‘99 Cahaya di Langit Eropa’ to Light Up Local Cinemas

The Indonesian film '99 Cahaya di Langit Eropa' is in cinemas now. (Photo courtesy of Maxima Pictures)

The Indonesian film ’99 Cahaya di Langit Eropa’ is in cinemas now. (Photo courtesy of Maxima Pictures)

People see what they want to see. Therefore, they believe what they want to believe. Bored with Europe’s usual tourist attractions, writer Hanum Salsabila Rais, daughter of politician Amien Rais, decided to dig deeper into the history of Islam in Europe.

Coming from the world’s most populous Muslim country to secular Europe, Hanum conveyed her findings in “99 Cahaya di Langit Eropa” (“99 Lights in the European Sky”).

The movie adaptation of Hanum’s book, released under the same title, began playing in Indonesian cinemas last week. At the press conference in Jakarta on Friday, Hanum said she was approached by many production houses who wanted to turn it into a major motion picture.

“Initially I didn’t want my book to be adapted, but I realized a movie can have a stronger impact on people, and will reach a wider audience [than the book],” Hanum said. “I did ask for the director not to cut too much, and he fulfilled my wishes, so I am quite happy with the movie.”

The book, which has been reprinted more than 20 times, certainly has a major missionary endeavor to represent Islam. Director Guntur Soeharjanto said he understands the need for the story to highlight the history of Islam.

In the movie, Hanum (Acha Septriasa) and her husband Rangga (Abimana Aryasatya) are embracing their new life in Vienna, Austria, after Rangga accepts a scholarship for graduate school. They are exposed to new values, which often clash with their religious lifestyle.

Hanum then meets Fatma (Raline Shah), a Turkish lady who shows him the many traces of Islam’s inheritance and history throughout Europe. Meanwhile, Rangga and his Pakistani friend Khan (Alex Abbad) also struggle to adjust to their Islamic life, especially when it comes to halal food and praying space.

After soaking herself in the history of Islam in and around Vienna, Hanum decided she wants to see more. Fatma puts her in touch with Marion (Dewi Sandra), a French woman who converted to Islam after learning about the religion’s history. Hanum’s journey will be portrayed in the second installment of the movie.

Guntur also added extra bits to enhance the drama in the movie. One of these parts comes when Rangga teaches his friend Stefan (Nino Fernandez), who is very skeptical about Islam, to fast. It is a scene close to reality, as fasting is a religious activity that usually alarm non-Muslim people.

Maxima Pictures was working with the European Union while making the movie. According to Guntur, they didn’t mind the portrayal of secularism in the story.

“They even told me it has to be visualized so more people know about their [stance in secularism],” he said.

It was pretty interesting that Hanum decided to choose Maxima Pictures, mostly known for making cheap horror movies such as “Menculik Miyabi” (“Kidnapping Miyabi”), “Air Terjun Pengantin” (“Bride’s Waterfall”) and “Suster Keramas” (“Evil Nurse”).

Executive producer Yoen K said Maxima had undergone a major rebranding for the past two years, and stories like “99 Cahaya” fits the company’s bill. In a separate interview with the Jakarta Globe earlier this year, Yoen said people no longer put their interest in sexy comedies, so he needed to renew his direction.

Teaming up with Guntur, he produced “Tampan Tailor,” a touching drama about father and son, that surprised everyone.

The film took two months of filming in Vienna, Paris, Cordoba (Spain) and Istanbul (Turkey). Right now, they are setting the date to film the second installment, which requires a cold environment.

‘99 Cahaya di Langit Eropa’
Directed by Guntur Soeharjanto
Starring Acha Septriasa, Abimana Aryasatya, Nino Fernandez, Dewi Sandra, Alex Abbad, Raline Shah
106 minutes
Indonesian