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Documentary follows the rollercoaster journey of NOAH

  • Meghan Downes

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Sun, November 17, 2013 | 12:37 pm
Documentary follows the rollercoaster journey of NOAH The interesting and eventful journey of the pop-rock band Noah is captured in Putrama Tuta’s film NOAH: Awal Semula (NOAH: The Beginning). (Courtesy of 700 Pictures and Berlian Entertainment)" height="287" border="0" width="511">The interesting and eventful journey of the pop-rock band Noah is captured in Putrama Tuta’s film NOAH: Awal Semula (NOAH: The Beginning). (Courtesy of 700 Pictures and Berlian Entertainment)

The cinema screen flickers with grainy amateur footage from 1997 as a group of high school boys from Bandung make their first foray into live music.

Fresh-faced band members gaze at the audience from awkward school photos, looking naïve, innocent and very young.

From these opening scenes, we are plunged headlong into the story of a band that has become a household name in Indonesia. From their initial wild success as Peterpan to their current incarnation as NOAH, this pop-rock sensation has certainly had an interesting and eventful journey that has now been captured in Putrama Tuta’s film NOAH: Awal Semula (NOAH: The Beginning).

Awal Semula follows the Indonesian alternative pop-rock band through the highs and lows of the past 16 years, including the shocking split of two members from the band in 2006, as well as the highly publicized case of lead singer Ariel, who was arrested and charged under the Pornography Law in 2010.

The band’s extraordinary rise to fame, its sudden fall from grace, and its struggle to make it back to the top, comprises the film’s main narrative. The theme of new beginnings and second chances runs strongly through the story.

“We come with a new name, we come with a new spirit,” announces Ariel, in footage of a 2012 press conference signaling the band’s return to touring.

(Courtesy of 700 Pictures and Berlian Entertainment)(Courtesy of 700 Pictures and Berlian Entertainment)
For those unfamiliar with the Peterpan story, there is enough detail provided to become familiar with the band’s background; meanwhile, dedicated fans will be thrilled by the unprecedented access to candid behind-the-scenes footage and the inclusion of all the classic hit songs both from the Peterpan days and the more recent NOAH releases.

Of course, the danger with this kind of format is that it risks feeling like an extended advertisement for the band. However, in the hands of director Putrama Tuta, who previously directed Catatan Harian Si Boy (Boy’s Diary, 2011), the film feels like more than just a cynical marketing ploy.

In a conversation during Monday’s premiere, Putrama claimed he found inspiration in NOAH’s story.

“To see how they fell so far then rose again,” he said, “it creates tension and climax in the narrative.”

He emphasized there were no scripts, and that all footage was completely candid. Furthermore, he hopes viewers will enjoy what is still an “unfamiliar genre” in Indonesia: The music documentary.

The music documentary has become a classic genre worldwide, with some of the most famous early examples, including Don’t Look Back (1967), which captured Bob Dylan’s 1965 UK tour and became a template for future rock documentaries; Gimme Shelter (1970), a powerful piece documenting the atmosphere surrounding The Rolling Stones in the lead-up to their infamous 1969 Altamont concert; and The Kids are Alright (1979), a compelling portrait of The Who, completed just weeks before the death of drummer Keith Moon.

The genre is no less popular today, with recent examples such as Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (2004) demonstrating that the music documentary can be a rich source of drama and tension.

(Courtesy of 700 Pictures and Berlian Entertainment)

The interesting and eventful journey of the pop-rock band Noah is captured in Putrama Tuta'€™s film NOAH: Awal Semula (NOAH: The Beginning). (Courtesy of 700 Pictures and Berlian Entertainment)

The cinema screen flickers with grainy amateur footage from 1997 as a group of high school boys from Bandung make their first foray into live music.

Fresh-faced band members gaze at the audience from awkward school photos, looking naïve, innocent and very young.

