Ratna Asmara, also known as Suratna (1913–1968), is believed to be the first female credited as a film director in Indonesian cinema. After beginning her career as an actor in Dardanella performance art she debuted as a director in SEDAP MALAM (1951). Asmara also established Asmara Film and Ratna Film company. In 2022, Kelas Liarsip—a collective concentrating on film archiving, restoration and the history of women in Indonesian cinema—decided to digitize her third film, DR. SAMSI. Kelas Liarsip is built on the tradition of autonomous classrooms and self-driven learning environments present in the Indonesian archipelagos since the early twentieth century. The collective consists of Efi Sri Handayani, Julita Pratiwi, Lisabona Rahman, Umi Lestari, Imelda Mandala, and Siti Anisah, each with their own unique relation to film preservation, and archival and curatorial practices.
The film DR. SAMSI follows the Indonesian play of the same name, a tale of tragedy and deception, and of loving desperation as a surrogate son tries to— unknowingly—exonerate his mother from a murder charge.
Further information is available online on YouTube: a presentation by Lisabona Rahman and Umi Lestari in the framework of the lecture series “This is Film! Film Heritage in Practice” in Amsterdam, as well as the video series “Merangkai Ratna Asmara” (Devising Ratna Asmara) – a brief chronicle of Kelas Liarsip's collective work (OV with En subtitles): episode 1 “Ratna’s Life Traces”, episode 2 “The Crisis in Archiving Ratna Asmara’s Films”, episode 3 “The Process and Challenges of Digitising DR. SAMSI”, episode 4 “The Ethics of Archive and Caring for Ratna’s Films” and episode 5 ”Ratna’s Heritage for Indonesian Cinema”.