Jakarta. What happens when you try to mash up rock n' roll and traditional Indonesian culture? New comedy-drama "Rocker Balik Kampung," directed by Uli Rahman, tries to answer the question.
The film is a second feature movie from MSH Films, a production house responsible for Garin Nugroho’s "Guru Bangsa Tjokroaminoto" ("Tjokroaminoto, a Nation's Paragon") in 2015.
Producer Nayaka Untara said during a press conference at Lippo Mall Kemang in South Jakarta on Thursday (05/07) that the company is focusing on producing works based on music, history and a spirit of humanism.
Nayaka said not many films have paid attention to Sundanese culture in recent years. By infusing Rocker Balik Kampung's story with comedy, he expects some cultural issues will be addressed by the film without having to be heavy-handed about it.
Director Uli came up with the idea for Rocker Balik Kampung ("Rocker Comes Home") when he visited Kasepuhan Ciptagelar in Sukabumi, West Java, in 2002.
A kasepuhan is a village populated by indigenous Sundanese people. Uli was impressed by the villagers' resilience in preserving their traditions.
He stumbled upon another kasepuhan called Sinar Resmi, also in Sukabumi, during this sojourn in West Java. Sinar Resmi was more accessible and would later become the shooting location for Rocker Balik Kampung.
"The place and culture were so cool, I immediately wanted to make a film about it. But I didn’t want to make a documentary. I wanted to make something more entertaining, hence Rocker Balik Kampung. Some of the story was based on my personal life," said Uli, who used to be in a rock band himself.
Uli wrote the script with Getar Jagatraya, the son of the late legendary comic actor Didi Petet. Filming was done in March 2018.
The film tells the story of a fading rockstar called Juhana "Joe" Santani. Young Joe was banished from Kasepuhan Sinar Asih – the fictional version of Kasepuhan Sinar Resmi – because he wanted to be a rocker.
Now he's been asked to come back to the village to succeed his father – now on his deathbed – as a village elder.
"This is a father and son story, seen through the clash of rock versus traditional music, Western culture versus ours," said DJ Winky Wiryawan, who plays Joe.
Uli incorporated many traditional instruments in the music for the film. From the more well-known kecapi (lute) and angklung (bamboo tubes) to more obscure instruments such as karinding (bamboo harp), celempung (zither) and tarawangsa (stringed instrument).
The film also features Sundanese-speaking people clad in traditional attire, which includes a headband for the men and wrap-around skirt for women. The film will also show villagers showing their special techniques for working the rice field.
"The people [in the kasepuhan] are so in touch with nature and have a special method for farming. They plant and harvest rice only once a year, but they never run out of the stuff. They never sell their rice and they have more than 60 variants of it," Uli said.
The pastoral setting, though, presents its own challenges. Uli said filming had to be stopped for a whole day due to flooding.
"It rained for two days and two nights, non-stop. The flood water was one-meter deep. A turbine that we carried the whole way there for the shoot was swept away by the currents," he said.
Rocker Balik Kampung will be released on July 12. It also stars Bisma Karisma, Iang Darmawan, Budi Dalton, Cleita Ariella and Maryam Supraba – daughter of the late poet W. S. Rendra.