`Ruma Maida' portrays the
country's history

A scene from Ruma Maida (Courtesy of Lamp Pictures and Karunia Pictures)
A scene from Ruma Maida (Courtesy of Lamp Pictures and Karunia Pictures)

Every building has its own history, whether it is a 100 or just 10 years old. Even the most humble building has a story to tell. And who knows who will find a rundown house holding important stories about Indonesia's long history?

Maida Lilian Manurung (Atiqah Hasiholan) is one such person, a modest and tomboyish university student in the film Ruma Maida (Maida's House), written by Ayu Utami and directed by Teddy Soeriaatmadja.

In between studying for her history degree, Maida spends her time teaching street children in an old house in Jakarta. She turns the once-deserted house into a "palace" for the children - a place where they can sing, laugh and play music together.

Maida finds the house has many stories and existed through several historical events, such as the Dutch and Japanese colonization.

The old building was originally home to Ishak Pahing (Nino Fernandez), a violist who married a keroncong singer and was a close friend of Indonesia's founding president Sukarno.

Exploring the house and its story is an experience Maida enjoys, prompting her to dig up more of the house's history.

But Maida's plan and enthusiasm changes when she discovers a rich businessman, Dasaad Muchlisin (Frans Tumbuan), is planning to demolish the house and construct a shopping center. He forces them to leave the old building.

Maida challenges him, saying the building is historic and important to preserve to keep the country's history alive.

With help from young architect Sakera (Yuma Carlos), she fights Dasaad's plans and attempts to reveal the building's story.

The movie, produced by Lamp Pictures and Karuna Pictures, is not only about Maida, but also Indonesia's battle against the Japanese colonizers.

Audiences are taken back to the colonial era to gain a strong picture about how Indonesian families lived through warfare.

The film, shot in Jakarta and Central Java's Semarang, depicts various historical events, from the time Indonesian youths declared the Youth Pledge in 1928, to the Japanese occupation, Independence Day in 1945 and the period the Dutch attempted to recolonize Indonesia.

It also features the May 1998 riots and the fall of Soeharto, portraying the Indonesian pluralism issue.

Songs, rearranged and sung by local band Naif such as "Juwita Malam" (Evening Beauty), "Di Bawah Sinar Bulan Purnama" (Under the Moonlight) and "Ibu Pertiwi" (Homeland), have a "historical" tone.

The movie also features a song titled "Keroncong Tenggara" (The Southeast Keroncong), which is written by Ayu Utami.

Ayu said she hoped the film would encourage people, especially the young generation, to remember the country's past.

"Many people find history lessons boring," said Ayu. "But history can be fun.

"Our history, for instance, has some intriguing tales,' she said.

"We can learn more about Indonesian history through these stories such as those from Sukarno's wives.

"Then we can see history in a more colorful way."

Atiqah Hasiholan, the daughter of playwright-cum-political activist Ratna Sarumpaet, also learned much from the movie.

"It has boosted my sense of nationalism," she said. "The film might deal with *heavy' content, but it's presented in a way that attracts a younger audience."

Ruma Maida, premiered on Youth Pledge Day on Oct. 28, and is best described as an enjoyable way to learn more about the country's long history. For people who get slightly overwhelmed at the prospect of opening a history book, this film will help give you a stronger grasp on Indonesia's history.

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