A Tribute to BJ Habibie


A BJ Habibie might only be born once every 100 years. His kind is rare, not only for Indonesia but also for the world. And it’s a rarity that’s not only a matter of genius, which is already extraordinary.


A viral video after Habibie’s death on September 11, 2019, revealed an aspect of this rarity beyond his genius: he was a sincere and courageous democrat. It was a video recording of a touching encounter between him, who was lying sick, with Xanana Gusmao. The former prime minister of East Timor wanted to invite Habibie to the inauguration of a bridge in Timor that was named the Habibie Bridge. At that time in July 2019, Habibie was in the hospital, thus Gusmao met him on his sick bed, kissed his forehead, and lowered his head into Habibie’s arms.


When Habibie inherited his presidency from Soeharto who stepped down on May 21, 1998, almost everyone considered him as a puppet president. But then Habibie and his team moved quickly. He applied an economic formula adapted from aerodynamics to exchange rate fluctuations, and adopted economic policies according to that formula, succeeding in reducing the rupiah against the US dollar (USD), from almost Rp17,000 per $1 to Rp6,500. In addition, Habibie produced dozens of laws that led Indonesia to the post-Reformation of 1998 with a soaring spirit of citizen liberation.


It was during those times that Habibie released Gusmao from detention. The Soeharto regime detained Gusmao who was viewed as a rebel. Not only freed Gusmao, in 1999 Habibie even approved a referendum for the Timorese people, with the result: more than 78% of Timorese rejected the offer of expanded regional autonomy. They voted for independence. Gusmao was released to Timor, and after 20 years of struggle he returned to his home and became the first prime minister of Timor Leste. Without Habibie, said Gusmao, “I would only be an ice seller in Tebet (South Jakarta).” Anwar Ibrahim, a Malaysian democracy leader, asked Habibie, why he took so many bold steps about human rights in Indonesia. Habibie answered: “It is a matter of conscience, my accountability to Allah.”


Habibie is the face of the theme “Reconcile”. Again and again, he revealed that the realms of rational, democratic, scientific thoughts and ideas can live together with religious beliefs. He is a strong figure: a problem solver in a genius manner, and upright attitude and ethics.


The 2019 Madani Film Festival incorporates a program to commemorate and celebrate the life of this nation’s hero, BJ Habibie. We are going to screen two films, Habibie Ainun and Rudy Habibie, so that this Rare Man could continue to inspire us.


Screening Schedule:




19.00-21.00  Kreasi Movie Corner “Rudy Habibie” (2016) HTM IDR 35.000



Institut Francais d’Indonesie (IFI Thamrin)

15.00-17.00 “Rudy Habibie” (2016) + A Tribute to BJ Habibie

19.00-21.00 “Habibie Ainun” (2012)

List of Films

Hanung Bramantyo   2016| 142 min | Indonesia | Rated PG It is the story…

Faozan Rizal   2012 | 125 min | Indonesia | Rated PG Rudy Habibie, an…