Nur Yasmin, Jakarta – New film "Anak Garuda," or "Children of Garuda," produced by the Selamat Pagi Indonesia School in Batu, East Java, has transformed the heartbreaking stories of young people living in poverty into a tale to inspire others like them to dream big.
The school, founded by Koh Julianto "Koh Jul" Eka Putra in 2000, provides free education up to high school for hundreds of students from poor families. It aims to break the poverty chain by teaching them entrepreneurial skills.
Anak Garuda is made by the school's own new production house, Butterfly Pictures.
The film is inspired by the true stories of the school's very first students in overcoming drama and conflict on the way to achieving their dreams.
Helmed by "Habibie & Ainun" director Faozan Rizal and co-director Verdi Solaiman, the movie follows the story of Koh Jul as he recruited seven children from various ethnic groups and religions in the school's very early days.
These seven little samurais were Sayidah, Yohana, Robet, Olfa, Wayan, Sheren and Dila.
The film captures the drama, conflict, romance and jealousy between the children. When Koh Jul sent them away to study in Europe unchaperoned, they had to put aside their differences to survive the journey.
Shooting for the film took place in the school's five-hectare complex in Malang and on locations in France, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
It features newcomers Tissa Biani as Sayidah, Violla Georgie as Yohana, Ajil Ditto as Robet, Clairine Clay as Olfa, Geraldy Kreckhoff as Wayan, Rania Putrisari as Sheren, Rebecca Klopper as Dila and Kiki Narendra as Koh Jul. The other actors include Rizky Mocil, Fatih Unru, Jenny Zhang and Krisjiana Baharudin.
Screenwriter Alim Sudio said the first students of the school, whose life stories inspired his script, all had amazing tales to tell.
"It was very hard to choose which stories to put in and which ones to leave out. I was very moved by all of them," Alim said.
Koh Jul said the two-hour movie shows that children, no matter how downtrodden they are, have the ability to rise up and become "warriors with an unbreakable spirit."
"Your past does not determine your future. Each of these kids has their own scars, some were abandoned by their parents or bullied by their friends," Koh Jul said.
"The message we want to tell people is that no one is born without potentials. We need to focus on children's strengths instead of their weaknesses," he said.
Koh Jul said profits from the film would be put toward establishing a new SPI University, complete with a dormitory.
"We're glad that Koh Jul is building us a university. Soon we can all get our bachelor degrees here as well," Robet said.
Robet's life story had already been turned into a feature movie – SPI's first production before they had founded Butterfly Pictures, Say I Love You, released in July last year.
Yohana Jusuf, another graduate of SPI, said that since the movie is targeted at young people, the style was deliberately pop and light-hearted.
"We're targeting millennials, so we avoid being preachy. It's fresh, easy to follow and entertaining," Yohana said.
Butterfly Pictures is already working on other productions, including Anak Garuda 2, a sequel also inspired by the inspiring lives of SPI graduates.
Anak Garuda will be in the cinemas from Jan. 16.