Demi Ucok

In March 2022, we screened Demi Ucok (2012, Indonesia), an award-winning crowdfunded independent comedy-drama about a Batak daughter who dreams of making films and her mother who dreams of marrying her off. We also hosted Demi Ucok's writer-director-producer Sammaria Sari Simanjuntak for a conversation with line producer (and Elsewhere Cinema Club's very own) Erika Suwarno.

In this excerpt, Sammaria and Erika talk about independent and commerical filmmaking in Indonesia, and reflect on the state of comedy in Indonesian cinema.

🎙️ Listen

Session Notes

📌 Audio and transcribed excerpts have been edited for clarity.

❤️ Elsewhere Cinema Club thanks Sammaria Sari Simanjuntak for speaking with us about Demi Ucok and allowing it to be viewed worldwide for free.

🔗 Watch the trailer for Demi Ucok on YouTube.

AUDIENCE QUESTION

Do you prefer working on indie films or commercial films? How do you do comedy so great? Do you think this kind of comedy is still acceptable now?


SAMMARIA SARI SIMANJUNTAK

Do I prefer working on indie films or commercial films? Both, actually. I think with indie films you have the creative freedom to really say what you want to say without filter. Indie films are what keeps me making films. But commercials films reach more audiences.


What I learnt from making films for a wider audience is to listen more to people. For example, the horror film [SESAT (LOST, 2018)] I made played in cinemas that are usually not within my circle. So when I promoted that film, I went to a lot of cinemas that I would otherwise not go to. And that is the real Indonesian audience. I got to see that film is a needed entertainment for them. That is when I understood that Demi Ucok could not be enjoyed by many people in Indonesia. The pace [of Demi Ucok] is fast and [the characters] speak a lot of English—these do not really connect with Indonesia as a whole. Through the horror film, I learnt that film is just entertainment for them.


So what I am hoping for in the future is that I can mix these two, because I don't want to make films where I just talk and talk and talk without entertaining people. They spent a lot of money to see the film. Actually, for a lot of people [in Indonesia] that kind of money is a privilege. This might make me sound like a 'bitch' but I didn't realize it before, that this kind of money is a lot for people. So the need to make an entertaining film that still has the things I want to say is what I aim to do.


Elsewhere Cinema Club's ERIKA

And do you think this kind of comedy still acceptable now?


SAMMARIA

Well I hope so, yea? Because when I see Indonesian comedy lot of them are very disrespectful. For a lot of the comedies with the widest audience in Indonesia, I found them very offensive. It makes fun of people who are marginal and are not supposed to be made fun of. Like Yasmin Ahmad [beloved Malaysian filmmaker] once said, the best comedy is the comedy that laughs at yourself and not other people. So I hope, yes, this [our] kind of comedy will get more attention and more confidence from producers.


Of course, it also depends on audiences who support us. Otherwise a lot of producers in Indonesia still think that comedy should be slapstick and offensive. Well, I like Charlie Chaplin’s slapstick, but if you see Indonesian cinema's slapstick, it can be really offensive and sexist. I don't know. I didn't laugh at it. I don't want to tell people what films they should make. I think it is a good thing that we have many kinds. So we'll just make the films that we want to see.