The Jakarta Post
The family movie is director Adriyanto Dewo's first feature-length film, written by Tumpal Tampubulon and produced by Sheila Timothy. Sheila and the LifeLike Pictures company are known for their horror and thriller productions Pintu Terlarang (Forbidden Door, 2009) and Modus Anomali ( 2012 ).
Tabula Rasa also features veteran actors Dewi Irawan and Yayu Unru as well as their younger counterparts Ozzol Ramdan and Jimmy Kobogau. Jimmy also makes his debut as a main character in a movie.
The people behind the movie describe it as a family drama in the subgenre of food film because it places traditional Minang cuisine and philosophy at its center. They claim it's the first of its kind in the Indonesian movie world.
The movie follows Hans (Jimmy Kobogau), an orphaned teenager from Serui, the capital of Yapen regency in Papua, who decides to pursue his dream of becoming a soccer superstar in Jakarta.
His pursuit, however, is cut short by a foot injury. Penniless and full of shame, Hans dives head first into suburban homelessness, scrounging money from waste and sheltering beside a railway track.
Determining that he no longer has any purpose to live, Hans decides to kill himself by jumping off pedestrian bridge.
His failure brings him into contact with by Mak (Dewi Irawan), the owner of an ailing small, traditional Minang diner. Believing the boy needs help, Mak decides to bring Hans home and offers him meal, an act of charity despised by chef Parmanto (Yayu Unru) and waiter Natsir (Ramdan Ozzol).
The diner owner and crew are Minang people uprooted from their hometown after the 2009 West Sumatra earthquake and looking to rebuild their lives in Java.
Mak's special dish ' a bowl of warm and spicy gulai kepala ikan (fish head curry) ' triggers Hans' taste buds.
Parmanto and Natsir tell Mak to stop her charity, but Mak, who lost her young boy in the earthquake, still wants to help the boy.
Mak eventually offers Hans a job as errand boy and a shelter in the house, a decision looked down upon by Parmanto and Natsir, considering the financial condition of the enterprise and its lack of customers.
The small business then has to face another problem, as a big Minang restaurant opens just down the road.
Hans' continued presence in Mak's diner leads to Parmanto leaving the family. With no chef in the kitchen, Mak grooms Hans to replace Parmanto. Hans is determined to help Mak and her diner survive.
Tabula Rasa is a simple, down to earth story of a conflict in a small family but it is rich in emotion.
There are more than enough somber and heart-warming moments in the film to draw tears from moviegoers eyes.
Whereas Tabula Rasa's storyline draws out the emotions, its stunning visuals on Minang food and cooking get the taste buds flowing.
The people behind the movie have taken full advantage of Minang cuisine, which is known across the archipelago and the world for its rich, colorful, complex and extravagant tastes and cooking process.
It's not advisable to watch this movie on an empty stomach.
(LifeLike Pictures, 107 minutes)
Director: Adriyanto Dewo
Scriptwriter: Tumpal Tampubolon
Cast: Jimmy Kobogau, Dewi Irawan, Yayu Unru, Ozzol Ramdan