Jakarta. "Petualangan Menangkap Petir," or "The Adventure of a Thunder Catcher," is a new children's film directed by Kuntz Agus and produced by Yogyakarta's Fourcolours Films. The film is essentially a filmmaker's riposte to YouTube vloggers wrapped in an atavistic message for children to resist the allure of technology. Set in Boyolali in Central Java, the film is set to be released on Thursday (30/08).
The film began with Sterling (Bima Azriel), a young Indonesian vlogger who lives in Hong Kong. Sterling’s parents decide the family should move back to Jakarta, but before they set foot in the capital they make a pit stop in Boyolali to visit Sterling’s grandfather (Slamet Rahardjo).
In Boyolali, Sterling meets a new friend called Gianto or Jaiyen (Fatih Unru), whose father works for Sterling’s grandfather.
One day, they children decide they want to make a movie about Ki Ageng Selo, a mythical local legend who is said to have been the only man ever to catch and tame a thunderbolt.
Along with Netha (Zara Leola), the children try hard to keep their filmmaking project a secret from Sterling’s overprotective blogger mother Beth (Putri Ayudya).
In a press conference on Friday, the filmmakers said the movie reminds children and parents that though almost everything now is just one click away, people should never forget to interact with others in real life.
Abimana Aryasatya, one of the actors and also a producer of this movie, said the film is about "how [people should] take control of, instead of being controlled by, technology."
In the film, Sterling's mother forbids him from playing outside the house. She teaches him vlogging to keep him ensconced at home. Before his fateful holiday in Boyolali, Sterling only has online friends.
Kuntz said Sterling’s mother is a representation of today’s parents who rely on the internet for everything, including parenting.
"Beth is that kind of person, a blogger who learns about parenting from the internet. She's created a distance between her and the outside world, so naturally she tries to keep her son in her comfort zone, not letting him explore the outside world that she cannot control," Kuntz said.
Sterling is happier and much less inhibited in Boyolali, even more so when he started his film project with his friends. Abimana said the message is that kids should experience working together as a team.
"All my children said they want to be vloggers when they grow up. We want to show that film has its own charm as a communal activity. Vlogging is a solitary process," Abimana said.
The actor said he is worried that films will eventually be replaced by YouTube videos.
"But for me, I still want the big screen, the big surround sound, the popcorn – all this is an important part of our culture," he said.
In the film, Abimana’s character, Arifin, is a wedding videographer who also runs "layar tancap" (open air film screening).
He and Kuntz said the younger generation should know that layar tancap used to be an important part of the country's film ecosystem.
The appearance of the Ki Ageng Selo story is also important. Kuntz said children are starting to forget local folktales, and Ki Ageng Selo is here to remind them of these legends.
Varieties of the same tale are found in Boyolali, Solo and small towns on the border of Central Java and East Java. But Kuntz decided to film the movie in Boyolali because he grew up in the sleepy town.
"We wanted to give children their own local superhero," he said.
Where Are the Children's Films?
Petualangan Menangkap Petir is currently the only Indonesian children’s film being screened in cinemas.
Last month, we had Riri Riza’s "Kulari Ke Pantai" ("I Run to the Beach") and Ifa Isfansyah’s "Koki-Koki Cilik" ("Tiny Chefs"). The only other children’s movies being shown in Indonesian cinemas are made in Hollywood.
According to data from the Creative Economy Agency (Bekraf) and Film Censorship Board (LSF), only 22 out of 201 films produced in Indonesia between January 2017 and the first quarter of 2018 are rated "semua umur" (all ages).
Abimana said this was the main reason why he wanted to produce Petualangan Menangkap Petir. Since there are so few children's films, parents often take their kids to see films that are only meant for older audiences.
"We simply don't have enough children’s films. So when Kuntz asked me to get on board this movie, I said yes immediately. I have kids and I want to be able to take my kids to the movies," he said.
Abimana said he is well aware a project like this is financially risky since historically children's films don't do very well at the box office.
"Do we have a market for a film like this yet? Probably not. What we have is a market for horror movies. A market for dramas. The only major children's film hit we've had is Riri Riza's "Petualangan Sherina" ," Abimana said.
Thirteen-year-old Fatih Unru, who plays Jaiyen, said he sees a lot of teenagers his age at the cinemas, but not so many films tailored to their taste.
"We don't want kinds to watch only romance or horror movies. There should be more films like this," the stand-up comedian said.
To attract more interest in children's films, Bekraf and Miles Films held "Lomba Cipta Lagu Anak" ("Children’s Song Competition") from April to June this year. The winning songs were promised to be included in the soundtrack for a movie yet to be determined.
One of the winners, "Menjelajah Dunia," composed by Nurul Susantono and sung by Maisha Kanna, is now featured in Petualangan Menangkap Petir.
The movie also features a remix of Endank Soekamti’s pop punk song "Liburan" ("Holiday"), sung by Zara Leola.
Additional reporting by Dina Fitri Anisa of Suara Pembaruan