Riri Riza was born in Makassar in 1970. He graduated from the Jakarta Institute of Art (IKJ) film department in 1993, and later undertook his MA in screenwriting on a prestigious Chevening Awards scholarship from the government of the United Kingdom.
In 1994, Riza's short film Merry Go Round (1994) won a bronze award in the children's category of The International Short Film Festival of Oberhausen in Germany. It has also been screened at numerous film festivals in Asia, Europe, and the United States. In 1995, Riza was involved in creating the independent cult film Kuldesak. This three-year-project was released at the end of 1998 and made the official selection at many international film festivals including in Rotterdam, Deauville, Singapore, and the Philippines.
Riri's first full length feature film was a musical titled Petualangan Sherina ("Sherina's Adventure"), released in 2000. A box office hit in Indonesia, this film was also a starting point for the re-awakening of the Indonesian film industry.
In 2002, Riri wrote and directed Eliana, Eliana as part of a sidestream film movement called ‘I Sinema'. Eliana, Eliana won The Young Cinema and The NETPAC/Fipresci Award at the 15th Singapore International Film Festival, and received Special Mention at the 2002 Vancouver International Film Festival. The film has been screened at prestigious international film festivals in Pusan, IFP Los Angeles, and in London. It also won an award for Best Actress in the Deauville Asian Film Festival.
GIE, written and directed by Riri in 1995, won Best Picture at the Indonesian Film Festival. GIE was Indonesia's official entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 78th Academy Awards in 2006.
Most recently, in October 2005, Riri released his 4th feature film titled Untuk Rena ("Dear Rena").