The Dreamer Sang pemimpi
Period coming-of-age drama
2009, colour, 1.85:1, 121 mins
Directed by Riri Riza
By Derek Elley
Sun, 16 May 2010, 09:32 AM (HKT)
Heartwarming tale of small-town teenagers trying to realise their dreams is polished entertainment. Prospects at festivals and ancillary outlets that played the previous film in the saga, The Rainbow Troops.
Belitung island, off the southeast coast of Sumatra, 1985. Three poor childhood friends - quiet Ikal (Vikri Septiawan), his orphaned cousin Arai (Rendy Ahmad) and stuttering fellow-orphan Jimbron (Azwir Fitrianto) - are now teenagers and studying at a pesantren (Islamic boarding school). The charismatic but unreliable Arai instills them all with the need to pursue their dream, and one day to study in Paris. Ikal wants his distant but loving father (Mathias Muchus) to be proud of him; Arai is determined to win the heart of snooty schoolgirl Zakia Nurmala (Maudy Ayunda); and Jimbron tries to be a devout Muslim. From the perspective of 1999, the adult Ikal (Lukman Sardi) recalls their ups and downs, especially with the school's strict head Mustar (Landung Simatupang) and sympathetic teacher Julian Balia (Nugie).
Following the huge box-office success of The Rainbow Troops Laskar Pelangi (2008), director Riri RIZA and producer Mira LESMANA's adaptation of the second novel in Andrea HIRATA's semi-autobiographical quartet, The Dreamer Sang pemimpi (2009), takes the story of young Ikal into the 1980s and away from his home village Gantung to high school in nearby Manggar. This time he's equipped with a new pair of friends — introduced in early flashbacks where Ikal is again played by child actor Zulfani — who conveniently stand for the country's more aspirational side (Arai, the dreamer) and its religious constituent (Jimbron, the devout Muslim).
Though the '80s was an economic boom time for Indonesia under military president Suharto, the film doesn't wear its politics on its sleeve: by being set on the small island of Belitung just off the coast of Sumatra, and featuring teenage characters only interested in themselves and day-to-day survival, the social and economic changes are felt rather than directly described. The strict Islamic teaching at the school is only referenced through the boys being forbidden to sneak away and watch movies, and through the stern (but caring) character of the school's head; and only when state company PT Timah is hit by the world tin crisis in 1985, and Ikal's father loses his job, is any reference made to the fact that the island's main economy was tin. At one point, the adult Ikal's voiceover comments, "All that was ours, we never enjoyed; we were here as coolies, spectators," but no other mention is made of the West's participation in Indonesia's boom. The film is partly a nostalgia trip for local audiences (with references to films and songs of the time) but also, principally, feel-good entertainment.
Like The Rainbow Troops, the film is a patchwork of small separate incidents and interwoven characters, though the adult Ikal's occasional voiceovers give it an emotional framework which pays off in the moving later scenes when Ikal and Arai set off for Jakarta to take their first steps into manhood or when Arai's dream girl, Zakia, finally acknowledges his persistent "courting". Riza's ability to pack a lot of feeling into often wordlesss scenes is strikingly shown in the thread of Ikal's relationship with his father. Mathias MUCHUS (from The Rainbow Troops) gives the father a quiet dignity, though the self-effacing performance of newcomer Vikri SEPTIAWAN as the teenage Ikal is equally good; Septiawan also shows a natural chemistry with fellow newcomer Rendy AHMAD, whose charismatic, mercurial Arai helps to keep the movie lively and unpredictable.
ContactSales: Miles Films, Jakarta (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Premiere: Jakarta Film Festival (Opening Film), 4 Dec. 2009. Theatrical release: Indonesia, 17 Dec. 2009.
Presented and produced by Miles Films (ID), Mizan Productions (ID). Executive producers: Haidar Bagir, Bakhtiar Rakhman, Ignatius Andy, Rayi Aurora. Producer: Mira Lesmana.
Script: Salman Aristo, Mira Lesmana, Riri Riza. Novel: Andrea Hirata (2006). Photography: Gunnar Nimpuno. Editing: W. IchwandiarDono. Music: Said Effendi, Aksan Sjuman, Titi Sjuman. Art direction: Eros Eflin. Costumes: Chitra Subiyakto. Sound: Dwi Budi, Satrio Budiono.
Cast: Vikri Septiawan (teenage Ikal), Rendy Ahmad (teenage Arai), Azwir Fitrianto (teenage Jimbron), Lukman Sardi (adult Ikal), Mathias Muchus (Ikal's father), Nugie (Julian Balia), Landung Simatupang (Mustar), Zulfani (young Ikal), Sandy Pranatha (young Arai), Rieke Dyah Pitaloka (Ikal's mother), Maudy Ayunda (Zakia Nurmala), Yayu Unru (Rokib), Jay Wijayanto (Zaitun), Nazril Irham (adult Arai).