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Jakarta Post
The Jakarta Post
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'Filosofi Kopi'€™: A cup of friendship & soul-searching

  • Yuliasri Perdani

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Sun, April 12, 2015 | 07:25 am
'Filosofi Kopi'€™: A cup of friendship & soul-searching

Eureka!: Jody (played by Rio Dewanto, right), his best friend Ben (played by Chicco Jerikho, second right) and Filosofi Kopi baristas celebrate the discovery of their best house blend-ever, called Ben'€™s Perfecto.

A simple blend of friendship and coffee obsession '€” and a dash of romance '€” brew a distinct flavor in Filosofi Kopi (Coffee Philosophy), a new film adapted from Dewi '€œDee'€ Lestari'€™s short story of the same title.

The movie, claiming to be the first user-generated movie in Indonesia, is a breakthrough in the country'€™s filmmaking industry by involving enthusiasts of the short story in the movie'€™s production.

Filosofi Kopi is the name of a coffee shop in Jakarta owned by two longtime best friends '€” Jody (Rio Dewanto), who transformed his late father'€™s grocery store into the coffee shop '€” and the free-spirited and unpredictable Ben (Chicco Jerikho), who dedicates his life to making the perfect cup of coffee.

Burdened by debts left by his father, Jody is on the brink of losing the coffee shop. Ben, who seems unaffected by the debt, keeps asking Jody to purchase the most expensive coffee beans.

Their friendship is tested when a businessman challenges Ben to make the world'€™s best house blend. It is a high-stakes challenge, as the two will be awarded Rp 1 billion (US$77,399) if they impress him, but will lose the same amount if they don'€™t.

Pressured by Jody, Ben accepts challenge and immerses himself for days in the coffee lab, experimenting with different combinations of beans, grinders, pressers until he finds the winning formula, which he calls '€œBen'€™s Perfecto'€.

Back home: Ben reconciles with his father after years of separation following the unexpected death of Ben'€™s mother.Back home: Ben reconciles with his father after years of separation following the unexpected death of Ben'€™s mother.

The best friends swell with pride to see Ben'€™s Perfecto receiving a warm response from café customers. But when the brew fails to impress El (Julie Estelle), a coffee writer and licensed Q-grader coffee expert, its back to the drawing board.

The best friends, along with Julie, resume their quest for a perfect cup of coffee with a visit to the Ijen volcanic complex in East Java, where El'€™s blend, Tiwus Coffee, is made by a humble farmer named Seno (Slamet Rahardjo) and his wife (Jajang C. Noer).

The three'€™s journey together brings back memories of troubled relationships with their own fathers, which allows them to make peace with their past.   

In her debut as a feature-film scriptwriter, Jenny Jusuf impresses by creating depth out of the 30-page short story, published in 2006 as part of Filosofi Kopi: Kumpulan Cerita dan Prosa Satu Dekade (Coffee Philosophy: A Decade'€™s Worth of Stories and Prose).   

Jenny, with the help of Dee as story consultant, creates new characters and conflicts from the original story, additions that interrogate the quest for perfection and friendship. In the movie, Jenny adds the bitter tale of an estranged family, a forced land acquisition and depicts the oppression of coffee farmers.

Despite adding new dimensions, the movie also preserves the slovenly and stubborn Ben and Jody as young men determined to save the café from dwindling profits.

One delightful scene shows Jody attempting to hook up Wi-Fi in the café to attract young customers. Ben rejects the idea '€” arguing it would distract people from the joy of drinking coffee. He proceeds to admonishe social media-addicted teenagers who love to snap photos of their coffee more than they love drinking it.

There are times when the conflict between Ben and Jody becomes too repetitive. But, that distraction does not take away from Jenny'€™s overall achievement in writing the 117-minute feature.

Chicco Jerikho, a 2014 Citra award winner, has the advantage of playing the complex character of Ben. But Chicco is convincing in his own right in his depiction of the scruffy yet charming young man burdened by his troubled past.

