Captivating Indonesian films at 2nd JiFFest
By Joko E.H. Anwar
JAKARTA (JP): The organizers of the second Jakarta International Film Festival (JiFFest), which runs from Nov. 3 to Nov. 12, are living up to their commitment to show local films.
At least 15 Indonesian films and videos will be shown during the festival. They fall into several categories: New Indonesian Cinema; Focus on Garin Nugroho; and Issues on Contemporary Islamic Culture.
Some local features, particularly those made by young artists still in search of style, are worth watching.
Two well-known Indonesian films are scheduled to be screened on Saturday.
Those who have not yet been caught up in the blockbuster phenomenon Petualangan Sherina (Sherina's adventure) have a chance to see it at the festival. It has English subtitles. The film debut of child singer sensation Sherina has made moviegoers across the country willing to wait in long lines to get tickets. The well-made film captures its target audience and amuses adults as well.
It is the second big screen feature from 30-year-old director Riri Reza, and is exactly what the country's film industry needed.
Instead of making a film which is designed to attract the art theater crowd, such as a Garin Nugroho film, Riri and producer Mira Lesmana decided to make a musical with one of the country's most gifted children in the entertainment industry.
The story is secondary to the film, but Sherina's natural acting talent and Elfa Secoria's songs are enough to keep audiences entertained.
Saturday's screening will also show another Indonesian film which was directed by the highly respected, and slightly overrated, director Garin Nugroho, titled Surat Untuk Bidadari (Letter to an Angel).
After gaining critical success with his first feature debut Cinta Dalam Sepotong Roti, Garin made this intoxicating, documentary style piece of fiction, which is probably his best yet.
The film, set in a village in Sumba, tells the story of a 10- year-old boy, Lewa, played by first time-actor Windy Prasetyo Budi Utomo, who must deal with daily problems.
The story is stylishly told. The boy roams around the village with a Polaroid instant camera and takes pictures of everything that captures his attention, including a poster of pop star Madonna plastered on the body of a deserted bus.
The boy, who lost his mother at an early age, becomes obsessed with women's breasts and finds motherly love from a woman named Red Diamond (Nurul Arifin).
Other people in the village include a local named Wild Horse (Adi Kurdi), a cold-blooded hoodlum who is also an Elvis Presley fan and who tries to get into bed with Red Diamond.
While Cinta Dalam Sepotong Roti is filled with poetic but pretentious dialog, Surat Untuk Bidadari is quiet yet striking with its exotic location and stylish direction that will take you to places you have never been before.
The film also contains local rituals, including the slaughter of a horse reminiscent of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now.
Other films by Garin which will be shown during the festival are Bulan Tertusuk Ilalang (And the Moon Dances), Puisi Tak Terkuburkan (Unburied Poetry) and Daun di Atas Bantal (Leaf on a Pillow).
Also scheduled to be shown is Garin's documentary Dongeng Kancil Tentang Kemerdekaan (Kancil's Tale about Freedom). It is actually better than Daun di Atas Bantal, reaping commercial and critical success as the winner of the Best Film Asia Pacific 1998, which was developed from the documentary.
While the latter suffers from a ludicrous plot, the documentary tells the lives of street children in Yogyakarta and is a genuine eye-opener.
The festival will also show two new videos.
The first one is Pachinko ... and Everyone's Happy, which was made by Harry Suharyadi during his nine-month fellowship in Japan. The other is titled Culik (Kidnap), directed by 25-year- old Teddy Soeriaatmadja.
There is not much to recommend about the films judging from their trailers. Director Harry, who also co-starred in the film, dances with his female Japanese co-star, makes love to her, dances some more, and makes love again in the film's overlong trailer.
Culik's trailer is just as tiring. The video tells the story of a botched kidnapping of an expatriate in which the ransom money eventually disappears.
Old Indonesian films scheduled to be shown during the festival, however, are highly respectable, including the atmospheric Titian Serambut Dibelah Tujuh.
The film, directed by veteran Indonesian filmmaker Chairul Umam, who made the clever Kejarlah Daju Kau Kutangkap, tells the story of a small village bound with hypocrisy and other sins. The only sane person, a girl, is declared insane and has her two legs immobilized until a man comes and enlightens the dark village.