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Thai film adaptation gives breath to innocent love
[February 22, 2006]

Thai film adaptation gives breath to innocent love

(The Jakarta Post Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)from THE JAKARTA POST -- SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2006 -- PAGE 17 The film opens, the faces looks familiar, they speak like any Indonesian and one might think this is a typical local movie. But it is not -- it just looks like one. The film is Cinta Pertama (First love), the Indonesian title for the 2003 Thai movie called My Girl. For the first time ever, a foreign film has been adapted into a Bahasa Indonesia-dubbed version with local songs. Dubbing a foreign film maybe off-putting for a lot of moviegoers. Here, audiences are used to watching foreign fare in their original version or at least, in English. Many moviegoers assume that dubbed films are either telenovela or Bollywood fare for TV consumption. However, this didn't deter Fiesta Films -- which has distributed some of the more popular Thai films like Shutter, The Eye and Iron Ladies -- from making the first Indonesian-language film adaptation with My Girl

"The film's background has a lot of similarities with Indonesian culture, and we believe the film's moral message can touch all audiences. This is why we dared to take this project onboard," said Devi Luciana, PR representative of Fiesta Films. "Not all films can be adapted to fit Indonesian audiences." The journey began in 2003 when the six-director My Girl emerged a huge hit in Thailand. As Fiesta Films bought rights to the film, Fiesta's sister company Musica Group, with its extensive library of Indonesian music, made an offer to collaborate on making an adaptation with an Indonesian soundtrack. The next step was to find the right adaptation director -- and this was when Rizal Mantovani entered

"We've known Rizal for a while because of his work on music videos with Musica Group. When the project was offered to Rizal, he watched the original (film) first and took it because he was inspired by the movie," Devi told The Jakarta Post

"He's passionate about films, very frank and keen to give suggestions to make the adaptation better and better," she said

The choice was a bull's eye. Rizal, whose repertoire includes the acclaimed Kuldesak -- which he co-directed with three peers -- and horror blockbuster Jelangkung had made for highly enjoyable entertainment

Rizal's Indonesian script uses colloquial language that it feels real to viewers. Just listen when the children talk, play and mock each other. The dialog reminds us of the lovely, and sometimes sad, childhood we all experienced

The film opens to Jeamy as he receives a wedding invitation from his childhood friend, Nina. Then the plot flashes back to the good times they shared during those early years. The boys versus the girls, the bullies, their blossoming love -- such key childhood moments are featured in the movie

Rizal himself confessed to having fallen in love with the story: "I am so amazed how the structure of the film could be so simple, the characters so natural and how the directors managed to capture every detail to enhance that simplicity into this wonderful piece. Brilliant." However, the process to bring it closer to Indonesian audiences was not easy. "The translation could get tricky in some parts," he said. "I think the trick here is to have the audience immerse themselves in the world of these grade-schoolers. Indonesian grade schoolers have an their own 'lingo'. I tend to not have these kids talk like grown-ups. They should speak their language and act their age." The film's dubbing was handed to Ferry Fadli, who is considered the master in the Indonesian dubbing industry. And he did whatever necessary to make the film as true to the original -- even to the point of using a woman vocal actor for the role of Jack

"I had a hard time finding the voice of Jack, a pivotal character that had to be handled delicately. Eventually, a woman actor was chosen as the perfect voice for Jack. As long as the audience finds nothing wrong with the voices, then I think we did our job right," Rizal said

It took about 10 months to produce the adaptation, starting with the translation, casting the right vocal actors for each character, dubbing, mixing and finally to finding the right nostalgic songs to substitute the original Thai soundtrack

The use of local songs from the opening scene to the credits is one of the highlights of the adaptation. From 1975's Jatuh Cinta by Emilia Contesa to Chrisye's Hip Hip Hura Hura and to Ku Menanti by Iwan Fals, the songs are undoubtedly an homage to Indonesian pop songs of the 1980s and 1990s

The selection team, which included Rizal and several Musica people, chose the songs based on the mood of the scene instead of on the lyrics

Rizal then matched the songs to the scene, timing it exactly -- sometimes the songs had to be altered to fit the scene, creating a longer intro or even a new song to achieve the right mood

In the end, whether you tap your feet to Hetty Koes Endang's Demi Cinta Niye or cry your heart out to Chrisye's Pergilah Kasih, the movie's soundtrack is a real treat, bringing back the good old days

But can a good thing come around twice? Devi of Fiesta said: "This is the first time for us and we want to see the market's reaction, if such a film can be accepted. So far, we haven't found any new script that's 'perfect' enough for an adaptation like this." When asked if he'll make another adaptation, Rizal hinted that there might not be a second time around: "It's a once in a lifetime project. I really love the movie and want to share that experience with everybody." The colloquial dialog and nostalgic songs complete the simple, heartbreaking story and wonderful performances in the original, making the movie's charm accessible for audiences of all age groups

Children will love to see themselves mirrored on screen, seniors will chuckle at memories that still linger in the past, and young couples will remember "their song". All in all, it is a tribute to that childhood love we all remember and cherish for a lifetime

Kenny Santana,, Contributor, Jakarta Copyright 2006 The Jakarta Post

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