The Jakarta Post
As part of a minority and far from home, Indonesian Muslims find a new perspective on their faith.
99 Cahaya di Langit Eropa (Ninety-nine Lights in European Sky) by Guntur Soeharjanto portrays the life of Muslims living as a minority in several countries in Europe as well as presenting some eye-opening aspects on the history of Islam.
Adapted from the novel of the same name by Hanum Salsabiela Rais and her husband, Rangga Almahendra, the film opens with the touching scene of a little Turkish girl, Aisye Pasha (Geccha Tavvara), who faces intolerance over her headscarf, faith and origins at a school in Vienna, Austria.
The story carries on with Hanum (Jelita 'Acha' Septriasa) and Rangga (Abimana Aryasatya) relating their own stories regarding their faith as they live in Vienna while Rangga pursues his doctoral degree.
While Rangga is busy with his studies, Hanum seeks ways to kill the boredom; from walking around the town taking pictures of old buildings, to joining a German class where she meets Fatma Pasha (Raline Shah), Aisye's mother.
Fatma, a Turkish lady who wears Islamic dress, has been living with her husband and daughter in Vienna for some time. Fatma decides to look for a job while her husband is away from home and Aisye is at school.
Unfortunately, her dress style prevents her getting work.
In the German class, Fatma is the brightest of all the participants. She also carries the history of Islam in her head, especially those aspects relating to Islam's travails in Europe.
Being Turkish, Fatma certainly has some sort of close connection with Austria particularly with regard to the Battle of Vienna in 1683 as the Ottoman Empire tried to expand its power into Austria.
Through a unique faith-based sisterhood, Hanum and Fatma along with Aisye make a trip to Kahlenberg Hill, which is located in the northern part of the Viennese woods with a superb view of the city.
The hill bears Islam's traces in Austria. It was here that the Ottoman Empire was routed by the Holy Roman Empire at the Battle of Vienna.
When the three visit a cafÃ© for a lunch, Hanum praises her cup of cappuccino.
Fatma tells Hanum that after the Battle of Vienna the Viennese discovered many bags of coffee in the abandoned Ottoman encampment. Those coffee beans were believed to be the beginning of cappuccino.
At the cafÃ©, a group of youths start making jokes about the faith of the three females. Instead of harshly reprimanding the young men, Fatma decides to secretly pay their bill and gives them a note which later leads to mutual understanding between them.
As well as Hanum and Fatma's exploration, the film also describes how Rangga preserves his Islamic values while studying in a foreign country. There is the time when Rangga opts to simply enjoy a bowl of fruit for his lunch because the cafeteria near his university only has pork dishes left.
Rangga's faith is also challenged by his professor when an important test is held during Friday prayers. Not to mention a battle of wits with atheist Stefan (Nino Fernandez) and conservative Khan (Alex Abbad).
While presenting a new perspective to its Muslim-majority audience, the movie takes a brave stride in showing religious tensions in Europe, with a deep sympathy for immigrants who often receive poor treatment in European countries. However, the three women are still safe enough to travel around those countries and Rangga has no serious obstacles in his studies.
Scenes in the movie are well shot with sound acting from the cast. Raline and Abimana deliver a performance worthy of applause.
In her own style, Raline brought out the essence of a woman preserving her Muslim faith and Turkish ethnicity at the same time as maintaining a modern approach, while strong leading actor Abimana showed off his toned-down acting abilities, providing a fine balance for the main cast in the film.
The issue of intolerance in the movie is like a vinegar dressing on a salad. Something bitter but still palatable.
99 Cahaya di Langit Eropa
(96 minutes, Maxima Pictures)
Director: Guntur Soeharjanto
Screenwriters: Hanum Salsabiela Rais, Rangga Almahendra, Alim Sudio
Cast: Acha Septriasa, Abimana Aryasatya, Raline Shah, Nino Fernandez, Alex Abbad, Marissa Nasution, Dewi Sandra, Geecha Tavvara, Dian Pelangi, Hanum Salsabiela Rais, Fatin Shidqia Lubis
Producers: Yoen K., Ody Mulya Hidayat, Sudiadi Chang