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Indonesian Film : Guru Bangsa : Tjokroaminoto (2015)

Posted on the 17 April 2015 by Ikzidna @InspiredGround
I feel like I should highlight local movies with its own title and it isn’t fair to put it only on monthly mini-reviews knowing that many people read it too. So, it starts with Guru Bangsa : Tjokroaminoto (2015).
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With every new film directed by Garin Nugroho, I feel like I should watch it. Considering how moved I was with Mata Tertutup (2011) and how curious I am with his previous festival movies. It seems the universe has granted my wish since I was able to see this film.

It is a biopic movie about an Indonesian icon and great teacher in early 1900s, Haji Omar Said (H.O.S.) Tjokroaminoto who fought Javanese land from the Netherlands colonialism back then. He’s one of the leader united several ethnic groups like Chinese people (as you probably know, the land was the a trading center). He also spread Islam and built Sarekat Islam foundation, with thousands members. One of his students were Soekarno, Indonesian first President. The movie showed a few marks on his childhood and teenage days witnessing how the Netherlands treated local people poorly while colonize the rich nature of Indonesian land.

Growing up and already married, he couldn’t escape from ‘voices’ inside him to erase colonialism in his land. He goes places to find answer of his calling, with his wife waiting in her parents house with a new born baby. He becomes a journalist to voice his mind and thoughts. Then, he gained followers and students and becomes busier. People are starting to be inspired with him and start to defend themselves to the Netherlands. But it’s a long battle for him and his community to save his land.


Creating a historical movie based on a national icon and his large contribution for the country certainly is not an easy task. Considering it involves true history and in honor for H.O.S Tjokroaminoto and his family, there’s a high standard and rules to follow. If I could imagine it (and I think it already exist), this movie comes from a very thick book containing his journey and battle. And to summon it ALL into a 3-hour movie is impossible. I think maybe it was Garin Nugroho’s complications, with so many things to focus on, he forgot to give the movie ‘a soul’.

Starting with casting Reza Rahardian as the lead, I felt like he could be more Javanese (even he is a Javanese man) with a thick accent of the tribe. Nowadays, Reza Rahardian is like Bollywood’s Syahrukh Khan. He’s one of the most productive and favorite actor to cast in big national movies. But being local is another thing. Can he be more tanned or skinnier? Or at least, looking more like a Javanese man. He was more like a city man, therefore made his role lacked authenticity. I think even Rahardian has some troubles playing as the old Tjokroaminoto. Perhaps no one but one with the deep wisdom and character can extract the emotions of the old and lonely Tjokroaminoto.

His wife, Soeharsikin (played by Putri Ayudya) is a perfect loyal wife, even though her husband mostly busy running his vision. Maybe Putri Ayudya was the most together and perfect of all performances, aside from Sudjiwo Tedjo as Soeharsikin’s father. I also loved Chelsea Islan as a Dutch-Chinese blooded girl, confused where should she stand. Alex Komang and Deva Mahendra as Koesno/Young Soekarno also were great. It said in the beginning of the movie that some characters were made to adapted the movie, I felt as though some scenes of the fictional characters were too much and unnecessary.

To overcome the loaded historical story, there’s several musical moments. The most relevant and natural to me was a Dutch lady singing with Javenese manikin in a play. Others was a tad awkward and contrast, like Mr. Tjokro himself singing with his wife in their living room. I do love the concept.

With a lot of details and history to tell, I felt if the movie has a narrator or skip some parts right to the climax and using a little bit of annotation, it might be more effective. It also helps if there’s a clear introduction of some characters, like his students and trustee. This movie also should consider casting more solid foreigners actors, rather just focusing on the local and the story details.

Perhaps this movie should get credited for staying true to the historical facts and didn’t season it with cheap fictional drama, but it could be better making it less like a history book.

Score :

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