A look at the films of the 2014 Indonesian Film Festival in Australia.

The 9th Indonesian Film Festival (IFF) is upon us, with the Melbourne event starting today and Sydney starting tomorrow… and the team from Hello Asia! showcases the nine films showing at the festival.

Opening Night Film – Something In The Way

Director Teddy Soeriaatmadja follows up the award-winning Lovely Man (IFF 2013) with this story of a young, porn-addicted taxi driver whose obsessive sexual desires conflict shockingly with the sexual piety instructed at his local mosque. Ahmad’s time is divided between attending Koran classes by day, driving passengers across the city by night, and masturbating furiously to porn. His solitary existence is interrupted when he falls in love with Kinar, a prostitute who happens to be his neighbour. Inspired by the teachings at his local mosque, Ahmad wants nothing more than to save Kinar and himself from this tainted life. This film successfully depicts the conflict about sex and moral pressure on religion.

Comic 8

Comic 8 gives a humorous spin on Tarantino stylistics and bank siege films like Dog Day Afternoon. In this fresh and farcical action-­comedy from director Anggy Umbara (Mama Cake, IFF 2012), eight youths all happen to rob a bank at the same time. Played by eight Indonesian stand-­up comedians who each bring their own unique character to the story, the eight youths each have their own reasons and motives for wanting to rob the bank. Besieged by police, including a super pretty Police Inspector, the eight would – be robbers must work together in order to find the best solution for them all. Full of lethal weapons and screwball situations, this film will make you laugh so hard that your stomach hurts.

The Jungle School

The Jungle School (Sokola Rimba) is based on a story from Butet Manurung’s memoirs of the same name. The memoirs recount one year in which the author lived as an anthropologist, educator, and activist with the Orang Rimba (People of the Forest) – the nomadic, indigenous tribes living in the rainforests of Jambi in central Sumatra. Director Riri Riza (Laskar Pelangi, IFF 2009; 3 Hari Untuk Selamanya, IFF 2007), features native Indonesian tribes as actors, which adds authenticity. In Sokola Rimba, Butet (Prisia Nasution) is an activist working at a conservation organisation in Jambi, teaching literacy and basic math to the children of a community of Orang Rimba in the upstream area of the Makekal River. After being saved by a boy from a community living in the downstream area, Butet wants to expand her jungle school. However, her desires must contend with opposition from many sides.

What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Love

What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Love is a sweetly humorous exploration of love through the eyes of blind girls. At a high school for the visually impaired in Jakarta, the students are just like any other teenagers: they attend classes, pursue artistic endeavours, and fall in love. Fitri, blind since birth, falls in love with a ghost doctor; Diana, who is myopic, patiently awaits the signs of womanhood; and Maya, also blind since birth, aspires to be an actress and performer. In this playful coming-¬of-¬age love story, writer-director Mouly Surya (Fiksi, IFF 2008) evokes the sensory experience of her protagonists through deliberate silences, sparse dialogue, and a dependence on other elements of cinematic language in order to convey emotion and meaning. What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Love is the first Indonesian film to play at the Sundance Film Festival.

99 Lights In Europe’s Sky

99 Lights In Europe’s Sky (99 Cahaya di Langit Eropa) explores the contemporary and historical situation of Islam in Europe through a narrative drama. An adaption of the best-selling novel by Hanum Salsabila Rais and Rangga Almahendra, this film tells the true story of Hanum and her husband Rangga, who decided to journey across Europe whilst Rangga was undertaking graduate studies in Austria. The film, which is set in four European cities – Vienna (Austria), Paris (France), Cordoba (Spain) and Istanbul (Turkey) – follows the path the couple took as they visited Islamic sites and retraced the centuries-old history of Islam in Europe.

Sagarmatha (Mount Everest)

Sagarmatha is described by debut director Emil Heradi as an “adventure for the soul”. Shila and Kirana, best friends since university, embark on a journey to fulfil their promise and dream to climb the tallest mountain in the world – Sagarmatha (Mount Everest). The two young women combine their passions for writing and photography in order to make a scrapbook that will document their journey to the summit. Along the way, they find the answers to the questions about life and death, maturity, love and hope. But as they approach the foot of the mountain and are faced with injury, their friendship is put to the test. Can their friendship overcome Sagarmatha?

Street Society

Street Society is fast and furious on the streets of Jakarta. Cocky, charismatic, womanizing Rio is the reigning champion of Indonesia’s illegal street racing scene. Rio and his misfit petrolhead friends race against super car owners in exotic locations across the country. Rio’s archenemy, Nico – the heir to a Surabaya crime syndicate and also the city’s number one racer – keeps pushing Rio for a rematch after an embarrassing loss. Rio’s priorities shift, however after meeting Karina – a newcomer DJ who plays at one of Rio’s regular hangouts. After a race ends with a near-fatal incident that shocks Karina, Rio decides to give up street racing. That is, until nervy racer Yopie enters the scene and forces Rio to take to the wheel one last time, in order to save Karina.

9 Summers, 10 Autumns

9 Summers, 10 Autumns screening as our educational program aimed at students of Indonesian, is a story about Iwan, the son of a poor minibus driver in East Java, who reaches his goals against the odds. The movie is based on Iwan Setyawan’s 2011 autobiographical novel of the same title. The film emphasises the importance of family and education, and gives insight into the issue of poverty in Indonesia. The focus alternates between present day New York, where the adult Iwan lives and works, and the Java of Iwan’s youth. As Iwan reflects on the struggles he faces to reach the pinnacle of his career, he must make an important decision and ask himself “Which is the more important? Career or family?

Closing Night Film – 2014

2014 wraps the often complex and tumultuous politics of Indonesia in a thrilling dramatic narrative. Ricky Bagaskoro is a high school student faced with a dilemma: should he fulfill his dream of becoming a teacher, or follow in the footsteps of his father Bagas Notolegowo, politician and a candidate in the 2014 Indonesian Presidential Election? Both their worlds are turned upside down when Bagas is accused of murder. In order to prove his father’s innocence, Ricky starts an investigation and receives help from Indonesia’s top lawyer Khrisna Dorotajun. Along with Krishna’s daughter Laras, Ricky works hard to unravel the conspiracy against his father, sometimes putting himself in danger.

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The Indonesian Film Festival is screening in Melbourne and Sydney from this week. More details can be seen here IFF 2014 Details

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