Kartini, Indonesia's Feminist Icon Brought to the Big Screen

Kartini, Indonesia's Feminist Icon Brought to the Big Screen

The icon of Indonesia’s female emancipation, Raden Ajeng Kartini, will be brought to life in the latest biopic Kartini. The motion picture directed by an award-winning director, Hanung Bramantyo, will hit theaters on April 19, also commemorating the annual Kartini Day on April 21.

Kartini stars many Indonesian award winning actors and actress, including Dian Sastrowardoyo, who plays the title role, Christine Hakim as Kartini’s mother, Acha Septriasa, Ayushita, Djenar Maesa Ayu, Reza Rahadian, Denny Sumargo, Deddy Sutomo, Adinia Wirasti and Dwi Sasono.

Kartini Movie. Image: Harpers Bazaar Indonesia
Kartini Movie. Image: Harpers Bazaar Indonesia

Set on Java in the early 1900s, the movie focused on the life of Kartini before marriage. Craving for freedom, Kartini did not want to follow the ancient Javanese tradition which imposed her to be kept inside a house when she reached 12 years old until she got married.

The story followed how Kartini developed love for books, especially in the issue of female empowerment. She started to exchange letters with the writers of the books and published article in De Holladsche Lelie magazine, under her father’s name, Raden Sosroningrat, a Jepara regent.

Hanung explores Kartini’s struggle to find herself while facing many objections from people around her when she tries to break the tradition, including from her older brother Slamet Sosroningrat, her stepmother Moerjam and her father’s colleagues. “I want audience to learn from this movie, not only from the message in dialogues, but also her attitude and activism.”

The lead actress, commonly known as Dian Sastro, said her preparation for the role involved reading tons of materials on Kartini’s activism, including those not published in Indonesia, “It feel like doing my final thesis for university. It’s hard to trace all the resources.” She also visited Kartini’s grave in Rembang and her house which was maintained very well.

“I always have a strong concern for women’s role the progress of a nation. Kartini is a very respected feminist icon. I am grateful to be cast for this role, and I hope I live up to people’s my own expectation.”

Kartini Movie. Image:
Kartini Movie. Image:

With estimated budget up to Rp 12 billion or nearly 905 thousand USD, the movie attempts to present the early 1900s feel to the screen as accurate as possible. “We build a studio set for Kartini’s house, carriages, different carriages for regent, regent’s wife, governor generals, and so on.”

Originally slated to be released on Kartini Day 2016, the film's release date was pushed back for one year.

Indah Gilang Pusparani

Indah is a researcher at Badan Perencanaan Pembangunan Penelitian dan Pengembangan Daerah Kota Cirebon (Regional Development Planning and Research Agency of Cirebon Municipality). She covers More international relations, tourism, and startups in Southeast Asia region and beyond. Indah graduated from MSc Development Administration and Planning from University College London, United Kingdom in 2015. She finished bachelor degree from International Relations from University of Indonesia in 2014, with two exchange programs in Political Science at National University of Singapore and New Media in Journalism at Ball State University, USA. She was awarded Diplomacy Award at Harvard World Model United Nations and named as Indonesian Gifted Researcher by Australian National University. She is Researcher at Regional Planning Board in Cirebon, West Java. She previously worked as Editor in Bening Communication, the Commonwealth Parliament Association UK, and diplomacy consulting firm Best Delegate LLC in USA. Less
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