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  Publicity Stills of "Joni's Promise"
(Courtesy from GV)

In Bahasa Indonesia with English subtitles
Director: Joko Anwar
Cast: Mariana Renata, Nicholas Saputra, Rachel Maryam
RunTime: 1 hr 27 mins
Released By: GVP
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://www.kalyanashira.com/janjijoni/index.html

Opening Day: 9 November 2006

Synopsis :

Film. It might be the greatest gift of art to human beings. We all know how a film is made: it is written, shot, edited, and then it can be screened and enjoyed by the people in theatres.

But not many people know the role of this young 22-year-old named Joni in the overall process. He is the man behind the scenes. He is the one who determines whether we can watch the movie in the theatre or not. He is a reel deliveryman. When Joni is on duty, a film reel will be delivered on time so the spectators will never see this sign on the screen: "SORRY, WAITING FOR THE NEXT REEL." That is Joni’s promise. But one day, it seems that the whole town is conspiring against him, making it difficult for him to deliver the last reel on time, just when he has something big at stake, a promise to the girl of his future. Joni has to deal with so many eccentric characters, small roads of Jakarta that are similar to labyrinths, competing with time to fulfill his promise.

Joni’s Promise has appeared in numerous international film festivals in 2005 (Asia Pacific, New York Asian, Pusan, Tokyo, Sydney). It is Indonesia’s highest grossing box office film in 2005 and has won the MTV Indonesia awards for Best Film and Most Favourite Main Actor.

Movie Review:

After an initial slump in the 1990s, the Indonesian film industry has been recently gathering steam in the past few years. With the success of Joni’s Promise at home in Indonesia as well as overseas, the film will most certainly help further fuel its growth.

The film revolves mainly around the protagonist delivery boy Joni (Nicholas Supartra) whose job is to transport reels between cinemas so that distributors can save money on prints. On one of his runs, Joni meets the most beautiful woman he has ever seen (Mariana Renata). Even though she was with her obnoxious boyfriend, there is an instant attraction between the two. They agree to get to know each other better only if Joni makes his next delivery on time. It’s an apparently easy task, which Joni, who has a clean record, has effortlessly done many times before. But as the law of comedy dictates, everything will go wrong for Joni.

The situations that he gets into (and I might add mostly because Joni was doing the ‘right’ thing) do harbour along disbelief and the bizarre. One wonders if some of these shenanigans could have been tweaked just a little bit better. For example, the supposed artist who had scary magical powers (What on earth was that all about?!). It was even to over the top to be a cultural thing.

And that scene where Joni smiles at a large group of preschoolers garbed in terrifying teletubby costume knockoffs. We already had numerous views of Jakarta’s grid lock traffic, why another one? What was director Anwar trying to put across? More superfluous characterisation for Joni? (Yes we get it! He’s a good guy!) Or that in today’s hectic world, we need time to stop, breathe and smell the ‘roses’? In any case, that was weak and I didn’t really get it.

Nonetheless, neatly distributed and well woven into the narrative fabric of this gem are numerous digressions, including some clever social commentary. This varies from the influences of the genre of film in people’s lives, to even references of a presently more open and inclusive society in Indonesia. Perhaps most notably is the allusion to the happenings in a movie theatre and social classes. The writing is especially good in this respect.

The actors are perhaps not the strongest point. Aside from Nicholas Saputra’s charming Joni and to a certain extent Toni (child actor Dwiki Riza), who chastises Joni for having preconceived notions and stereotypes of Jakarta’s poorer populace. The rest of the characters and actors are mostly bland and forgettable at best.

Something must be said about the film quality. Aesthetically, the film looks like and feels rather old school – in other words a hapless film student’s attempt at an end of year project. Shot on 35mm celluloid, the camera jerks, cuts abruptly, booms can be seen and the sound goes pop and mutes at changes in scenes! Budget constraints? We do get hints that it may all be on purpose (In one scene the female director screams, ”Amateur! I can see the boom!” at her crew). Irony? Self-flagellation? Contempt for current industry standards? Whatever the case,comedy is about timing and it does actually work – these ‘mistakes’ feels just like another character in this charming old world comedy.

Movie Rating:

(A surprisingly funny and light-hearted romp. More entertaining than some recent Hollywood comedy adventures)

Review by Darren Sim


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