Some films come with something that hits the wanderlust button in audiences, whether with their engaging stories or beautiful shots – and in doing so, helped turn the locations depicted in the films into instantly hot tourist destinations. Many international productions have done this, but the Indonesian cinema also has several films that have proudly achieved this feat. Here are a few examples, and – if you haven’t already – these films are worth checking out to help you decide where to go next in Indonesia.
Laskar Pelangi (2008)
Indonesia’s highest grossing local film of all time, based on the literary phenomenon, also proved to be a wildly effective promotion material for its picturesque location. Director Riri Riza’s Laskar Pelangi (The Rainbow Troops) offers a life-affirming story about children at a school in a remote village on Belitung, an island east of Sumatra – previously only known to Indonesians for its tin mining industry. The film attracted 4.6 million viewers, and prompted tourists to come in herds to the island, especially to the iconic Pantai Tanjung Tinggi, a beach featured in one of the film’s most heartfelt scenes. Signs referring to the movie were erected on the shooting locations, and travel agents came up with all sorts of “Laskar Pelangi Tour Package”.
Key Scene: When the students run between the rocks at Pantai Tanjung Tinggi, and climb onto the now iconic, boat-like rock to stare into the afternoon sky, set against the idyllic tunes of the film’s theme song by Nidji.
Arisan 2 (2011)
Arisan 2 (The Gathering 2) by director Nia Dinata may not be as well-received as its predecessor, but somehow it managed to raise awareness and set off a craze among youngsters and filmgoers to visit the Borobudur temple on Vesak Day and witness the rituals on the holy day. In the years following the film’s release, Vesak Day at Borobudur Temple has become a cool and hip itinerary – so much so that at one point, the picture-taking crowd became a bit overwhelming and was considered a disturbance to the sacred rituals, prompting the government to limit the number of tourists allowed on the location on Vesak Day.
Key Scene: When Meimei (Cut Mini) and Tom (Edward Gunawan) participate in one of the rituals, in which lanterns are released to the night sky. The moment was captured beautifully in the film, and in real life, it looks – and feels – even more dreamy and surreal.
5 cm (2012)
Rizal Mantovani’s film about a group of mountain climbers in their expedition to Mount Semeru is currently ranked the eightth highest grossing Indonesian film with almost 2.5 million viewers, but it is also known as the film that turned the spotlight back on the scenic route in Java’s highest mountain and sparked a mounting interest among youngsters to try mountain climbing.
Key Scene: When the group stumbles upon a particularly breathtaking scenery, and Genta (Fedi Nuril), the leader of the pack, blurts out, “Guys, Indonesia says hi to you all.”
Ada Apa dengan Cinta 2 (2016)
Riri Riza’s recent sequel to the 2002 film Ada Apa dengan Cinta (What’s Up with Love) follows what happens 14 years later with one of Indonesia’s most iconic screen couples, Rangga (Nicholas Saputra) and Cinta (Dian Sastrowardoyo), after they separated in the airport – a somewhat ambiguous ending to one of Indonesia’s most celebrated screen romances. In this sequel, Rangga and Cinta are reunited and spend one unforgettable night in Yogyakarta, Before Sunrise style. Apparently, filmgoers are not only enchanted by their love story, but also by the places they visit during this special night together. Following the film’s huge commercial success, travel organizers invented things like Ada Apa dengan Cinta 2 Trail, travel packages with which you can get a tour visiting the places Rangga and Cinta go to: the places they eat in, the coffee shop they meet in, the temple they have a conversation at, the puppet show they go to, and so on; luring travellers to see Yogyakarta in a completely new light.
Key Scene: When Rangga takes Cinta to the peak of Gereja Ayam, the ancient church where they marvel at the beautiful sunrise, in one of the film’s crucial moments. Not many people know about this church before, but after this movie, the building is poised to become a must-visit spot when you happen to be around Yogyakarta.
The Mirror Never Lies (2011)
This symbolic and visually stunning film by first time director Kamila Andini tells the story of a young girl from a fishing community of the Bajau people in Wakatobi, Sulawesi, in her struggle to come to terms with the fate of her father, who has been lost at sea. The mirror in the title refers to the girl’s obsession with the object as she searches for answers to her father’s disappearance, but also to the sea, which plays such an important role to the story and the characters – the sublime, crystal clear blue ocean of Wakatobi.
Key Scene: Pretty much every scene that involves the ocean, basically. That big blue Wakatobi “mirror” looks nothing less than ethereal.
Ini Kisah Tiga Dara (2016)
A remake of the 1957 musical classic, Ini Kisah Tiga Dara (Three Sassy Sisters) finds three sisters dealing with their love lives, and a fussy grandmother set on finding Mr. Right for them. In this modern retelling, director Nia Dinata moves the setting from 1950s Jakarta to present day Maumere, a seaside town in Flores, where the three sisters run a boutique hotel.
Key scene: No one can really say yet, as the film is only slated for theatrical release on September 1 (which means that, by the time you are reading this piece, you can already check it out in theaters). However, living up to the location, the trailer suggests that the film will be brimming with sun-soaked ocean views and gorgeous sunsets, shedding light on yet another tourist destination in Indonesia for travellers to discover; a place that perhaps not many are familiar with now, but, if the film is well-received by audiences, will soon be the next hot tourist destination.