Jakarta. After a five-year hiatus, indie filmmaker Teddy Soeriaatmadja returns to the silver screen with "Menunggu Pagi," or "Waiting For the Morning to Come," a teen drama that signals a new direction for the famously uncompromising director.
Teddy is known for creating intensely personal stories. Most of his films, including his "Trilogy of Intimacy" – "Lovely Man" (2011), "Something in the Way" (2013) and "About a Woman" (2015) – follow two leading characters as they struggle with deep-seated personal and psychological problems.
The stories at the same time act as a vehicle for the director's acerbic dressing-down of society's hypocritical attitudes toward sex, religion and morality – to the extent that some of them could not even get past conservative censors.
As often happens to directors whose films are not getting mainstream recognition, Teddy turns to festivals, including the Osaka Asian Film Festival, Tiburon International Film Festival and Tel Aviv LGBT International Film Festival – where Lovely Man, the story of a transvestite street prostitute meeting his teenage daughter for the first time, won the Best International Narrative Feature award in 2012.
Teddy's latest stab at a commercial film before Menunggu Pagi was 2009's historical drama "Ruma Maida." The movie was a flop.
This time, Teddy is challenging himself to create his own take on teen drama – a genre he had never dabbled in.
"I'd promised myself to make three films [the trilogy] for myself, and then [after that] three more films that are more audience-friendly. Menunggu Pagi is the first of these," Teddy said.
"My previous films dealt with controversial issues. With this one, I'm exploring a new genre and lighter topics," Teddy said.
Menunggu Pagi is a love story that follows a group of teenagers going to a music festival. As the night unfolds, the youngsters are confronted with many unwelcome surprises.
It features young actors Aurelie Moremans, Arya Saloka, Mario Lawalata, Arya Vasco, Bio One, Ganindra Bimo and Raka Hutchison.
Teen heartthrobs Putri Marino and Yayu Unru will also reunite in Menunggu Pagi after playing alongside each other in Edwin’s "Posesif" – another case of an outré filmmaker trying his hands on teen drama.
Teddy said he experimented with new visual explorations in Menunggu Pagi. Consequently, the film won't feel the same as his previous films.
"Whatever I've done in my trilogy, I don’t want to repeat them here. It will have some of my signature quirks, but it might feel like it's not even directed by me," Teddy said.
Aware of the controversial themes in his films, Teddy did not even bother to submit About a Woman – that involves a romantic tryst between an elderly tante-tante (auntie) with her maid – to the Indonesian Censorship Board (LSF). This meant the film could not be released in Indonesian cinemas.
Teddy also refused to submit the film to Festival Film Indonesia (Indonesian Film Festival or FFI, Indonesia's Oscars) in 2015 for the same reason.
In 2014, FFI rejected his submission for Something in the Way because of problems with the censors as well.
The film tells the story of a prostitute and a cab driver who wants to save her – and himself –from a life of sexual subjugation and penury.
"I never meant for the trilogy to be commercialized because it was too personal," Teddy said.
The filmmaker admitted this time he's quite glad not having to deal with the censors again.
Menunggu Pagi is in post-production and set for a nationwide release around Christmas.