Indonesian feature Lovely Man [pictured], directed by Teddy Soeriaatmadja, has been voted the most popular film overall by audiences at the 6th Balinale International Film Festival.

The film is about a devout Muslim girl who leaves her village to travel to Jakarta to try and find her estranged father, only to learn that he is a transvestite prostitute. Earlier this year Donny Damara was honoured as best actor at the Asian Film Awards for his performance as the father.

Director James Bradley’s Ochre and Ink, a half-hour portrait of Chinese-born Australian artist Zhou Xiaoping and his close working relationship with indigenous Australian artists, was the most popular documentary and Juan Pablo Zaramella’s Luminaris, from Argentina, was the most popular short.

The festival opened on Monday with the world premiere of Salman Aristo’s Jakarta Haiti at a brand new cinema in the crowded heart of the tourist district of Kuta. It officially closed on Friday with Lovely Man, but has also been showing children’s films all weekend.

The programme is a mix of local and international films and festival director Deborah Gabinetti hopes the numbers of local submissions will keep growing. Submissions came from 32 countries in all.

The festival is run by a not-for-profit foundation that also provides half a dozen free workshops for filmmakers throughout the year. Gabinetti said her usual business, the Bali Film Centre, a private locations office that facilitates filmmaking throughout Indonesia, heavily subsidises the event.

“When Christine and I started the festival we wanted to attract international filmmakers who would consider Indonesia as a setting for their films, whether that be because of the locations, the story ideas or the talent,” said Gabinetti, referring to her festival co-founder producer and actress Christine Hakim.

“We wanted them to show their films and understand what a potentially big market is here, and also enable them to see Indonesian films.”

She said Eat Pray Love was the first significant feature to use locations in Bali in contemporary times. Rob Cohen’s Alex Cross, which had its world premiere two days before the opening of this year’s Balinale and 12 hours before it was released in the US, also did some filming in Bali last year.

The other films that have been part or wholly filmed in Indonesia are, according to Gabinetti, the IMAX films Under The Sea 3D and Born To Be Wild in 2009 and 2010, and Oliver Stone’s Savages, which used the country for scenes set in Indonesia and also in Africa.

“We also wanted to show films at the festival that people living in Bali don’t normally get to see; films that were meaningful, thought provoking and challenging,” said Gabinetti.

To someone accustomed to attending film festivals, audience numbers were low. Said Gabinetti: “It is nothing to do with the programme. As someone who has lived in Bali for 18 years I know that many people never venture over to Kuta.”

But she only has a choice of two cinemas on the whole island: this year’s venue and the festival’s old venue which is more accessible but of a much lesser standard and without the benefits of surrounding restaurants and meeting places. In the first year screenings were held in restaurants, cafes and a hotel.

The festival’s three biggest sponsors this year were the W Retreat & Spa in Seminyak, Audi cars and the airline Garuda Indonesia, which all gave support in kind, plus the US Embassy, a cash donor.

“We don’t get (direct) funding from the government, however, through the Ministry of Industry, the state enterprise Garuda and Citilink, it provided a number of tickets that allowed us to bring in many local filmmakers.”

She intends to keep developing the festival at a steady pace.