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Jaws dropped at budget of Bali opening night film

Indonesian producer Lavesh M Samtani [pictured] reveals budget of Jakarti Hati as it opened Balinale Film Festival.

It was a jaw-dropping moment when Indonesian producer Lavesh M Samtani revealed that the Balinale Film Festival’s opening night film, Jakarta Hati, had been made for only $200,000.

The sixth festival opened this week at a brand new cinema in the not-yet-officially-opened Beachwalk shopping centre, a stone’s throw from the beach at Kuta. After the screening of the film and an outdoor performance of traditional dance, guests gathered at a restaurant.

Jakarta-based Gary Hayes, the Indonesian producer on Eat Pray Love, shook his head in disbelief when Samtani mentioned the budget. Shanghai-based Leo Shi Young, executive producer of The Flowers Of War, said that it cost $200,000 just to get a prominent Chinese actress these days.

Jakarta Hati certainly doesn’t look like it was made for such a small budget, and ten very well-known local actors appear in the six short films that make up the feature. But filming took place over only ten days, with each story allocated one or two days.

This was made possible by director Salman Aristo’s taut script, said Samtani. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say by his six taut scripts about everyday life – the stories are unrelated to each other except that they all take place in the country’s capital and, together, give a picture of what is at the heart of the city.

Lavesh and his entrepreneurial brother Manoj Kumar Santani principally work in television distribution and production and have a big library of films. The family company started by their father Mirchu, got out of film production in the late 90s but returned about five years ago with Love and Tarzan Comes To Town, both were made under the 13 Entertainment banner. Love attracted 600,000 ticket sales when it released on St Valentine’s Day in 2008 and grossed $150,000 in Malaysia, but the other was “a flop”.

The intention is to make one drama or comedy each year. The producers are distributing Jakarta Hati themselves, which is the norm in Indonesia, and it opens locally on Nov 8 on 70 screens, 34 of which are in the greater Jakarta region. Local horror and other genre films can do well in Indonesia but drama is not often released successfully. 

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