‘Sanubari Jakarta’ Finds Life on Page and in Theaters
Usually, the movie is released after the book. But that was not the case with “Sanubari Jakarta” (“Jakarta Deep Down”).
The film has been playing at Cinema 21 and Blitzmegaplex theaters for almost two weeks now, but the book will only be released by Gramedia on Thursday.
“We wanted to publish the book at the same time that the movie was released,” said Laila Nurazizah, the author of “Sanubari Jakarta.” “But it was still being prepared for printing.”
Laila, 21, is a criminology student at the at University of Indonesia, as well as a promising young writer. Her first novel, “Memorabilia,” a teen romance, was released in 2010. Last year, a friend introduced her to producer Lola Amaria, who was impressed by Laila’s intelligence and creativity.
“I could tell that she was clever and willing to learn more,” Lola said. “She also has a vivid imagination, the main requirement for a good writer.”
Lola also read Laila’s blog and was impressed by her keen observations and reflections. Seeing an opportunity for a collaboration, the producer asked Laila to turn a short story by Hally Ahmad, “Malam Ini Aku Cantik” (“I’m Beautiful Tonight”), into a screenplay for the “Sanubari” project.
“[Lola] asked me to write nine other film scripts to be included in the same movie,” Laila said. “I was super excited, and overwhelmed. I’d never done this kind of thing before, yet she trusted me.”
Laila had only written screenplays in her high school scriptwriting classes but she was up for the challenge.
The next step was for Lola to introduce Laila to the 10 directors who would be handling each of “Sanubari’s” short films, so they could flesh out each story.
“We discussed what they wanted in the movie,” Laila said. “Then I went and did research and conducted interviews so I could write the scripts.”
As if that weren’t enough, Laila also wrote each vignette as a short story.
“It’s a simultaneous process,” she said. “Most of the time, I wrote the short stories first so I could portray an atmosphere for the script.”
The movie’s 10 short films explore lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender relationships in Jakarta.
“Personally, I’m not for or against them,” Laila said. “I just want to show that they exist in the movie and the book.”
“Sanubari Jakarta” depicts relatable people with relatable joys, sorrows and struggles as they make their way in Indonesian society.
“Laila came to me after we had finished filming the movie and said, ‘let’s make a book out of all these stories, so that people who miss the movie can read it in the novel.’ I thought it was a very good idea,” Lola said.
Laila presented her manuscript to Gramedia in March. Mirna Yulistianti, Gramedia’s literature and imprint editorial superintendent, was impressed.
“Not many people can write LGBT stories as eloquently as Laila did,” Mirna said. “As we all know, LGBT is a reality. Yet, many people in Indonesia still shun them. We believe the book will advocate for LGBT communities in Indonesia.”
The book contains the same stories as the movie, but each story is told with its own descriptive narrative. In this sense, “Sanubari Jakarta” the novel offers readers a deeper look at the characters. Some stories are told in the first person, giving a glimpse into the LGBT experience, where most of the characters are forced to hide their true identities.
Dimas Hary, a social worker from the Kresna Duta Foundation, a film organization that collaborated on the movie, welcomed the book.
“There are many short-story compilations out there,” Dimas said. “But so few of them are concerned with LGBT issues, and ‘Sanubari Jakarta’ is among the best ones that does.”
But not everyone is happy about “Sanubari Jakarta.”
“I think it’s too much propaganda on LGBT issues,” said Syachrul, a Web editor who attended the book launch. “The film is rated ‘D’ [dewasa, for adults only]. But, anyone can buy this book. I’m afraid that children and young people will read this book and develop LGBT tendencies themselves.”
Laila said she doesn’t expect everyone to like her book, which contains some descriptive sexual scenes. “[My book] doesn’t only offer what’s superficial and on the surface, but also deep insight into what’s really happening in our society today,” she said.
‘Sanubari Jakarta’ (in Indonesian)