An emotionally invested enthusiast of pop culture in the guise of a Copywriter. Apathetic by design. Aesthetically offensive and eloquently candid. A sentimental heathen.

I don’t usually do religious-themed movies, for I don’t respond well to blatant preaching. But Mencari Hilal was different, and it’s trailer roused my interest with ease. So I tagged along for the early preview and for once, I was so enthralled I managed to sit still during the entire movie.

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Mahmud (Deddy Sutomo) firmly belief in religion as the way of life, one that should be thoroughly implemented in each of his acts and encompass every aspect of his life. Triggered by the Religion Affairs Ministry’s huge spending just for Sidang Isbat, this belief led Mahmud to retrace the journey he once went through in Islamic boarding school to find the hilal (mencari hilal).

Worried for Mahmud worsening condition, his daughter Halida (Erythrina Baskoro) reluctantly let him go with one catch: a company in the form of a long lost son that represent nothing Mahmud stands for, Heli (Oka Antara).

 

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Before the movie starts, Ismail Basbeth said that Mencari Hilal will be a movie that represents Islam in Indonesia. He wasn’t bluffing, for the 95 minutes run of Mencari Hilal is a windowpane to the carefully sculpted replica of various application of the religion here in Indonesia, both the good and the bad. It strike a delicate balance by not only showing the negative side that certain believers loudly showcased, or deluding us by glorifying an utopian peacefulness. There’s the inconsiderate preaching that focus heavily on punishment, discord between religions, the defensive reaction to questions, and of course the ever present “my way is the right one and disagreeing equals doom”. But there’s also the willingness to discuss matters with open mind, selflessly helping others in time of need, undying curiousity to learn more, and – most importantly – the tolerance and acceptance for dissimilarity. The content alone – all those enlightening banters, subtle jabs, sharp-witted irony, and the spark for hope – was more than enough to got me infatuated. And yet it still found other ways to enrapture me.

The subtlety, for once. Even if Mahmud’s relationship with Heli is a very tumultuous one, you’re not going to see it because they fight and scream at each other’s though. You’ll feel it through their body language and how they act around each other. Mahmud’s stiffness and Heli’s brashness, the ever present clash of arguments, and their overall reluctance to have a decent conversation hinted at the complex nature of not only their relationship, but also the reasons behind it. And there were reasons, because this is not a two dimensional father and son relationship where one single event change everything. This was a depiction of a real-life family situation where different standpoints, clashing personalities, and certain events accumulated into a distant and almost non-existent parental bond. Which means that there were no easy way out or a miraculous realization – it took a whole journey to mend what was broken bits by tiny bits.

 

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And that’s where Oka Antara and Deddy Sutomo did their magic. This is a character driven road trip movie, so the weight of the story rests on the actors’ shoulders. And they were nothing short but marvelous. Well there are admittedly a few moments where certain things felt rather off, but overall they smoothly blend into their respective characters and bring those two to life. Their evolving interaction was wonderful to watch, earning bitter smile at times and hopeful adoration at others. My personal favorite was one of the scene on the bus, because the way Deddy Sutomo kept stealing glances at Oka while he was trying to suppress the pain said a whole lot about Mahmud’s relationship with Heli. So kudos to Ismail Basbeth, for presenting their relationship and the movie itself as such fine delicacy. Mencari Hilal was literally eye pleasing, and it found beauty even in what would have been a taxing experience in real life – such as long ride in ac-less kopaja. I seriously adore the cinematography for the splendor and the inherent message. Because if religion is the one thing that shape Mahmud’s life, Ismail Basbeth choose subtlety as a way of shaping Mencari Hilal into this beauty. He never meant for this movie to glorify a certain reflection of Islam and Moslem, for it is not a movie about religion. Mencari Hilal is a story about a father and his estranged son, and different perception in religion was merely one of the reason behind it. Still, it wasn’t a lecture about how a father and son relationship should be.

One might take Mencari Hilal as a stance-less movie, which could be problematic at times. But for me, Mencari Hilal is a reflection of Indonesia’s current state of affair – one that would urge those who watch it to take a look at the mirror and re-evaluate their own current stance. And it is a good thing that Mencari Hilal does not take sides, for it strike a delicate balance until the very end. It is not a preaching in disguise, but it ultimately serves as a reminder that differences exist and there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you’re willing to accept it with nothing less than good-natured tolerance. And yes, I love the enigmatic ending – and the movie itself – so much that I’m willing to overlook some of the eye-roll-inducing acting of the supporting casts.

 

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Director: Ismail Basbeth. Writers: Ismail Basbeth, Salman Aristo, & Bagus Bramanti. Released on: 15 July 2015. Casts: Oka Antara, Deddy Sutomo, Erythrina Baskoro, Torro Margens.

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