Jakarta. "Family is the most prized possession," says the first line of a song of the late 1990s, which is well-known to Indonesian television viewers as the opening theme of "Keluarga Cemara," a heart-warming series about the everyday life of a loving lower-middle class family.
Now "The Cemara Family" is about to return to screens as a feature film. Producers Anggia Kharisma and Gina S. Noer came up with the idea, as they were longing to see family movies that promote honesty, gratitude and respect for parents.
"We miss seeing Indonesian family values of the past, which are still relevant to be taught nowadays," Anggia said at a press conference at Kinosaurus, Kemang, South Jakarta on Friday (29/09).
Before it was adapted for TV, "Keluarga Cemara" was a series of periodically published short stories by Arswendo Atmowiloto in several magazines.
Arswendo, who was present at the press conference, said he also missed seeing positive shows onscreen. While family matters often appear in sinetron (Indonesian TV dramas), they are mostly centered on feud.
"Why is it so hard to portray children respecting their parents? Why is it so hard to portray friendship? What I see everywhere is conflict," said the author who started writing "Keluarga Cemara" 44 years ago.
He added that what is important in his work is that promotes gratitude despite life's hardships.
Some changes will be introduced to the feature version to set in the present, addressing current trends and challenges.
"Abah [the father] didn't deal with the internet back in the 1990s. Now a challenge is the fact that his children have access to the outside world through their gadgets," said Gina, who also wrote the script.
Actor Ringgo Agus Rahman was selected to play Abah. The original sinetron character, played by Adi Kurdi, is a patient, nurturing father who works as becak (pedicab) driver. The filmmakers have not revealed if and how the character has changed.
Ringgo will star against Nirina Zubir, who will play his wife, Emak (the mother). The filmmakers are still selecting talents to play their three daughters — Euis, Ara and Agil — who in the original story helped their parents make ends meet by selling opak (rice chips).
Ringgo and Nirina, who are known for acting in comedy films, are preparing to internalize their characters before shooting starts in mid-December.
"I'm not only preparing for the role, but also for the real life. I also want to have an exemplary family," Ringgo said.
Ringgo and Nirina were chosen to play the married couple because of the natural chemistry between them as close friends who have previously starred together in "Get Married" (2007) and its 2009 and 2011 sequels.
"We chose Ringgo and Nirina because comedy actors have a wider acting range and more depth," Gina said.
Anggia and Gina chose Yandy Laurens to direct the film. It will be his first feature-length movie, with previous works being mostly shorts, including "Wan An" in 2012, and webseries "Sore" ("Afternoon") in 2017.
According to Gina, it is important to regenerate the film industry by giving more opportunities to the country's budding filmmakers.
What appealed to Yandy was the legacy of "Keluarga Cemara" itself.
"Family is the most natural reflection of acceptance, and the story of 'Keluarga Cemara' has the potential to show it. I think family values will always grant us power to face challenges in any era," he said.
According to Ringgo, "Keluarga Cemara" is not meant to be the epitome of a good Indonesian family, but just one of the examples to learn from. Each family has its own parenting style and problems to overcome.
"It is not about telling Indonesian families what to do, but to make them look at themselves and learn what is suitable from the film," he said.
Additional reporting by Dina Fitri Anisa of Suara Pembaruan.