As Rio, Jody matched Chicco'€™s performance, quarrelling and showing affection with equal verve.  Meanwhile, Julie Estelle, whose character was specially developed for the movie, is less impressive. But acting alongside heavyweights like Slamet Rahardjo and Jajang C. Noer is admittedly no easy task.

Modest coffee: A coffee farmer, Pak Seno (played by Slamet Rahardjo, left) shares a cup of his Kopi Tiwus with Ben at his stall in Ijen, East Java as Ben and El (coffee expert and writer played by Julie Estelle) look on.Modest coffee: A coffee farmer, Pak Seno (played by Slamet Rahardjo, left) shares a cup of his Kopi Tiwus with Ben at his stall in Ijen, East Java as Ben and El (coffee expert and writer played by Julie Estelle) look on.

The movie follows director Angga Dwimas Sasongko'€™s award-winning Cahaya Dari Timur: Beta Maluku, a film based on the true story of a man in Maluku teaching football to local boys to keep them away from the region'€™s sectarian conflicts.

Filosofi Kopi proves that Angga can create high-quality dramas that engage deep questions.

Anggia Kharisma '€” with whom Angga shares the role of production designer '€” has created a breakthrough film by including in fans of Dee and the short story, in the movie'€™s production.

Prior to the shooting, they made available a Filosofi Kopi application, where people could make suggestions regarding a number of elements of the movie, including soundtrack proposals, setting location '€” even the type and color of Jody'€™s car.

The two work alongside the architects to bring the imaginative café into reality. The result is quite impressive, and very likely to satisfy the short story readers.

As described in the book, the café has glass windows, where people passing by can look inside, where Ben and other baristas passionately prepare their freshly ground coffee. Ben hands the cups to customers and explains the philosophical value behind each drink, such as the beauty of a Cappuccino and the straight-forwardness of a Kopi Tubruk.

A quest for perfection: Jody persuades his best friend Ben to buy cheaper coffee beans and use paper cups to improve the cafe'€™s cash flow.A quest for perfection: Jody persuades his best friend Ben to buy cheaper coffee beans and use paper cups to improve the cafe'€™s cash flow.

Angga continues working alongside singer Glenn Fredly after their collaboration in Cahaya Dari Timur: Beta Maluku. Glenn, the movie'€™s co-producer and music director, produces the movie'€™s soundtrack, which features Maliq and D'€™Essentials, Dee, Robi Navicula, Sidepony and Svarna band. The soundtrack, including a song performed by Glenn, Monita Tahalea and Is of Payung Teduh band '€” blends harmoniously with the movie scenes.

Filosofi Kopi is the sixth adaptation of a story written by Dee, a singer who entered the literature spotlight after publishing Kesatria, Putri and Bintang Jatuh (The Knight, the Princess and the Falling Star), the first novel in her Supernova series, in 2001.  

During the film'€™s premier on Tuesday, Dee warmly welcomed Filosofi Kopi '€” calling it her favorite adaptation of one of her works so far.

There is good reason to trust her words. When the movie adaptation of her short story, Madre, was released in 2013, Dee was not shy in noting that crucial changes in the adaptation left something lacking.

'€œI didn'€™t expect the movie to be this good. I believe the Filosofi Kopi story has met its perfect soulmate.'€

Filosofi Kopi is a cup of light roasted coffee that mixes the bitterness of family issues and agricultural conflict with the fruity notes of friendship, forgiveness and subtle romance. It is an enjoyable drink sure to warm you up.

'€” Photos Courtesy of Visinema Pictures

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Filosofi Kopi

(Visinema Pictures, 117 minutes)
Director: Angga Dwimas Sasongko
Cast: Chicco Jerikho, Rio Dewanto, Julie Estelle, Slamet Rahardjo, Jajang C.Noer, Otig Pakis

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