Bad news may mean good promotion for some, as in the case of prominent filmmaker Hanung Bramantyo’s latest pluralism-themed film, the simply titled ?.
If critics get their way, movie buffs may have to rush to theaters to watch the film, which was released on April 7 and centers on relationships between families from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds.
The film has incurred the seemingly never-ending wrath of the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI) and the hard-line Islam Defenders Front (FPI) for promoting pluralism and liberalism, with the FPI threatening to raid cinemas if the film is not removed from the big screen this month.
Rika Rosvianti, a Muslim resident who has watched the film, said it boldly portrayed existing inter-religious conflicts, a fact often denied by many.
“Many people protest this film maybe because it describes some realities that disturb the majority [Muslims]. Many Muslims don’t like to be criticized,” she told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.
However, Rika said the movie touched her, making her burst into laughter or break out in tears.
“There are many funny and touching moments. This film talks about reality, which we can make better,” she said.
Rika said she hoped the MUI would not issue an edict against the film after protests were staged by the FPI at the offices of Republika daily and the Film Censorship Body.
The MUI has set up a team to formulate recommendations, which will be submitted to the council on Tuesday.
The team has also met with media tycoon Erick Thohir — the owner of Mahaka Pictures, which co-produced the film with Dapur Film — who is also the Republika president director.
Erick, whose paper has a wide Muslim readership, said he would respect the MUI’s recommendations.
“I had good intentions in making ?. I was disturbed by the fact that Indonesian films have declined in quality,” he told the Post.
Erick said he was satisfied with the film, saying it met his expectations a film that told a story about nationalism.
“Making films is a business, but I also have to make sure my films are high quality and deliver a message on nationalism and Bhinneka Tunggal Ika [unity in diversity, the state motto],” Erick said.
Film critic Yan Wijaya said quality films were still overshadowed in the domestic box office by sleazy horror films.
Arwah Goyang Karawang (Karawang Dancing Spirit), which stars dangdut singers Dewi Persik and Julia Perez, is so far the most watched Indonesian film in 2011, attracting 710,000 viewers, he added.
“? has only been seen by 150,000 people so far,” he told the Post.
The head of the MUI’s inter-religious harmony department, Slamet Effendy Yusuf, said he believed the council would not issue an edict banning Muslims from watching the film. The MUI issued an edict against pluralism, secularism and liberalism in 2005.
This is not director Hanung’s first foray into religious-themed films. He was behind the heavily Islamic blockbuster Ayat-ayat Cinta (Verses of Love) and Sang Pencerah (The Enlightener), a biopic of Muhammadiyah founder Ahmad Dahlan.
Responding on Twitter to the controversy over ?, Hanung said he considered the protests free promotion for his film.