Bandung's film company Sembilan Matahari to produce ‘40 Days in Europe’

Bandung-based design and film company Sembilan Matahari, which specializes in a new breed of multimedia-based entertainment, is conducting global crowdfunding for its second film: 40 Days in Europe. Sembilan Matahari has won many awards, including the Audience Award at Jakarta International Film Festival 2009 for its first film CIN(T)A, and the first prize from the prestigious international lighting festival, Circle of Light 2014, in Moscow. Its second film will be based on a published memoir of the same title written by Maulana M. Syuhada. The memoir shares Maulana’s journey ten years ago as a leader of a secondary school student angklung (traditional bamboo music instrument) group. The team faced financial crisis and was on the verge of division during a 40-day cultural mission in Europe. “The story is based on problems that occurred on top of what was already a difficult situation that we faced,” Maulana reminisced. “The cultural mission started to feel like mission impossible,” he added, saying that financial problems -- the fact that the group did not have the funds to carry on – were the first source of trouble. After that, problems seemed to have their way of making the tour more difficult than it already was. One of the issues the group faced was their angklung instruments, which were still in Bahrain one day before their first performance in Bremen, Germany. “Three hours before the concert, the angklung were still at Frankfurt and the next day, when we left Bremen, we had to leave the box [in which the angklung were stored] because it didn’t fit in the bus,” Maulana said. To keep the tour on track, he led the students in a drive to raise funds by selling traditional Indonesian souvenirs and CDs, among other things, which was not significant enough to solve their financial problems. “Those teenagers were very young, 15 to 16 years old, and the tough situation got to the best of us during the tour. Our team faced disputes among ourselves, which put the team’s unity in jeopardy,” said Maulana. However, the hard times also proved to make them a better team. With the right attitude, positivity and faith, the group finally made it through and the tour itself became unforgettably inspiring. The group even won several awards, such as Best Group and first prize in the 50th International Folklore Festival in Cerveny Kostelec, the Czech Republic. Aside from that story as the film’s core theme, 40 Days in Europe will also showcase many folkloric and youth festivals in Europe, as well as interaction between the group and the local culture -- with friendship between different nations being the sub-theme. Unlike many popular films set in Europe, the film is not going to show famous European tourist attractions such as the Eiffel Tower. Instead, it will show the unique interaction and cultural gap the group faced, like when they stayed with a French family in Vert-le-Petit, a small town in a Paris suburb; the beautiful Victorian-era granite buildings in Aberdeen; and the traditional highland culture of Zakopane in Mount Tatras, Poland. Through this film, Sembilan Matahari’s goal is not only to promote angklung as one of Indonesia's cultural heritages, but also to share the philosophy and wisdom that the traditional instrument brought, such as team work, leadership and togetherness, as well as the romantic historical aspect of bamboo. During the war for independence from colonialism, Indonesian fighters fought using sharpened bamboo spears against the modern weaponry the invaders possessed. By posting their project online at Indiegogo, the team expects to attract global sponsors and investors, in addition to the ongoing crowdfunding for the project. They hope 10 percent of the actual US$850,000 budget can be covered by crowdfunding, targeting Indonesians and film lovers internationally. So far, in Indonesia alone, support has come even from small towns such as Pematangsiantar in North Sumatra, where high school students from SMK Kesehatan Sahata have chipped in their allowance to make the project come true. The daughter of the late Daeng Sutisna (Indonesia’s father of angklung) and renowned artist A.D. Pirous have also reportedly taken part in supporting the project. An open audition for the film cast is said to be scheduled at Bandung’s recently opened Taman Film Park on Jl. Taman Sari, as a way to show how public spaces in Bandung can be used productively and stimulate, support and accelerate the creative process in many aspects.

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