From these opening scenes, we are plunged headlong into the story of a band that has become a household name in Indonesia. From their initial wild success as Peterpan to their current incarnation as NOAH, this pop-rock sensation has certainly had an interesting and eventful journey that has now been captured in Putrama Tuta'€™s film NOAH: Awal Semula (NOAH: The Beginning).

Awal Semula follows the Indonesian alternative pop-rock band through the highs and lows of the past 16 years, including the shocking split of two members from the band in 2006, as well as the highly publicized case of lead singer Ariel, who was arrested and charged under the Pornography Law in 2010.

The band'€™s extraordinary rise to fame, its sudden fall from grace, and its struggle to make it back to the top, comprises the film'€™s main narrative. The theme of new beginnings and second chances runs strongly through the story.

'€œWe come with a new name, we come with a new spirit,'€ announces Ariel, in footage of a 2012 press conference signaling the band'€™s return to touring.

(Courtesy of 700 Pictures and Berlian Entertainment)(Courtesy of 700 Pictures and Berlian Entertainment)
For those unfamiliar with the Peterpan story, there is enough detail provided to become familiar with the band'€™s background; meanwhile, dedicated fans will be thrilled by the unprecedented access to candid behind-the-scenes footage and the inclusion of all the classic hit songs both from the Peterpan days and the more recent NOAH releases.

Of course, the danger with this kind of format is that it risks feeling like an extended advertisement for the band. However, in the hands of director Putrama Tuta, who previously directed Catatan Harian Si Boy (Boy'€™s Diary, 2011), the film feels like more than just a cynical marketing ploy.

In a conversation during Monday'€™s premiere, Putrama claimed he found inspiration in NOAH'€™s story.

'€œTo see how they fell so far then rose again,'€ he said, '€œit creates tension and climax in the narrative.'€

He emphasized there were no scripts, and that all footage was completely candid. Furthermore, he hopes viewers will enjoy what is still an '€œunfamiliar genre'€ in Indonesia: The music documentary.

The music documentary has become a classic genre worldwide, with some of the most famous early examples, including Don'€™t Look Back ( 1967 ), which captured Bob Dylan'€™s 1965 UK tour and became a template for future rock documentaries; Gimme Shelter ( 1970 ), a powerful piece documenting the atmosphere surrounding The Rolling Stones in the lead-up to their infamous 1969 Altamont concert; and The Kids are Alright ( 1979 ), a compelling portrait of The Who, completed just weeks before the death of drummer Keith Moon.

The genre is no less popular today, with recent examples such as Metallica: Some Kind of Monster ( 2004 ) demonstrating that the music documentary can be a rich source of drama and tension.

(Courtesy of 700 Pictures and Berlian Entertainment)(Courtesy of 700 Pictures and Berlian Entertainment)
NOAH: Awal Semula demonstrates many classic features of the genre, combining concert footage with behind-the-scenes filming and personal interviews with five-piece band members Ariel, Uki, Lukman, David and Reza.

The documentary offers a chance to get to know the band members off stage, through footage of their everyday interactions with family members, crew and fellow band members.

Director Putrama Tuta has taken a very realistic fly-on-the-wall approach to the film, capturing both funny and poignant unscripted moments on trains, in hotel rooms and behind the scenes at rehearsals and recordings.

Gritty, handheld camera work adds to this sense of immediacy and reality. Ultimately, what stands out the most from the behind-the-scenes footage is the sense of friendship and solidarity among band members and crew as they face all the challenges and opportunities that fame and popularity bring.

Of course, the main market for this film is NOAH'€™s thousands of fans, who are sure to be satisfied at the chance to get closer to their idols. But the film also has more general appeal, with effective building of tension and some genuinely moving scenes.

While Awal Semula will perhaps not be to everyone'€™s taste, it is always refreshing to see Indonesian filmmakers exploring new genres and techniques, as Putrama has done here, in an Indonesian music documentary.

The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post.

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