Yogyakarta. "About a Woman," starring Indonesian actress Tutie Kirana, is the final film to wrap up the trilogy of Teddy Soeriaatmadja's Way, a special program at the Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival (JAFF), in Yogyakarta on Sunday.
The film follows Dayu, played by Tutie, a 65-year old widow who was left alone after her maid left her job. To keep her company, her son-in-law sent in his high school-graduate nephew Abi, played by actor Rendy Ahmad, to help her out with cleaning, gardening and tidying the house. As the story unfolds, sexual tension between the two gradually increases.
All of Teddy's films typically follow the journey of two leading characters as they struggle with deep-seeded personal issues and evolve into different people. Teddy is also well known for dwelling on the subjects of sex, hypocrisy and religion in his films, including his previous projects "Lovely Man" and "Something in the Way."
When About a Woman premiered at the Singapore International Film Festival last year, the 40-year-old director said he felt a huge sense of relief because the film was the last installment of the trilogy.
In an interview with the Jakarta Globe at Taman Budaya Yogyakarta on Sunday, Teddy said he made these films for personal gratification. He treated the trilogy as a pick-me-up project after his feature film "Ruma Maida" flopped at the Indonesian box office.
"This trilogy is very personal for me because I worked on them without any influence from producers, or by viewership numbers. It's very meaningful for me," he said. "Now that it's done, I can move on with other projects."
About a Woman plays with a very controversial theme. "I could not imagine being over 60 years old and still having sexual desires, that's why [I had the courage] to tell this story," Teddy said.
Casting was another problem to tackle. Most actresses that he sent out the script for were too scared to do the project.
"Tutie was the only one who wanted to talk to me after she read the script. So I told her why I wanted to do this film and how it was going to be filmed. I made it clear that it was not going to be like any cheap sex movie. This is different and I needed the cast to trust me," he said.
To direct Rendy as a young boy, Abi, who desires an older woman was also complex, Teddy said.
"He just finished filming 'Sang Pemimpi' ('The Dreamer') and Abi was quite a naughty role. Like I said, I just needed them to trust me that I was not making something on a whim."
Tutie said Teddy was the most unique director that she had ever worked with, and she felt honored to play in a drama covering a very sensitive topic. She admitted that she had trouble sleeping prior to filming, and it was the support from her husband and son that kept her going.
"They reminded me that I am an actress, but I did bargain with Teddy on several scenes," Tutie admits.
Lovely Man, Something in the Way and About a Woman received international recognition at numerous film festivals. Last week was the first time the trilogy was screened for public viewing at the same event. JAFF executive director Ifa Isfansyah, who moderated the question-and-answer session with Teddy on Sunday, said the festival wanted to highlight Teddy's work because he has the kind of spirit that the festival admires.
"Teddy is not only brave enough to be himself, but he also constantly challenges himself," Ifa said.
About a Woman will not be released in cinemas because Teddy refused to submit the film to the Indonesian censorship board (LSF). He did not submit the film to Indonesian Festival Film (FFI) this year for the same reasons. Last year, the FFI committee rejected his submission for Something in the Way due to censorship issues.
Lovely Man, the first movie in the trilogy, is available on DVD, but the other two movies can only be seen in Indonesia's alternative movie festival scene.
"I feel like audience should see Something in the Way and About a Woman in full length so they can fully appreciate the projects. I think, even if they only cut two or three scenes, it would affect the storytelling so there is no use of showing these films," Teddy said.
Even so, he felt that Tutie's performance deserved credit, so he submitted About a Woman to Piala Maya, awards organized by Indonesian film fans active online. Piala Maya does not require an entry pass from the censorship board. Tutie is now in the running Maya award for best leading actress.
Teddy is currently working on a drama about a Bandung couple who are health activists, with producer Edwin Nazir of "9 Summers 10 Autumns," and scriptwriter Alim Sudio of "Surga yang Tak Dirindukan,"("An Undesired Bliss").