Shifting love from cyberspace to reality is like taking a blind leap of faith.
Whether it be transforming a flirtatious “tweet” into a real life encounter, or making a relationship “Facebook official”, the question remains, how do we bridge the gap between real life and our parallel universe online?
Indonesia’s newest feature film, Republik Twitter, is set to answer this very contentious question.
The movie follows a resolute university student as he embarks on a trip from Yogyakarta to Jakarta to find the love of his life who he has been following on Twitter.
Yet without a map outlining the distance between cyberspace and reality, Sukmo’s (Abimana Arya) expedition is full of roadblocks and detours.
He learns that while he and Dyah (Laura Basuki) have chatted online, she is out of his league in real life.
Dyah exceeds his expectations in the looks department, and her career in journalism puts his student bank balance to shame. Yet egged-on by his mate Andre (Ben Kasyafani), Sukmo tries to fumble past these societal divisions to get his girl.
“Republik Twitter is not a film about Twitter, or social networking. It is a film about how Indonesians use Twitter to connect to people in every sector of life. It’s a film about us,” says director Kuntz Agus.
Agus recognized the way social media has become an integral mode of communication in Indonesia.
Whether it is for socializing, business or politics, Indonesians spend a lot of time with their noses buried in their BlackBerrys and laptops.
“We like to share … and Twitter is one of the ways we do so,” says Agus.
The 30-year-old director admitted, “I do everything with Twitter.”
As for actor Ben Kasyafani, “In real life I use Twitter as a medium to keep up-to-date with what’s happening around the world.”
“Yes, I’m a Twitter freak.”
With the cast and production team immersed in the world of social media as much off-screen as they are onscreen, they are certain the audience will likewise take comfort in seeing themselves reflected in the film’s themes and characters.
“This movie is like a mirror. You find yourself, you see yourself, and you laugh at yourself,” says scriptwriter Eddri Sumitra Ito.
As Republik Twitter explores the overlaps between the online and offline world, it leaves the audience contemplating the social quandaries facing modern-day Indonesians.
For Ito, “There’s no big difference between the world before and after Twitter.”
“People think they can live in a perfect online democracy, saying whatever they like. But actually, we live in the real world where class differentiation exists. Although people look equal on Twitter, people still want to know who you are, where you come from, etc.”
An accomplished historical realism novelist at the age of 30, Ito, accepted that writing about current pop culture was a new venture.
He began working on the script in June last year. In the technological spirit of immediacy, the team spent four months writing and planning, 14 days shooting, and four months doing post-production work.
Actress Jennifer Arnelita admitted that working 10 to 12 hour days during the whirlwind shoot was quite an undertaking.
Yet, the youthful crew’s shared enthusiasm and vision for the film, which will hit theaters on Feb. 16, got them through smiling.
“We felt at ease with each other. We had the same spirit and the same passion. This makes things a lot easier,” says producer Ajish Dibyo.
Dibyo and Agus are colleagues as well as best friends from Yogyakarta. Their friendship appeared to be contagious within the film crew.
“If there’s one word to describe the vibe, it’s fun,” says Dibyo.
The film directing and producing experience the duo brought to the project was also invaluable.
Dibyo is the director of the Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival, while Agus has been the program director for the Indonesian Documentary Film Festival, and has studied at Deutsche Welle University in Berlin.
For Arnelita, working under the direction of Agus was a pleasure.
“He is both a mentor and a best friend.”
Verdict: It’s a must-see film to support the country’s finest young filmmakers — if not for a snapshot of Indonesian pop culture, then for a good laugh at yourself for being a part of it.
The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post.
(Amalina Pictures and Rupakata Cinema)
Starring: Abimana Arya, Laura Basuki, Enzy Storia, Ben Kasyafani, Tyo Pakusadewo, Edi Oglek, Jennifer Arnelita, Gerry Iskak and Ninia Tamam.
Director: Kuntz Agus
Producer: Ajish Dibyo, Issac Zikri
Scriptwriter: E.S. Ito