Dir: Nan Triveni Achnas. Indonesia/France. 2007. 98min.

Sentiment can be a good thing but laying it on as thick as Nan Triveni Achnas does in The Photograph risks exhausting the patience of even the staunchest soap opera fan. A weepie about the country girl in the big city who has to turn tricks for a living, Achnas's film pulls at every available heartstring and culminates in a sad, remorseful ending. With astute marketing, this is accessible enough to find an audience in Asian markets (it opened in Indonesia in July) and festival bookings in Europe will follow (it was backed by several European film funds).

Shanty, in a role reminiscent of her part in Love For Share,plays Sita, a village girl who leaves her daughter in the care of her mother and goesto the city hoping to become a singing star. Driven onto the streets to make a living, she falls into the hands of a pimp but when she fails to deliver for him, she is almost beaten up.

Johan, an elderly photographer (Kay Tong Lim), comes to her rescue and lets her to move into his place. But it's a partnership built on unhappiness: the photographer, grieving for the wife and child he lost many years ago, can do little to comfort this woman who has always made the wrong choices and who fantasises about being a singer to cheer herself up.

Achnas keeps the pace infuriatingly slow and it takes until the final reel for the reason for the photographer's obsession with his past to be finally revealed. Meanwhile, the misery is piled on with the arrival of a soldier who stays on as the photographer's apprentice and has his own sad story to impart.

As the deluded innocent who won't come to terms with reality, Shanty, whose screen kiss in Kala created an uproar in Hindu countries, pouts, looks sexy even dressed in rags and wears a mournful, almost-desperate expression. Lim, meanwhile, is gloomy throughout. The best contribution comes from Yadi Sugandi's chiaroscuro photography which beautifully matches the faded melancholy of Johan's old photos.

Production companies/backers
Salto Films (Indonesia)
Triximages (Indonesia)
Les Petites Lumieres (France)

International sales
FilmSharks International
(54) 11 4854 0189

Shanty Harmayn
Paquite Widjaja Afief

Nan Triveni Achnas

Yadi Sugandi

Production design
Men Fo

Sastha Sunu

Aksan Sjuman
Titi Handayani

Main cast
Kay Tong Lim
Lukman Sardi