”Denias” Wins Best Children’s Film Award

Major award for Indonesian film at APSAs

Jakart Post: Cynthia Webb, Gold Coast

Indonesia’s filmmakers and friends at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards were thrilled to hear the announcement of the winner of Best Children’s Feature Film:

“And the winner is,Singing on the Cloud” (Denias, Senandung di atas Awan) directed by John De Rantau, his first feature film.”

The producers, Ari Sihasale and Nia Sihasale Zulkarnaen, a married couple, both with a history in acting and television worked for two and a half years on their dream of making their first film, which has an important message for young people – the value of education and how it opens doors of opportunity.

Their second film, now in the planning stages, has the same theme and tells the story of a dedicated and inspiring teacher in a remote area of Sumatra.

With them in Australia was 19-year-old Janias Miagoni, a young man from West Papua, on whose life story the film is based. About 10 years ago he desperately wanted to go to school, but the remoteness of his home and his family situation made it almost impossible. The film tells the story of how he achieved his dream.

Janias has just finished senior high school at St John’s College in Darwin, with the aid of a scholarship, and next year he will be attending the University of Melbourne to study information technology. He now has a laptop computer, and is looking forward to showing the film to his family and friends back home during the coming holidays. They have not yet seen it because there is no electricity where they live, in Aroanop village on Jayawijaya mountain.

Janias, (re-named Denias in the film), is played by young actor Albert Fakdawer, who has already won three awards in Indonesia for his performance.

Ari and Nia said: “We were concerned about how Western movies are infiltrating Indonesia, and we are really trying to bring our own stories such as this one to the forefront, and also introduce Indonesians to the cultures of our other islands.

“There are so many tribes in Indonesia. No matter what the background, it is possible for them all to be friends. We are all one big family.”

Ari Sihasale, who comes from Ambon, heard the story of Janias from Sam Koibur, who was Janias’ teacher.

It was a financial challenge to take the 27 crew and actors to West Papua, seven hours from Jakarta by plane, for the 35-day shoot. Many of the cast were tribal people of Irian Jaya.

It was also difficult to find investors in Indonesia, as this film was not consideredorso they produced it themselves. However, the doubters were proved wrong, as it has received a very good audience response in Indonesia, especially from young people.

“We did it from the bottom of our hearts, so the message communicated to the audience,” Nia said. “The message of the film is, struggle for what you want with all your power.”

“Aside from the beautiful scenery of Papua Island, the film also has the beauty of the young boy’s spirit to learn,” the couple told the young audience at Miami High School, on the Gold Coast, last Monday morning.

True to their commitment to youth and education, they were there to offer inspiration to a group of senior high school film students. The visit will be part of an international television broadcast, and eight of these lucky young people were given tickets to the awards ceremony the following evening, at the Sheraton Mirage Hotel.

One student asked Janias how it felt to have a movie made about him.

“I am excited. I was just a barefoot kid. I never thought a film would be made about me. Thank you for telling my story,” he added, smiling at Nia and Ari.

There has also been great sadness in his young life, when his beloved mother died, and he began to speak about it, but became emotional and was unable to continue. He said she had told him, “If you become a clever boy, you can conquer the mountains, otherwise they will conquer you”