“‘Maluku’. This word is not only a name of a place. That word teach all of us where we came from. What we are fighting for. Because I AM MALUKU! Not Tulehu, not Paso, not Islam, not Christian!”
Over the years there has been several sports themed Indonesian film, most of which are focused on Soccer, such as Garuda di Dadaku duology, Hari Ini Pasti Menang (2013), etc. A new addition to the sub genre, is Angga Dwi Sasongko‘s Cahaya Dari Timur: Beta Maluku, which perfectly-timed release coincide with the on-going World Cup fever. The film offers more than just soccer though. Inspired by a true story, it promotes a thoughtful message of unity in diversity against the backdrop of religion-based conflict that split the people of Maluku into two extremes and causing riots among themselves.
Sani Tawainella’s (Chicco Jerikho) life is a series of defeats, after failing to fulfill his dream to qualify as a pro soccer player, he return to Tulehu and build a family there. Spending his days as motorcycle taxi, barely able make ends meet, when the religion-based riots started to cause fatalities that includes children who went to riot points to watch the fights. He tried to divert these kids attention towards playing soccer instead. His care for the kids did not always seemed appreciated. Not only it caused rows between him and his wife (Shafira Ummarella) who question his priorities, but also from his surroundings. After years of training a chance came to represent Maluku in a national U-15 competition, but does mixing kids with different religious background is just a recipe for disasters.
With its lengthy duration (a little more than 150 minutes long), Beta Maluku felt rather indulgent and could be trimmed down considerably. The film did not make the event become the driving force, instead focusing on Sani’s character journey in taking the teams to a national level. I personally did not feel compelled to Sani, i felt him to be very moody and lack of convictions. Jerikho did play his best for Sani though, despite he constantly fell in and out of the local accent he supposed to adopt, his motivational speech works for most of the consequential moments. I found the rows he had with his wife felt a little to repetitive and could benefit from a revision to the script. What i thought compelling from the film was the riots at the very beginning that established the story and the ending where i felt the diverse background of the team members causing frictions between themselves.
I think the saving grace of the film was the visual and the score. The film felt like half a sport film, half a promotional tourism video for Maluku. Showcasing the beautiful landscapes of the location through wide lens and an abundant of slow motion to capture the movements of these kids as they honed their crafts (particularly loving the shot of the kid who dribble a soccer ball in the middle of a crowded seaside, fish market). The sports half, particularly at the end of the film, made soccer looked like such an epic journey. But no matter how self-indulgent the end product was, DoP Robie Taswin did a good job on his part. Given that Glenn Fredly, a singer with Maluku background himself, is the producer of the film, it should not come as a surprise that the film provides a good soundtrack. Although seemed overpowering at times, it succeeded in building up emotions at the most dramatic moments. Without these two factors, i felt the duration and the weakness of the script and characters would be more apparent.
Cahaya Dari Timur: Beta Maluku (trans: Lights from the East: I Am Maluku) maybe did not live up to its full potential, but it was definitely one of the good ones. The filmmaker spent 4 years in developing the film, mainly because of the difficulty in securing the necessary funds for the film. It is hard to believe this kind of film did not get the financial support it deserves (yet people keep making those awful horror porn films), no wonder Indonesia local movie industry did not live up to its full potential. Like Sokola Rimba (2013), the movie promotes local culture and use local dialects, a quality that i really appreciate. So maybe, instead of going to see the summer blockbusters from Hollywod you can watch this instead :)
CAHAYA DARI TIMUR: BETA MALUKU (2014)
DIRECTOR Angga Dwi Sasongko | PRODUCER Glenn Fredly | WRITER Swastika Nohara, M. Irfan Ramli | MUSIC Nikita Dompas | CINEMATOGRAPHER Robie Taswin | EDITOR Yoga Krispratama | STUDIO Visinema Pictures | COUNTRY Indonesia | RUNNING TIME 151 minutes | RELEASE June 19, 2014 (ID)
STARRING Chico Jerrico, Safira Ummarella, Jajang C. Noer, Aufa Assegaf, Abdurrahman Arif, Bebeto Leutualy, Ridho Slank, Glenn Fredly
DID YOU KNOW? Cahaya Dari Timur: Beta Maluku held a charity project that encourage people to watch the film so later the film will be able to be screened at remote areas without any movie theater in the area for free. Cool!