Soekarno: The Father of Indonesia

Soekarno undoubtedly had a great hand in giving Indonesia its independence
Soekarno undoubtedly had a great hand in giving Indonesia its independence
Soekarno undoubtedly had a great hand in giving Indonesia its independence

This film is based on the life of Indonesia’s first president, from his childhood to the defining moment in which he declared independence for Indonesia

Soekarno (Sukarno) is a biopic about the “Father of Indonesia”, who freed his nation from the oppression of the Dutch colonial powers and became the first president of Indonesia.

Under the wings of Cokroaminoto (the nationalist and first leader of the Islamic Trade Union), the young sickly boy, Soekarno, grew up to be a strong, sharp man whose vision and tact helped to propel the country to independence in 1945.

A Nation’s Fight for Independence

Soekarno is an effort to keep the history alive for future generations of Indonesians. It cost more than $2 million to produce, making it one of the most expensive productions in the history of Indonesia’s nascent film industry.

Director Hanung Bramantyo, known for directing religious drama hits such as “Ayat-Ayat Cinta” (The Verses of Love) and “Sang Pencerah” (The Enlightened One) hoped to allow the present generation to witness Soekarno’s struggle for the country’s independence.

While Soekarno is remembered for his fight for independence, the stories of him were confined to short pages in local history books during the 32-year rule of Suharto, who took over.

People mostly had to rely on private accounts and recollections from their elders.

The Indonesian government only officially recognised Soekarno as a national hero in 2012, a long 42 years after his death.

The film also relives the defining moment in which he declared independence for Indonesia. Most Indonesians may have heard the sound clip of Soekarno reading the text but have probably not seen the real footage from the historic event.

Rising Heart-throb

The choice of Ario Bayu to play Soekarno has sparked controversy, most famously from Soekarno’s daughter, Rachmawati Soekarnoputri. Rachmawati, who assisted the film’s research and creative process, walked out of the production when she felt that Ario wasn’t nationalistic enough.

In reply, Hanung said that he needed someone who could bring the character to life. Nationalistic sentiment was not the only quality required to play Soekarno.

One has to admit that Soekarno’s great oratory skills and presence is difficult to replicate on the screen but Ario seems to have pulled that off effortlessly. His words, charisma and stupendous delivery are likely to captivate audiences.

Was Soekarno smart or naive?
Was Soekarno smart or naive?

A Great Yet Imperfect Leader?

Apart from the choice of actor, the film has also stirred discussions and controversies for other reasons. For one, Soekarno was portrayed as a womaniser. Others have also said that some historical facts have been exaggerated.

In defence, the filmmakers said that it was never their intention to make it a documentary. The question is, can a film that involves a major historical figure be completely objective? After all, many previous biopics have dramatized some facts for impact.

Furthermore, they chose to show Soekarno’s flaws as a leader. His preference for diplomacy over use of the military had sometimes also drawn criticism.

In the film, Soekarno trusted the promises of the Japanese, of an eventual independence for Indonesia, and thus was willing to collaborate in full. Some may deem this decision to have been naive.

“All we’ve heard about Soekarno was how great he was but not many really know his human side,” said Aris Muda, spokesman for Multivision Plus Pictures that produced the movie.

“He’s a great man, a legend, a cult figure, but not a superman,” he said.


DIRECTOR: Hanung Bramantyo
STARRING: Ario Bayu, Maudy Kusnaedi, Lukman Sardi Hatta, Tanta Ginting & Tika Bravani
GENRE: Biography
RUN LENGTH: 137 min