Indonesian film was steadily declining back in the 90s. The last Indonesian film that gain international recognition was 1988’s Tjoet Nja Dhien which was actually the first Indonesian film screened at 1989 Cannes Film Festival and won the best International Film award. So growing up in the 90s i did not remember ever seeing a lot of Indonesian Film in movie theatre, instead i saw reruns of Suzanna horror films, slapstick comedy a la three stooges by Warkop (aka Dono Kasino Indro), or day time soap opera on TV. Mind you, back then our TV have decent soap operas, there’s a huge quality gap to the ones being broadcasted nowadays. One of the turning point of Indonesian Film came in 2000, when a children singer, Sherina Munaf appeared as the title character in a musical/adventure feature film for family, Petualangan Sherina (Sherina’s Adventure).
I remember the 2000 so clearly. There was only one movie theater chain back then, but some stand-alone theater are still available here and there. Even though there were hollywood films playing, families went to the theater to see Sherina, a phenomenon that never happen before in my eyes. Petualangan Sherina was a breath of fresh air for Indonesian Film. It was a lovely combination that packed quite a punch as a family film. It features a young singer, who were a prodigy at that time, Sherina Munaf. The musical angle of course become a huge success factor and it was beautifully scored by Elfa Secioria, resulted in a simultaneous release of soundtrack/Sherina’s album. The story line been done repeatedly, but still the standard formulaic plot was a people pleaser anyway. The ensemble of casts are insane, because they were big names, even legendary, and everyone here actually a great actor respectively.
Sherina (Sherina Munaf), a 10 year old girl must leave her friends and everything she knew in Jakarta, when his father job force the family to relocate to Bandung. She arrive in a new school and was taunted by the naughty boy in her class, Sadam (Derby Romero), who teased her mercilessly. On a short holiday, Sherina and her family was invited by her father’s boss, Adriwilaga (Didi Petet) to his villa, Sherina found herself face to face with her sworn enemy. The two was soon involved with a bunch of kidnappers headed by Pak Raden (Djaduk Ferianto) and wound up amongst an attempted black mailing and the evil plot of nasty millionaire, Kertaredjasa (Butet Kertaredjasa)!
Petualangan Sherina was such a fun family film! My reference back then made me think of Home Alone, It Takes Two, and any Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen Films. It was a fun film that teaches the value of family, of friendships, and of course out-smarting and kicking the bad villain arses! The early sequence showed how Sherina spends her days with her friends outdoors, playing around on bridges, climbing trees, catching trains, etcetera. I can still relate to that kind of childhood, spending my days in made-up adventures, inspired by my Enid Blyton-influenced fantasy. I am not sure if kids nowadays still spend their childhood, i can’t help but wonder if this description already become obsolete nowadays.
When i rewatched it yesterday, i can not help but noticed how formulaic plot was. You can almost made a checklist out of all the element in the film: bad evil businessman, check, dorky-but-meanie kidnappers, check, blackmailing plan, check! But i guess, the formulaic plot made the film so accessible to a wide range of audience, therefore giving it a wide demographic and commercial appeal. The ensemble of well known actors was probably unnecessary, yet it probably give the film some cred. Although Djaduk Ferianto was a definite scene stealer among them, the child actors who were a newcomers back then also give an adorable performance. Both Sherina Munaf and Derby Romero did a good job going from foe to frenemies to friends. Sherina name is also one of the most significant pulling factor. Her singing was a definite selling point, so it went perfectly with the movie musical elements. Catchy tunes from Elfa Secioria (who also did the wonderful scores) combined with amusing lyrics by Mira Lesmana become a staple for the film. The musical number features choreographies that was somewhat sloppy and could do a little polishing, it still came across as entertaining, it definitely has its charm. There were number that was more theatrical than others, Mira Lesmana quoted The Sound of Music as well as Grease as her influence when creating the musical. (and look! I spot with my little eyes Cossette (or Les Mizérable poster) in the picture bellow :D)
Despite what it lacks, the arrival of Petualangan Sherina finally give the much needed wake up call for Indonesian film Industry. Petualangan Sherina was a sensational hit for Indonesian film with a spectacular budget of IDR 2 billion (around USD 180.000, which is pretty huge at the time, considering the economic crisis Indonesia was just hit at the time). It attracted 1.4 million viewers and earning IDR 10 billion from theater screening, the proof of its commercial success. The film was well received in the International film, it won the Special Jury Award at the 2000 Asia Pacific Film Festival, featured in Pussan International Film Festival, Singapore International Film Festival. I really wished they updated the home media format for the film, i wonder if they do it already or not, but i only have the film in a frikkin’ VCD format, which picture quality was.. ugly, tbqh.
PETUALANGAN SHERINA (2000)
GENRE Children, Musical, Adventure
DIRECTOR Riri Riza | PRODUCER Mira Lesmana | WRITER Jujur Prananto | MUSIC Elfa Secioria | CINEMATOGRAPHER Yadi Sugandhy | EDITOR Sentot Sahid | COUNTRY Indonesia | BUDGET IDR 2 Billion | RELEASE June 14, 2000 | RUNNING TIME 114 Minutes
STARRING Sherina Munaf, Didi Petet, Mathias Muchus, Derby Romero, Henidar Amru, Butet Kertaredjasa, Djaduk Ferianto, Dewi Hughes, Ucy Nurul.