Thursday, July 16, 2009


I am not much of a Riri Riza fan. Apart from his sugary sweet Petualang Sherina, his other movies were of not much significance - even his semi-epic Gie. So when I saw that his latest movie Laskar Pelangi overtook Ayat Ayat Cinta as the Indon box office king, I just had to see if Riri has become a director of note.

Based on a novel by Andrea Hirata, Laskar Pelangi is considered a major novel in Indonesia - as major if not bigger than Ayat-ayat Cinta. However, its intricacies and nonchalant approach to storytelling, makes the book-to-film effort a tricky one. Therefore, the screenplay must be just right and following that the assured touch of the movie's director.
Now, directing children for a movie is not easy task by any means, even if the children acting are professionals. In this movie, the main cast are played by children who had no acting experience at all. So, you can just imagine the uphill task Riri had to make sure each and every cog in this movie work smoothly. According to the DVD's special features, Mira Lesmana, the producer, said that they actually auditioned over 3000 children to cast the movie's ten students of the rumah pondok school in the island of Belitung.
This movie had everything going against them. A cast of amateurs in the lead roles, a director who is still trying to find his touch, a location that is as alien to Indons as it is to the rest of the world and an accent that sounds strange even to Indonesians.
The fact that the moviemakers decide to remain true to the novel and set it in Belitung (an island off Sumatra) and use the local accent or rather dialect is commendable. Malaysians who watch this movie, may find the language easy to understand as the Belitung accent is very much a Riau-based accent akin to our very own Melayu.
Now, having said that, I truly have to tip my hat to Riri for I think this movie is easily his best work to date. His eye for detail and his handling of the narrative flow, immersed in beautiful imagery and cinematography, makes this movie a modern classic.
A movie triumphs when at its end, you don't want it to end. Not many movies achieve that. And even with Laskar Pelangir running at 125 minutes you still want it to go on and on, and follow the trials and tribulations of ten school kids and their wonderful teacher Ibu Musalmah, a character beautifully sculpted by Cut Mini.
However, the movie's success also belongs to the two main young actors playing the role of Ikal and Lintang. Ikal (played by Zulfanny) and Lintang (played by Ferdian) were marvellous. Though at the beginning of the movie, they may have seemed a little overwhelmed with their responsibilities, by second quarter of the movie, their performance allows the audience to embrace their every thought and their every dream.
Laskar Pelangi is a wonderful movie about the importance of education - without being preachy. It manages to become universal in its message allowing us to accept the movie not as an Indonesian movie, but simply as a movie with heart.
I wholly recommend parents, teachers, students and yes, even our cabinet ministers, to watch this movie. I am sure, it will move them. Move what, I am not sure, but if anyone of them understands the importance of a child's need for access to education and knowledge, they will more than appreciate this movie.
Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for another movie called Krazy Crazy Krezy directed by on Rako Prijanto and co-produced by Sharad Sharan of 99 Pictures with Nusantara Films.
The movie was previously titled Teman Untuk Selamanya but somehow the producers decided to change it to KCK.
The unusual suspects - L to R - Pierre Andre, Vincent, Sissy, Julia, Sigi and Tora.
The interesting thing about this movie is that it was inspired by P. Ramlee's movie Seniman Bujang Lapok. Three young guys, all down and out, wanting to make their mark in the world.
The movie stars Tora Sudiro, Vincent and Malaysia's Pierre Andre. Their love interest are played by Sissy Priscilla, Sigi Wimala and Julia Ziegler.
It goes without saying that the movie is a comedy, and it does have it moments. However, I'm sad to say that the movie could have been made much better without the presence of the Malaysian cast. Both Pierre and Julia were totally miscast in a role they are totally uncomfortable with.

In one of the many reviews (like the one in the reviewer completely left out mention of the existence of the two Malaysians. In another review, the critic gave this quote; "Salahkan telinga saya yang tidak akrab dengan bahasa Melayu, dialog Pierre Andre dan Julia Ziegler -yang sering kelepasan pake bahasa Melayu- banyak yang tidak saya mengerti. Apalagi kedua aktor ini juga seringnya berbicara dalam tempo cepat."
It is sad, that these two are the showcase of Malaysian talent in Indonesian cinema. They had a golden opportunity to promote themselves, and through their craft other Malaysian actors too, but unfortunately, they didn't do that. What they did was no favor to their peers back home.
What to do lah.


yasmin said...

i haven't seen laskar pelangi, but i've heard so many good things about it. i did like riri's past work though, especially elianna, elianna.

by the way, is laskar pelangi as good as zhang yimou's "not one less", another film about rural education?

anwardi said...

Hi Min,
Same but different in a way. Yimou is good at bringing out the best in non-professional actors including kids in Not One Less but somehow Laskar Pelangi is more personal for us Malays I guess...also enjoyed the cameos of Yayang, Slamet, Alex komang and Tora sudiro in LP...but as pure cinema, Yimou's Not One Less is still waaaay up there...