household name. Should this film be made, and made here in Indonesia, it may well be the best thing that has happened to the beleaguered Indonesian film industry in some time.

The government of this democracy has just finished enshrining in law what is almost certain to be the kiss of death to any viable cinema industry in the country, requiring as it does, more layers of bureaucracy, official script approval, and licences and governmental sanction of directors. A minor controversy and some public objection erupted when the law was passed, but, as usual, the squabble disappeared as other news broke.

Both the producers and any believers in freedom of expression ought to raise their eyes in silent thanks to the sexually-obsessed hardliners at the FPI for their efforts to save Indonesia’s film industry from the government and hardliners. The controversy, if it grows, will throw real light on our movie business, and perhaps cause the legislators to rethink their decision to throw all the attendant revenues to our more open and forward thinking neighbours.

If the FPI continues to protest, and escalates its efforts, even to the point that one or more of them dies fighting this silly little battle, the film will be nevertheless be made, but it will be made elsewhere and will have more advance publicity than any low to medium budget production could dream of purchasing. One way or another, the FPI is guaranteeing that Menculik Miyabi will not only be made, but will have a leg up (not a sexual metaphor) at the box office when it opens.

And the best part? All the stalwart guardians of our morality, including the FPI, will have an opportunity to scrutinise the final product in an effort to judge its acceptability. Just as they have done to her previous body of work to decide that Miyabi herself is insufficiently moral a person to set foot in their, sorry, our country.


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