Running with Joni


975370--JJJoni had to go through many hurdles as he ran carrying a roll of  film.  This is Joko Anwar’s debut as he appears with a group of top actors.


Director & Writer : Joko Anwar

Actors : Nicholas Saputra, Surya Saputra,  Rachel Maryam,

Mariana Renata, Ria Irawan

Production : Kalyanashira


THE hot and dusty wind of Jakarta hit his face.  But riding on his motorcycle, Joni always tries to fulfill a simple promise:

to deliver a roll of film, from one theater to another, right on time.  His promise is to fulfill the dreams of the movie-goers, if only for a while.  He promises, through the roll of film he delivers on time, to bring the viewers to a fantasy world where all links to the real world are cut off.  Films, in Joni’s words, “are the best gift of art ever possessed by man.”

This is the voice of the director, Joko Anwar, a film-crazed man who trained at the Bandung Institute of Technology, but feels that film is the place for him to speak out (read I am very close to the gay community).  The film Janji Joni (Joni’s Promise) is his first debut as a director – following his script of the film Arisan, which shocked the Indonesia public.

This film begins as an introduction to the world of creativity and the distribution of films.  It is a world, a ‘swimming pool’ where film-makers like Garin Nugroho, Mira Lesmana, Riri riza, Nan T. Achnas, Rudi Soedjarwo and Nia Dinata, swim around.  The theme of this film is about them.  As such, it must be admitted that the humor in the film is likely to be easier understood by them or those who are made over the world of films (Indonesian).

They are people like Joni (Nicholas Saputra), who is proud to work delivering films.  One day, he meets Angelique (Marian Renata) at the lobby of a movie theater.  Unfortunately, Angelique comes with Otto (superbly played by Surya Saputra) , a boyfriend with a penchant for easily losing his temper.  While she waits for her boyfriend who seems to get angry at anyone he considers as dull-witted, Joni uses the opportunity to introduce himself to Angelique.  They talk, and they promise to exchange names after Joni manages to deliver his roll of film on time.

The next hour and half is all about Joni’s attempts to reach his destination.  His journey, in fact, undergoes a number of difficulties: his motorcycle is stolen; he gets lost in an alley and is ‘forced’ to play a part in a film; his bag containing the roll of film is snatched away by a band player; until finally, Joni must come face to face with an artist/witch doctor  Adam Subandi (Sujiwo Tejo).

In real life, hurdles and bad luck happen can happen in a span of an hour and a half.  The problem with this film is not about reality or time, but the capability of tens of actors and actresses who infuse the spirit in the entire series of the incident.  This film is based on an intelligent and calculated concept. I think Joko Anwar should be admitted as an autodidactic screen-writer who is smart and sharp in structuring the scenes.  His dialogue is arranged well, although one question which emerges is why almost all of his figures speak fluent English, to the extent of cursing in English and have the body language of a Westerner.  From the kid at a kampung to people in offices, they all appear to have had Wester education (note Nicholas Saputra exclaiming, ‘damn,’ or Dwiky Riza’s movements, which resembles a troublesome but genius of a kid out of a special school, rather than a kampung kid).  And Joni’s ‘sermon’  on life to a number of people he meets along the way should have been edited.  Isn’t this supposed to be a fresh comedy?  A lecture on goodness we can get daily from kiais, pastors and wise people.  Let’s have some fun!

A brief scene about gays – played by Tora Sudiro and Winly Wiryawan – actually is not too relevant to the entire story, but it is interesting because of  the ‘educational’ element for the ‘lay’ viewers in understanding that love among gay people is very human.

Most invigorating is watching the serious, melancholic and  vicious face  of Nicholas Saputra, apparently his trademark since Ada Apa dengan Cinta? (What is it with Love?).  He appears as a little confused, sweet, funny, relaxed without a burden, in contrast with Rangga’s cold and harsh way.  Bravo! Nicholas is not an actor who always wants to be seen as good-looking.  Films indeed prove that the man is an actor.  And Surya Saputra? If there were no other competitors in other Indonesian films, he could win the second Citra Cup (again and again as Best Supporting Actor).

To Joko Anwar: congratulations! (despite the few annotations


Leila S. Chudori

TEMPO, MAY 09, 2005 p. 46