Jakarta. "Jelita Sejuba: Loving a National Hero," a new "army romance" drama and debut feature film of director Ray Nayoan, is a visually stunning, saccharine tale about the life of an Indonesian army soldier who gets posted in a remote island in the archipelago, falls in love with a local beauty and then marries her after the obligatory will-she-won't-she drama.
The film was set and mostly shot in Natuna, the outermost island in the Riau archipelago, last year.
"This film focuses on the personal story of a soldier's wife, who lives in Sejuba on the Natuna coast. It also shows the dramatic, humanistic side of life in the Indonesian army," Ray said in a press conference in Jakarta on Wednesday (07/03).
Ray said the film is dedicated to Indonesian military (TNI) soldiers and their wives who have dedicated their lives to the country.
Last year's Citra Award winner for Best Actress, Putri Marino, plays Sharifah, a local Malay beauty who falls for the handsome and buff Jaka (Wafda Saifan Lubis).
Ray said his debut feature film involved a great deal of preparatory research.
"We had to research the local culture of the island and also work with the TNI to portray them in the best light," Ray said.
Jelita Sejuba also features Nena Rosier, Yukio, Aldi Maldini, Yayu Unru, Abigail, Mutiara Sofya and a local actor, Harlan Kasman.
Jujur Prananto – who wrote the box office hits "Ada Apa Dengan Cinta?" (What's Up With Love?), "Sherina's Adventure" and "Laskar Pelangi" (Rainbow Troops) – did the script.
Ray said the film uses the local Malay dialect to add more veracity to the story.
"We mostly use the local Ranai Malay dialect. But we have Indonesian subs for parts that are too difficult to understand," Ray said.
The film is produced by Drelin Amagra Pictures and will screen on cinemas starting April 5.
The Other Side of the Indonesian Soldiers' Story
Jelita Sejuba is not the first film to take on the subject of what happens to young Indonesian soldiers when they get posted to remote parts of the country.
In 2012, Wenda Tokomonowir directed the indie short docudrama "Surat Cinta Kepada Sang Prada" (Love Letter to the Soldier) for the Papuan Voices humanitarian project to expose cases of sexual violence committed by TNI soldiers in border areas.
The film, produced by Engage Media, tells the story of a young Papuan woman called Maria Goreti, who was abandoned by her lover Samsul, a TNI soldier posted in Bupul, Merauke, a village on the border between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
Maria was left on her own to fend for herself and their little baby daughter, Anita Maryani, but despite her misfortune kept writing love letters to Samsul in the forlorn hope that he might one day come back.
"Many people keep asking me who's the father of my baby girl. Some of them already know her father is a soldier. They even call her 'anak kolong' ['a soldier’s child']," one of Maria’s numerous letters said.
"I will continue to wait for you, Samsul. I don't care what people say," she said.
The film won the best short documentary award at the South to South (StoS) Film Festival in Jakarta in 2012.