When did you first come across Dewi “Dee” Lestari’s short story, and what about it compelled you to take the story from the page to the silver screen?
My producer and I are big fans of all Dewi Lestari’s novels. After chose to adapt Dewi’s novel, we approached him for permission. We wanted to represent Indonesia and give audiences a fresh feeling, a good mood, as they watched it. We think Filosofi Kopi speaks to all. There’s no other Indonesian movie before that speaks about coffee in the country. Moreover, if we’re able to discuss coffee as a new medium then we can prove that coffee isn’t just a drink, but ultimately, a medium of life.
Filosopi Kopi is Indonesia’s first “user-generated film.” What inspired the idea, and what were the advantages, challenges, and limitations in this approach?
In Indonesia, it’s difficult to find out what exact formula builds strong engagement with audiences. When an engagement formula works out in a film, the same formula won’t be applicable or successful in other films. We wanted to build engagement from the start, even before shooting. Usually we wait for films to be finished before building engagement, but this time we engaged audiences first, then made the film!
Dewi Lestari’s readers are a massive fanbase. Readers tend to consider films based on best-selling novels as very different from their imagination. From those insights, we decided to make a User-Generated Movie where users are part of the filmmaking. They helped develop and choose visual concepts in the film. We were able to continuously converse with future viewers during filming, and the engagement was much, much deeper.
We didn’t have the budget to magnify promotion; we did it through our social media accounts and our own PR. We didn’t take any placement ads either so the movement wasn’t significant. However, our User Generated mobile application was downloaded by thousands people – a good start for first timers!
Indonesia has a vibrant, thriving coffee culture. The film touches on less glamorous aspects of what that entails. What was the importance of this for you?
Indonesia is the third biggest coffee producer in the world – and also produces some of the best coffee beans in the world! The major problem is our lack of awareness about coffee consumption. Most of our best coffee beans are exported, being more appreciated by other countries such as Japan, Finlandia or Europe. We hope the film will broaden viewer knowledge about coffee, and improve coffee appreciation in Indonesia.
Has your work as a human rights activist influenced your approach to filmmaking?
Yes, absolutely! For example, I developed Ben’s character through the concern of agrarian conflict that recently occurred in Indonesia. The big oil palm company rejected farmers who couldn’t work as oil palm farmers, then snatched away their land for the company’s expansion. Real life conflicts like this inspired many aspects of the film.