'Kado Hari Jadi' crosses the voyeuristic boundary

Review Kado Hari jadi di The Jakarta Post:

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sun, 06/29/2008 10:56 AM | Entertainment

Director Paul F. Agusta doesn't need to be told that horror films are the easiest to do but the most difficult to get right. In fact, he was the person who first said it.

"I know that the film will not pass censorship," 28-year old Paul said of his latest offering, last Saturday at his home in South Jakarta.

He paused, closed his eyes and continued. "But I am willing to stand by every creative decision I've made."

Paul was born in Jakarta and studied film in America before returning to Indonesia in 2003.

After creating 22 short films and video clips -- most of them experimental -- Paul decided it was time he gathered his team and made their first film.

"Every filmmaker eventually wants to step forward and do a full-length film," he said.

He believes the cinema is a voyeuristic and visceral experience. "I wanted to cross the voyeuristic boundary between the audience and the film."

Kado Hari Jadi (The Anniversary Gift) *narrates' the torture of a man -- moving backwards as it slowly reveals the answers to an irking question over the course of a single day.

"I went completely all the way to make the film not only scary, but also scarry," he said.

Sequences of scenes about what happened prior to the torture are shown in fragments, as the film brings the audience closer to learning how the lives of three lovers intertwined.

The movie uses the color pink as a dominant feature in the decorations used for the film to create a false sense of comfort, Paul said.

"I try to dissect it and completely turn it inside out."

Shot with a 20-year old camera, Kado Hari Jadi aims to present reality as close as possible, then butcher it and leave it bleeding -- as the audiences is rarely given room to breathe.

"I'm actually putting the audience at a safe distance. But I go out of my way to make sure that the film leaves them feeling uncomfortable, angry or depressed," Paul, who decided on the story idea with the script writer, Dalih Sembiring, said.

"The script was brilliant, dark and nihilistic, so I try to make the film as dark and as nihilistic."

Meanwhile, the actors and actresses involved gave performances that exceeded everyone's expectation.

Kado Hari Jadi's cast includes young and new actors and actresses, including Jeffrey Sirie, Hukla Turangan, Leha Patricia, Yoggie Richard and Kartika Jahja, a singer known for her articulate and expressive songs.

In order to tighten the budget for the film, the team chose to sacrifice certain things, limiting the budget to what was necessary.

Edo Gimbal, a crew member, managed to make a metal chair, which serves as the dominant prop in the film.

As a result, the HouseofWaves production team was able to cut down the budget to less than Rp 50 billion (US$ 5,705).

The production house uses a fair split system, which gives the team some space to fund their next project.

"The system we used was accidentally a sharia system, and we see it as the most fair and efficient way of making a film, where everybody gains ownership of the film," Paul said.

"We didn't spend too much on lights, locations, catering, and we tried to hire only the necessary crew members for the film; and we were lucky because the story itself is minimalist," he said.

The entire shoot was done in 10 days, which included a day off for the crew.

In the end, the team leaves it to the audience to make the most of the film, which will not be screened in theaters.

It will be released in DVD format in Indonesia in July 2008 by an independent DVD distribution label, the Marshall Plan.

"I think the best horror films are sharp, painful and visceral, not the ones that jump out and scare you," Paul said.

"All I can say to my target audience is that this is it, and your response finishes the film." (lva)

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