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Children actors that star Rumah di Seribu Ombak — Dedey Rusma as little Yanik (left) while Risjad Aden as little Samihi (center) and Bianca Oleen as Samihi’s sister, Syamimi.
Producer and writer Erwin Arnada makes his debut as a director with a drama about friendship and pluralism.
After falling victim to the Pornography Law and serving time in jail for being the chief editor of the now-defunct Playboy Indonesia, he is back with a novel adapted into a movie about poverty and pluralism.
The producer of horror films such as Tusuk Jelangkung (The Stab of the Uninvited, 2003) and Jakarta Undercover (2006), Arnada wrote Rumah di Seribu Ombak (House at the Thousand Waves) during his time in jail.
Bearing the same title, the movie predominantly uses unknown actors who previously never acted in front of
a camera except for renowned actor Lukman Sardi. Childhood friendship and pluralism are two strong themes of the film that also touches on the subject of poverty and pedophilia. The film was inspired by true events. Set in Singaraja, Bali, the story begins with a narrative told from the perspective of the film’s main character, Samihi (played by Andre Julian) and a flashback to his childhood.
Little Samihi (Risjad Aden) becomes close friends with a local Balinese child named Wayan Manik who is called Yanik (Dedey Rusma).
Samihi lives with his father and his younger sister, Syamimi (Bianca Oleen), after the death of his mother and brother. Meanwhile, Yanik lives in a poor house with his mother and is forced to leave his elementary school after his father leaves the family to marry another woman.
Samihi, who is a Muslim, and Yanik, a Hindu, do not consider their different religious backgrounds an issue in their friendship.
The film shows 12-year-old Yanik waiting patiently for Samihi while he is taking part in religious worship. Yanik’s adventurous and cheerful traits contrast with Samihi‘s careful and soft demeanor. The two develop
a stronger bond after learning of each other’s weaknesses. Samihi, who is asthmatic, never sets foot in the sea or rivers, fearing that he will drown like his late brother.
Meanwhile, Yanik, who loves the sea and works as a tour guide at Lovina beach, is traumatized after falling victim to a foreign pedophile.
During an event that puts Yanik in danger, Samihi reveals his best friend’s secret to a traditional leader, an act that creates distance between the two young friends. Arnada uniquely changes the ambiance of several scenes by using sepia or brown lighting to echo feelings of sorrow and sadness, and he takes many shots of dolphins and the beautiful sky to showcase the natural beauty of Singaraja.
Although the story is told from the perspective of Samihi, it is the sincere friendship offered by Yanik and his despair as a traumatized child that should be applauded. Unfortunately, the story sees their friendship disconnected once they grow older.
While the first part of the film smoothly tells the story of their friendship and pedophilia trauma, the second part awkwardly shifts into a romance between Yanik and Syamimi. Little Yanik’s talkative nature and enthusiasm is absent in the early 20s version of himself, played by Riman Jayadi, who is gloomy and quiet.
Even though the unresolved case of pedophilia leaves audiences who are accustomed to watching a fully resolved story dissatisfied, this may reflect the reality in poor areas of Bali.
“I tried to handle the pedophilia issue carefully because this is a sensitive issue. That is why I made it less clear,” Erwin said.
Films about children’s lives are usually dominated by adventurous and happy events, but Arnada attempts to offer a dose of reality in the film. If a bitter bite of reality intrigues you, this film may be the choice for you.
Verdict: A movie about children that will haunt you as adults.
Rumah di Seribu Ombak
(110 minutes, Tabia Films and Winmark Pictures)
Starring: Dedey Rusma, Risjad Aden, Bianca Oleen, Lukman Sardi, Jerinx from Superman Is Dead
Director: Erwin Arnada
Writer: Jujur Prananto
Producers: Erwin Arnada and Ella S.H
— Photos courtesy of Tabia Films and Winmark Pictures